Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs

Edification value 3/5
Entertainment value 3/5
Should you go? 3/5
Time spent 27 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned
Matthew Cusik at Dorsky Gallery
Matthew Cusik, Three Horses, #4/20, 2011, print

Matthew Cusik creates images that initially look drawn or painted, but close up reveal that they’re collaged from meticulously cut up pictures, in the case of “Three Horses,” atlases.  It was like seeing all the oceans of the world in a single wave.

Matthew Cusik, “Three Horses,” close-up view

Just a couple of blocks beyond the Museum of Modern Art’s Queens outpost of PS1 lies Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs, another entrant in Long Island City’s burgeoning contemporary arts scene.

Despite the “gallery” in its name, Dorsky doesn’t sell art. Rather it is “dedicated to promoting contemporary visual arts to a broad public audience.” It holds three to four thematic exhibitions a year, for edification not commerce.  The gallery doesn’t have a permanent curator; rather it invites “curators, writers, and art historians” to submit proposals for shows to fill the gallery.  It also serves as an art exhibition space for several local colleges not blessed with their own on-campus art museums.

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial ProgramsDorsky’s building is modern, nondescript, and nearly windowless. It could house a small self-storage space, techie startup coworking space, or a secret government lab as easily as it could a setting for art. The interior is sleek and contemporary, which in New York gallery terms means high ceilings, column-less interiors, and concrete rather than wood floors. Actually, there are 2 art spaces at Dorsky and they split the difference, floor-wise.

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs


The show I saw at Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs has one of the cleverest, simplest titles of all the art installations I’ve seen for this project. “Wake” is about water. Paraphrasing the guy minding the gallery when I visited, it’s about where water used to be and is no longer, and where it wasn’t before but increasingly is now, and will be into the future.

And yet it wasn’t all a climate change doom-and-gloom-fest. Though there was quite a bit of that.  A fair amount of the exhibit just celebrated water and the life it contains, with a combination of abstract and representational work, and paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, and even some art books.

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs

Naoe Suzuki at Dorsky Gallery
Naoe Suzuki, “Water is Taught by Thirst (Blue), Central Adirondacks,” 2015, Mineral pigment, watercolor, tea on paper

Naoe Suzuki, for example, examines inland waterways, depicting just the water, no labels, no forests, no towns or roads, in large format with blue watercolor on tea-stained paper.  They could be abstractions, pictures of anything, but at the same time, they couldn’t be pictures of anything else.  I liked them, along with most of the rest of the work on display.

Should You Visit Dorsky Gallery?

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial ProgramsDorsky is pretty small, and may not always justify even the quick-and-easy trip from Manhattan to Long Island City.  I was the only visitor when I went on on a dreary weekend day; the guy minding the place cheerfully turned on the lights for me.  He seemed happy to have a visitor, and to discuss the art and artists, and the place with me.

Dorsky’s curatorial approach is really interesting, and if “Wake” typifies what it puts on, I’m glad that it’s now on my cultural radar.  If you’re at all interested in contemporary art, I recommend a visit.  And if you’re going to PS1 anyway, it’s a simple matter to add a half hour before or after to check out this small, interesting venue.

Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs

For Reference:

Address 11-03 45th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens
Cost  General Admission:  Free
Other Relevant Links



Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  4/5
Should you go?  4/5
Time spent 114 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned “Meeting,” an installation by light artist James Turrell.  One of Turrell’s Skyspaces, it is a moderately sized, square room, featuring dark wood paneled seating, white walls and ceiling, and a square cutout open to the sky.  

Turrell at MoMA PS1, Queens

All you do is sit there and look at the sky thus framed, and the light  patterns it casts on the walls.  It shouldn’t work. I should find it boring. And yet…it’s beautiful.

MoMA PS1, QueensThe Museum of Modern Art’s satellite branch, MoMA PS1, presents contemporary art in a unique setting in booming Long Island City.

PS1 started out as the “Instute for Art and Urban Resources, Inc.” in 1971.  Originally nomadic, it settled permanently in its current building in 1976.  And MoMA absorbed it into its empire in 2000.

School’s In Session

MoMA PS1, QueensHoused in a school building that dates to 1892 (“PS” in NewYork City parlance stands for “public school”) PS1 is another of New York’s examples of a masterful adaptation of an old structure to new, museum-y purposes. It’s the second schoolhouse-turned-museum I’ve visited, along with the City Island Nautical Museum.

I’m very fond of PS1’s building.  A new, concrete structure houses the admissions desk and a small shop, and the concrete stretches around a courtyard with a couple of outdoor spaces, leading to the stairs into the old brick schoolhouse itself.

PS1’s interiors retain a great deal of scholastic charm, including floorplans on blackboards, institutional stairs, sections of ancient linoleum and wood floors, and desk seating in the cafe (run by trendy Brooklyn restaurant M. Wells).  And light fixtures that almost certainly come from a company called, appropriately enough, Schoolhouse Electric.

MoMA PS1, Queens
The Cafe at PS1

Thanks to the cafe, a tantalizing bacony smell permeated much of the ground floor.  Delicious if slightly distracting. I always like a building that retains enough of its original purpose that you can still feel it, at least assuming its spaces for art work well as well.

MoMA PS1, Queens

Some Permanent Art

MoMA PS1, Queens
Ernesto Caivano, “In the Woods,” MoMA PS1, 2004.

