A set of prints by Julie Mehretu and Jessica Rankin titled “Struggling With Words That Count, 2014-2016.” Less abstract than I’m used to from Mehretu, they combined mostly serene and spacey images with obscure texts in a way I really liked.
I started this project a bit over a year ago fully aware that things would change — I’d discover new museums to add to my list, and remove ones that didn’t fit my evolving definition of “museum.” Sure enough, one museum I’ve reviewed, the terrific Fisher-Landau Center in Queens, has shut down.
And another museum, Columbia University’s Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, has moved to spiffy new digs. I recently edited my review of the Jewish Museum, based on the terrific reinstallation of its permanent collection. That makes this my second re-review of an institution. (Check out my review of Wallach 1.0 here.)
Note: Columbia’s Wallach Art Gallery was the second place I reviewed on this epic quest. I published the review below on March 5, 2017. The Wallach Gallery subsequently moved to spiffy new space in Columbia’s new arts center, and I’ve created a re-review of it. Read that here.
Should you go?
Best thing I saw or learned
A postcard rack with postcards based on a large-scale photograph Carissa Rodriguez took of a photograph by Trevor Paglen (of a secret military base), hanging in the home of Bay Area art collectors Mike and Kaitlyn Krieger. I am a sucker for meta.
My second entry and already I’m in trouble. Am I reviewing spaces, or exhibits? The Wallach Gallery, on the 8th floor of Schermerhorn Hall at Columbia, has no permanent collection. It is just a space for temporary shows. I started writing this about “Finesse,” the current show there, and realized that’s not quite right. Continue reading “Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University”
I don’t know much about John Giorno’s work, but I’d wear his super-cynical T-shirts.
White Columns has a venerable history, dating to 1970 and claiming to be the oldest “alternative art space” in the city. It’s an art gallery, but I have generally allowed public, not-for-profit galleries on my list, so like A.I.R. Gallery and the Aperture Foundation, I’ll grant it museum status for my purposes. White Columns has moved around a bit during its life, from SoHo to Spring Street to Christopher Street, to its current location in the Meatpacking District. Continue reading “White Columns”
Poncar’s best photos capture amazing contrasts, both of light and shadow and of the greens in the valleys and the stark surrounding cliffs.
Tibet House is the Tibetan Cultural Center, founded in 1987 at the behest of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Thus it celebrates its 30th birthday this year.
Tibet House hosts an array of classes and events, meditation training, retreats in the Catskills, that sort of thing. It’s kind of a starry place: in addition to His Holiness, Professor Robert Thurman, who teaches at Columbia, is the president of their board, and Philip Glass is vice president. It name-drops a whole bunch of other notables in its acknowledgements of “in-kind” donations: David Bowie, Patti Smith, Christo, David Byrne, Emmylou Harris… Continue reading “Tibet House Gallery”
A picture from a series of night-in-Manhattan photographs by Richard Rinaldi. It made me think of rewriting The Red Balloon to feature a lonely club kid befriended by a semi-sentient disco ball.
The Aperture Foundation is well known as a publisher: of the eponymous quarterly magazine, fine photography books, and photographic art prints. It also has a gallery space in New York as well, where it shows, unsurprisingly, smallish exhibitions of contemporary photography.
Places like the Aperture Foundation straddle that ill-defined line between museums and commercial galleries. As such, I’m sometimes unsure I should review them. Still, as a not-for-profit foundation, they’re not in it to rake in the dough, so I will err on the side of inclusion.
Like the nearby International Print Center, Aperture occupies a classic West Chelsea gallery space. Super stark white walls, unfinished ceiling, scattered columns, industrial floor. They had the space wide open when I visited, but it feels very flexible.
What I Saw
I saw two shows. First, “Le Gendarme Sur La Colline,” pictures of changing life in France by Alessandra Sanguinetti, and second a small series of works by Richard Rinaldi titled “Manhattan Sunday.” The latter’s gimmick is that Rinaldi took all the photos on a Sunday morning between midnight and noon.
I liked, but did not love, both shows. Sanguinetti and Rinaldi each has a good eye for composition, and both included portraits and genre scenes and landscapes. Both also had a narrative or even journalistic flavor to them. But neither contained any pictures that will haunt my dreams–or that I’d want to own and look at every day.
Who Should Go?
I don’t think everyone needs to go to the Aperture Foundation. Like so many museums, partly it depends on what they’re showing–some photographers would of course justify the trip. Aspiring and professional photographers must make a pilgrimage there. And collectors of contemporary photography, too. But for the average fan of photography, or of art, I’d say consider skipping Aperture. Plenty of other places (like the International Center of Photography, or The Met) will serve fine if you just casually like the photographic arts.
I’ll offer one other reason to go, though. I have not said much about museum shops in these reviews (although I did rave about the design shops at MAD and the Cooper Hewitt). But Aperture’s bookstore takes up a healthy amount of their space. It’s fantastic, and of course heavy on their books. If you find yourself needing a fancy art photography book…well, actually head to the Strand. But if you find yourself in that need in far west Chelsea, go to the Aperture Foundation and I’m sure they will hook you up.
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.