Maxine Henryson’s beautiful, long, accordion-folded photobooks. Stretched out on a table, they reward much slow, close viewing.
A.I.R. Gallery is more of an art gallery than a museum. There are several organizations on my list that fall into this fuzzy zone. Non-profit or not-for-profit, they nonetheless primarily exist to sell art to buyers, rather than display art for improvement and/or entertainment of the masses. I wrestled with this a bit at the outset of this project, and still don’t have a firm sense of the right call.
But for now I’m including them.
A.I.R. has longevity on it side: according to its website it was founded in 1972 as the first cooperative art gallery featuring all female artists.
There was no particular theme to the work on view on my visit; rather the gallery showed works by three artists: a photographer, a sculpter, and a conceptualist.
I really quite liked the photography on show. The artist, Maxine Henryson, is from the school of “Focus?! Who needs focus?” Which I’m always skeptical of, and yet sometimes the craft and deliberation is so evident that you can’t help but admire and appreciate the result.
The sculptural and conceptual bits weren’t bad, but equally weren’t my thing and in this case I won’t impose my taste on my sense of the place as an institution.
Should you go? It wouldn’t be top of my list–it’s pretty small, and depending on what’s on exhibition your edification and entertainment mileage will vary. Still, it is historically distinguished, and it makes for a quick art break. Can’t hurt to drop by if you have spare time in the neighborhood. Finally, A.I.R. Gallery makes a convenient double bill with the similarly nonprofit Art in General, just down the street.
UPDATE: APRIL 2021: Art in General has permanently closed due to the pandemic. It is the only NYC museum that cited COVID as the specific reason it is closing down.
I’m not sure Art in General belongs on a list of museums. It’s really an art gallery (in the sense of a place to buy art), albeit a nonprofit one. I’ve been giving nonprofits a pass so far, so there I went.
I didn’t get a great sense of Art in General’s space or capabilities during my visit. The current exhibition, Coyotaje, by Postcommodity, is mainly about sound and darkness. A single photograph of bones and dogs hangs at the end of a dark, cloth-draped hallway. On the way there, speakers play whispery or urgent Spanish voices ostensibly of people trying to get across the US-Mexico border. But they might also be US border agents seeking to steer those people onto the wrong track.
The chupacabra or monster/dinosaur/whatever it is represents another anti-migrant tactic. It reflects or invokes the decoys that the border patrol puts out in the desert to scare or confuse would-be migrants.
I don’t think this installation succeeded. It was meant to evoke anxiety, but to me it was just a sort of weak carnival haunted house. Both the Alien Nations show at Lehman College and the really moving Parson’s show demonstrated how eloquently and effectively art can address the trials faced by migrants. Coyotaje didn’t do that for me. It required a detailed explanation and a translated transcription to make sense of it. I don’t mind hermetic and inaccessible art now and then, but this overdid it.
Still, a giant inflatable chupacabra is not something you see every day. At least, I hope you don’t. And even a lame haunted house is still sort of fun.
If you’re doing a DUMBO art excursion, Art in General should be on your list, along with A.I.R. Gallery — both are in the same large, formerly-industrial building. But I’m only lukewarm on whether I’d recommend a DUMBO art excursion in the first place.