New York

Imre Koscis and Joseph Erben

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

The International Studio Program at P.S.1 seems to attract artists working within a similar vein, a Germanic minimalism that always seems to be painted matte black. There have been exceptions (Pieter Holstein is a memorable one) but on the whole, selection seems to favor sculptors with a bent for installation work, either of the sort which requires construction within the studio or, more often, the introduction of some heavy object into the room, supposedly to alter our perception of the space. The current visitors, IMRE KOSCIS and JOSEF ERBEN, both from West Germany, made use of the latter option.

Koscis had a group of thin wedges standing out from the floor at acute angles, supported only at their bases so that they appeared to remain standing by the strength of faith alone. Each wedge was painted an opaque, matte black to give the installation a suitably expressionistic tone. In contrast to the crumbling walls and pitted floors of the still-undeveloped wing of P.S.1, the work looked machine-slick.

Erben’s work was also deep black in a white room, and equally “tricky” as an engineering feat. A long thin wand projected from the wall, waving slowly in the turbulence caused by passing viewers. Across its path a similar piece of metal was jammed between the walls of the room so that it was forced into a curve. Again the intent seems to have been to create a brooding, despairing sense of loss, but all that was really projected was a sense of ennui because one sensed that these things had already been seen and understood.

We have recently been able to see some newer, more interesting work by young artists out of Italy, and reading the European magazines one gets the impression that there is equally interesting work being done in Northern Europe. Since few of the major galleries seem interested so far in bringing this work over here, it falls to an organization like P.S.1 to live up to its boast of being an international alternative.

Thomas Lawson