Some Painters of “Greater New York” at PS1

MoMA PS1, October 07, 2021 - April 18, 2022

Andy Robert, “Check II Check” (2017) (detail)

My filmmaker friend said, “Most of these artists don’t seem to be from New York.” But I said, “No, they are all New Yorkers, they just came from somewhere else.”
And so did she and so did I.

The show is hard-virtue-signaling diversity. I do so hope that one day we will be able to take that for granted–at least at PS1!
One aspect of the range that did surprise me is the inclusion of the non-living—almost 20 percent—and even among the living artists, many works are from the last century. Which was confusing; I assumed the good thing about GNY was the crude picture it painted of the present moment.

Another driving force of the GNY curators is the quest for “intersectionality,” a term I only vaguely and abstractly understand, having no idea how to apply it to specific works to see how successfully they do that. Here are a few of the things that are asserted to intersect: grief, escapism, humor, intermixing techniques of seriality, urban and natural realms, geopolitics, ecology, myth, artifice, identity, desire, and commodity culture.

Julio Galán, “El Que Se Viene Se Va” (1988)

That said, Julio Galan (December 5, 1958 – August 4, 2006) was a painter whose work I saw quite often in the 80’s. He had a moody sensual approach full of hidden meanings and allusions to fluid sexual identity. Though Wikipedia calls him a Latin American artist, I bet he would have considered himself a New Yorker. Because New York was where you could be what you wanted to be in a way that is almost not imaginable now—I mean you couldn’t be in your home town. Galan has influenced a lot of people who may not even be aware of his work. Still, I don’t think he fits well in GNY. His work is dispersed throughout the show. It deserves a more focused look.

Luis Frangella, “Dreamer” (1983)

Luis Frangella (1944-1990), definitely a new Yorker as described above, doesn’t  relate to anyone else at GNY and yet he seems more alive than most of the artists there—Dreamer was a breath of fresh air. Many of Frangella’s works were ephemeral but this is one with more than a shit-he-died-of-Aids historical value. It spoke to me of an existential moment—like ours right now, where one might lay down a disconnected head and try to think.

Rosemary Mayer, “Noise Drawing (23 August 2001)” (2001)

I hadn’t heard of Rosemary Mayer, and this does not seem a typical work. It is presented at GNY as Untitled but I had taken such a terrible picture that I found it titled Noise Drawing online. It confused my camera focus and for that alone I love it. It is a specific picture of noise during two hours on Thursday, Aug 23, 2001. Each noise is defined with a color code.
I don’t see it as interacting with anything else at GNY but obviously it does with many other works that are diaristic and use diagrams and is a very witty example of the genre. Especially perhaps for me today because, as I write this, they are milling my Brooklyn street.

Athena Latocha, “It Came From The North” (2021)

Returning to the present for a moment or two, this work is a collage of illusionistic landscape and sheets of lead that seem to have been molded on a rock face, has an uncanny presence, like I am both seeing and feeling the earth. Latocha uses materials found on specific sites but personally I was transported to Lost Cove Cliffs in the Blue Ridge Mountains, sitting on the rock with my sister-in-law and looking down into the valley where we often see hawks circling below us.

Andy Robert, “Check II Check” (2017)

There is a great feeling of being outside in Robert’s paintings–not locked down, not turned inward. Check II Check is ingeniously drawn and painted. It suggests detail; multitudes of people throng in the lower section but I can’t go up close to see them; the details exist in my mind from my own experience. But they are there in the painting too—it’s wonderful. The sign is neon and flashing. The world is mad, bad, unfair and all the rest of it, but it’s exciting too. It reminds me that when I first came to New York for a weekend as an adult, I was so excited I didn’t sleep for three days. I walked everywhere— at two o’clock one morning, past a pool of blood in Times Square and that didn’t stop me, I wanted to see everything. Thanks, Andy, for reminding me of that.

Andy Robert, “Mid Atlantic” (2020)

And this painting of a squall clearly advancing on us out of nowhere is exciting too. The air is full of electric and magnetic energy–it will be a shitshow when it gets to us. But still the three elements ; the sea, the storm and the light beyond are mesmerizing.