Bodies and Cities in Greater New York
GREATER NEW YORK
MoMA PS1 | OCTOBER 11, 2015 – MARCH 7, 2016
In MoMA PS1’s Greater New York this year, there is a complex and particularly bodily focus on how issues of socioeconomics, fashion, consumption, gender politics, and gentrification intersect with the city. Some parts of the exhibition are approached with more nuance than others. Very literal figuration goes wrong on the second floor, where one of the largest galleries becomes a ghetto of life-sized figurative sculpture. Although there are multiple excellent pieces in that space, such as those by Rina Banerjee and Tony Matelli, this curatorial decision makes it hard to appreciate the individual sculptures for what they are meant to convey. Instead, the gallery evokes a crowd, where superficial and brief encounters with the work happen in cacophony.
By contrast, the space shared by Amy Brener’s sedimentary resin sculptures and Nick Relph’s scans of architecture posters more optimally reflects the imprint of bodies in cities. Their work acutely focuses on residues of human habitation through aggregate material traces, such as the detritus of our consumer culture or images of architectural hubris. In terms of the latter, Relph’s large digital prints of handheld scans of posters from high-rise construction sites are oddly glitchy. Otherwise pristine ideations of ambitious building projects skip and wobble in his digital images—projecting them into an uncertain future of anticipated obsolescence.
On a more micro scale, Brener’s crystalline resin structures condense the detritus of everyday life into records of our particular era in the Anthropocene. Alluring translucent resin, like Sigmar Polke’s stained glass, gives way to mucky toxic industrial ooze that seeps between the grids of Apple keyboards, electronic components, the occasional hair accessory, and sometimes a subtle imprint of a body part or face. Rigorously constructed into forms that flirt with architectural ruins, altars, and rock formations, Brener petrifies our current moment into an uneasy collective vanitas.
Sarah Goffstein is a contributor to the Brooklyn Rail.