PS1 has several permanent pieces, things that are part of the infrastructure.  There’s the aforementioned Turrell Skyspace.  Also multiple works in stairways, making traveling within the building a more artistic experience.  I’m particularly taken with spooky tree silhouettes by Ernesto Caivano.

There’s a mysterious hole in one wall which may or may not align with astronomical phenomena.  And Saul Melman gilded most of the school building’s massive original boilers, like blinged up steampunk.

MoMA PS1, Queens
Saul Melman, “Central Governor,” MoMA PS1, 2010.

Mostly, however, PS1 hosts temporary shows that MoMA doesn’t want or can’t fit in the mothership in midtown Manhattan.

Art, Angry and Baffling

MoMA PS1, Queens
Carolee Schneemann at MoMA PS1

The big show at PS1 currently is “Kinetic Painting,” a Carolee Schneemann retrospective.  Schneeman hit it big in the 1960s as a multi-threat, with an oeuvre combining painting, sculpture (and hybrids thereof) and aggressively challenging performance pieces. Her work reminded me of lots of different things.  I have in my notes:

  • An extremely angry Joseph Cornell
  • A deranged Cindy Sherman
  • An insane Marina Abramovic

Among other things.  Not to accuse her of being derivative —  Schneemann was definitely not copying anyone.

Possibly Schneemann’s most infamous piece is something called “Meat Joy.”  A performance from 1964 involving several men and women in their skivvies, along with gallons of paint and assorted raw meat — fish, plucked chickens, and such.  PS1 has a video. I’m not sure how much of the piece is choreographed versus improvised, but either way, it is funny, gross, and uncomfortable.

Which three words sum up my reaction to much of Schneemann’s work.  I liked some of it, don’t get me wrong.  But if you go, do not bring the kiddies.

The other large exhibit at PS1 currently is the work of Cathy Wilkes, which I found incomprehensible.  I realize the line between “art” and “trash” hasn’t been the same since Duchamp’s famous fountain.  But still.

MoMA PS1, Queens
Cathy Wilkes at PS1

PS1, I Love You?

Contemporary art is almost by definition challenging.  I like PS1 mainly because I find the space very friendly.  I guess if I’m going to be challenged by art, I’d rather be challenged in a nice, comfy place rather than someplace cool and sterile and purpose-built. (More on that when I review the New Museum.)

PS1 provides awesome spaces to display art, with a nice variety of sizes and scales to the rooms, many of which retain windows that let in tons of natural light.  Visiting PS1 takes a reasonable amount of time — despite three floors plus some work in the basement, it won’t exhaust you.  The cafe and bookstore there are both terrific too.

MoMA PS1, Queens
The door to the sky

For some people, even art lovers, contemporary art can be a bridge too far.  That’s perhaps why MoMA keeps this place safely across the river in Queens.  Still, if you’re willing to take the plunge and have your buttons pushed, MoMA PS1 is a fantastic place to do it.

Worst case scenario, you might find something you like.  And if nothing else, there’s always James Turrell’s eternal sky.


For Reference:

22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens
Cost  General Admission:  $10, but free in 2017 for all New York City residents
Other Relevant Links



Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  3/5
Should you go?  3/5
Time spent 58 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Sam Anderson’s delightfully spooky cluster of sculptures, all titled “E,” part of her basement installation called “The Park.”

Sam Anderson, "The Park," SculptureCenter
Hello, Ladies

SculptureCenter, Queens, New YorkSculptureCenter, a museum dedicated to, yes, sculpture, resides in an historic old trolley garage in the eye of the gentrification storm that is Long Island City these days.  The stroll there from the Queensboro Plaza subway station boggles the mind — new residential high rises seem to be sprouting on every single lot for blocks around.


SculptureCenter has a venerable history. An artist named Dorothea Denslow founded a group called The Clay Club back in the 1920s. Photos suggest a  jolly bunch of flappers and rogues united by their love of sculpture.  Resident in a couple of different spots in Manhattan during most of the 20th century, the organization rebranded as the Sculpture Center, I guess to sound more grown-up.  With the move to Long Island City in 2001, it gained space even as it lost its space (and its “the”) to become “SculptureCenter.” Continue reading “SculptureCenter”

Fisher Landau Center for Art

**UPDATE AS OF 16 MARCH 2018.** I’m saddened to learn that the Fisher Landau Center for Art has closed.  It was off the beaten path and kept eccentric hours but I really liked that place when I reviewed it last July, and I’m sorry I only got to go once.  I’m leaving the review below, but please don’t try to visit it. 

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value 4/5 
Should you go?  4/5
Time spent 52 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Many of the pieces on display made me smile, one made me laugh out loud.

Diptych, Fisher Landau Center, Queens
Ricci Albenda, “Diptych,” 2005. Acrylic on wood panel.

I don’t know why I chuckled at a painting of the word “diptych.” It’s a fairly mild art joke. I was just enjoying the museum, rounded the corner, and appreciated the cognitive dissonance.

Fisher Landau Center for Art, Queens New York

The Parachute Harness Factory Museum

Here’s another novel adaptive reuse of a non-museum building into a museum.  The Fisher Landau Center for Art resides in a former parachute harness factory in a random and as-yet ungentrified part of Long Island City.   Emily Fisher Landau originally bought the building just to warehouse her huge collection of modern and contemporary art, but realized some years back that the place had character, and could in fact show some of that art off to the public.  So she had it painted white, created airy, beautifully lit, columned interiors, and opened it for free to anyone intrepid enough to find their way there. Continue reading “Fisher Landau Center for Art”