Critics’ Picks

View of “Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt: Tender Love Among the Junk,” 2012–13.

New York

Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt

MoMA PS1
22-25 Jackson Avenue at 46th Avenue
November 18 - April 1

In 1968, drag queen Ethel Dull started leading tours of a sparkling fairyland crafted in an apartment-cum-studio on the Lower East Side of New York. Inspired by power collector Ethel Scull, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt’s alter ego gave entrée to a private world brilliantly fashioned from dime store materials—glitter, plastic wrap, tinsel, and foil—a world where being gay and Catholic need not be in conflict. This survey exhibition, Lanigan-Schmidt’s largest to date, offers collages and installations in a sanctuary-like display dominated by vivid color and fanciful ornamentation. Remade in 2012, The Gilded Summer Palace of Czarina Tatlina, 1969–70, an early articulation of this alternate universe, is an environment of bubblegum-hued draped plastic wrap, loosely hung and worked into jewel-like chains, with some forty foil and gemstonesque mixed-media chalices arranged on the wall behind it.

Witness to the 1969 Stonewall riots and survivor of the AIDS epidemic, Lanigan-Schmidt has seen much and reveals a darker edge at times. In the mid-’80s, in addition to numerous religious icons and sculptures, the artist made one of his most involved installations, The Preying Hands: In a Little Corner Chapel to Mammon in the Cathedral of Moloch, Greed Makes Human Sacrifices Expedient upon the Altar of Racism, Displacement and Gentrification, 1985, in which devilish figures cavort above downtown tenements in a wall installation framed in glittering garlands but overrun with foil rats and cockroaches. Small shelves hold the supposed trappings of a yuppie lifestyle: Perrier bottles, but also various brands of deodorant, perhaps to mask the stench of gentrification’s steady march. Lanigan-Schmidt’s identity-based practice—ever outside dominant movements—remains largely irony-free, foregrounding a highly personal, obsessively creative process.