Beers for Peers

New York

Left: P.S. 1's Tony Guerrero and Alanna Heiss. Right: Dana Schutz and Richard Aldrich.

The opening of P.S. 1’s locals-only megasurvey “Greater New York 2005” marked the climax of a protracted and, for some, rather fraught selection procedure. Doleful also-rans nursing lukewarm beers in P.S. 1’s courtyard reported having had up to five studio visits with the show’s curators and still not making the cut; others complained of having had their initial invitations to participate humiliatingly revoked. Some of those who did secure a spot on the roster were not informed of their inclusion until mid-February and were then asked to make new work in time for the opening. Even the official list distributed on the day was headed “GREATER NEW YORK ARTISTS AS OF MARCH 11TH” (italics mine), as if to acknowledge a terror of commitment on the part of Klaus Biesenbach’s six-person curatorial team.

But in contrast to the chaotic hodgepodge that this seemed to portend, the show, which presents artists who have “emerged” since the first installment, in 2000, actually looked designed almost to a fault. Perhaps only the experience of having recently drifted through that vast deluxe shantytown known as the Armory Show could make 160 seem like a manageable number of contributors to a single exhibition, but even these tired eyes discerned a measured pace to the installation and a reasonable consistency to the quality control. Formal juxtapositions were generally neat, conceptual groupings happily fluid. As to attendance, it hardly seems worth naming names: Everyone who was in town and sufficiently healthy following a weekend of Armory-related festivities, including Artforum’s own party Saturday night, was there. That the opening began at midday and ran six hours eased the pressure a little (as did an inexplicable fire alarm around 4 PM, which scared a few people out of the building, at least), but anyone attempting a complete circuit inevitably found him- or herself edging sideways down a corridor or caught in the crush more than once.

For this reason, a few space-hogging installation works were all-but-unapproachable, and staking out a spot in which to watch a video was a serious challenge. In this respect at least, it was fortunate that every available space had been pressed into service, and that painting and sculpture were predominant. Predictable standouts included old (relatively speaking) favorites like Banks Violette, Cheyney Thompson, Kelley Walker, Nathan Carter, and Peter Coffin, with fresher—if sometimes also unsurprising—sensations provided by, among others, Carol Bove, Dana Schutz, Jules de Balincourt, Anne Collier, and Richard Aldrich (the last also a participant in “Lesser New York,” Fia Backstrom’s imminent show of related and unrelated ephemera).

Left: Robert Melee and Klaus Biesenbach. (Photo: Lisa Kirk) Right:  Glenn Ligon and Thelma Golden.

But as the preceding list of already-knowns implies, “Greater New York 2005” is hardly a bazaar of new discoveries. The majority of participants already have gallery representation. Wall labels bearing the phrase “courtesy of the artist” were scarce; one I did find, Deborah Grant’s, bore the hastily penciled-in addendum “and Roebling Hall.” Had Grant been signed up on the spot? If the show underscores any particular trend, it’s not an aesthetic one; rather, “Greater New York 2005” would seem to indicate that institutional curators now follow dealers, instead of vice versa, in the effort to seek out emerging talent. Add to this the volatile mix of youth and fame that so many of the participants embody—Tyler Drosdeck, for example, had only just “emerged” from high school when the first “Greater New York” opened in 2000—as well as an uneven gender balance (one guess who was under-represented), and a rather disturbing picture of the New York art world’s current ecology begins to emerge.

As the evening wore on, the crowds drifted away from P.S. 1 toward various after-parties; the most determined headed into Manhattan for the frenetic week’s last hurrah: A dockside reception at Pier 16, South Street Seaport, followed by a midnight cruise. On deck and searching for a stand-in photographer, I recruited a camera-wielding artist, Robert Melee. Given that he only got as far as bellowing “THIS IS FOR ARTFORUM DOT COM!” at his bewildered shipmates before dropping the camera and was spotted busting some ambitious moves on the dance floor just seconds later, I feared it was unlikely that we would get any usable shots but was happily proven wrong. Even the perennially sober Biesenbach cheefully admitted to having had “already many beers,” and as artist Saya Woolfalk and a few other landlubbers heeded the last call to disembark, artist Jen DeNike and P.S. 1 director Alanna Heiss dimmed the house lights, and we sailed off into the night.

Left: Massimiliano Gioni and Maurizio Cattelan. Right: P. S. 1's crowded courtyard.

Left: Peter Rostovsky. Middle: Jerry Saltz. Right: Jessica Lin Cox and Kamrooz Aram.

Left: Yun-Fei Ji. Middle: Shamim Momin and Marc Swanson. Right: Michael Wetzel.