Critics’ Picks

Sze Tsung Leong, New Street, Shijicheng, Landianchang, Haidian District, Beijing, 2004, color photograph, 72 x 90".

New York

“Street Art, Street Life: From the 1950s to Now”

Bronx Museum of the Arts
1040 Grand Concourse
September 14–January 25

In this group exhibition, guest curator Lydia Yee historicizes the street as subject and stage, a space onto which artists project their shifting visions of public life. It opens with politically charged photojournalistic candids, such as William Klein's antagonistic Gun No. 1, New York, 1954, which forces the viewer to stare down the blurry barrel of a pistol aimed by a sneering child. Although the show mostly consists of New York–based photography, with an emphasis on performance documentation, it nevertheless showcases a range of practices attempting to model urban experience.

Artists transform the street into a site of institutional and political critique, as visible in George Maciunas’s Fluxus posters. Tehching Hsieh, who refused to be indoors during his One Year Performance, 1981–82, takes such reverence for the street to its extreme. Vito Acconci’s Following Piece, 1969, and Sophie Calle’s The Shadow (Detective), 1981, both reproduce the anonymity and proximity of public life through works about being followed. More lighthearted performances include Daniel Guzmán's pick-me-up video of the artist dancing down the streets of Mexico City; in David Van Tieghem’s video Ear to the Ground, 1979, a percussionist creates catchy rhythms by banging two mallets on poles, doors, grates, and other surfaces.

Martha Rosler’s canonical The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems, 1974–75, challenges the capacity of text and image to characterize the street and its inhabitants. Such familiar work is a counterpoint to contemporary, internationally focused pieces such as Sze Tsung Leong’s photographs of staggering Chinese architecture. Activism informs much of this recent work, including the Blank Noise Project’s installation of two monitors facing each other as if in conversation: One presents the perspectives of men regarding street harassment in India, the other offers women’s views. Instead of a dialogue, Kimsooja’s video presents a woman silently standing in various world capitals. Her body functions as witness, at once disrupting and linking the global cities she inhabits.