New York

“Curious Crystals of Unusual Purity”

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center

Gratuitous references to the seventeenth-century wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, are a recent curatorial and art-historical touchstone, so Bob Nickas and Steve Lafreniere’s decision to build an exhibition around the idea hardly came from left field, and promised, well, nothing in particular. So it was fortunate that their title, borrowed from a song by English folk balladeer Bridget St. John, was considerably more evocative, augmenting this most open-ended of structural models by suggesting a methodology—formally investigative—and a mood—awestruck—well suited to what emerged as a rangy collection of eccentric images and objects.

That St. John’s song was recorded in 1969 provided another clue to the organizing principle of Nickas and Lafreniere’s summer offering; there was an overt psychedelic cast to many of their hundred-plus selections that implied a steady diet of mind-expanding

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