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Monday, March 28, 2005

Best of New York 2004

Shortly after the exhibition opened, an artist friend gave me her take on Greater New York 2005. “It’s a correct show,” she said, “not a risky one.”

I understood what she meant, but I didn’t realize how perfectly her comment encapsulated the show until I saw it for myself this weekend.

For an exhibition intended to present the current state of the art in this state of the arts, it accomplishes its objective well. Any time work by a group of 160 emerging artists is brought together, viewers should expect a great amount of variability. Greater New York reduces the beta between the best and the worst to an order of magnitude less than what gallery goers wandering Chelsea, the East Village, and Williamsburg will experience on any given weekend.

For such a competent editorial job, we can be grateful to the team of P.S.1 and MoMA curators. They’ve spent months separating the wheat from the chaff, assembling a large show of quality work by young New York artists that presents a positive, upbeat view into the practice of artistic production in the area today.

That said, the show is missing the edge of experimentation, of artists flying without a safety net as they try out new ideas or approaches. As a result, the exhibition has the feel of a best-of-the-year awards show for work already seen in other venues.

Given other commitments, I don’t see as much art as I would like to. I miss more than I actually see. I was surprised, then, by just how much of the work on display in Greater New York I had already seen in other venues over the last year. While walking the gallery floors I started to make a mental list of what I had seen and where I had seen it:

These are just the moments of recognition and connection that came immediately to mind; the list excludes things that looked familiar but that I didn’t immediately place.

Greater New York 2005 feels very much like the Whitney Biennial meets Open House: Working in Brooklyn with an age limit of 35 for contributors. It’s a mega-show filled with the easiest, most non-offensive pieces available by many artists whose work we’ve seen before (often in several places).

All in all, Greater New York 2005 is a good show that is worth seeing. It’s a very capably edited show. It’s a correct show. But there’s not much risk taking going on. We wouldn’t expect anything else from today’s MoMA, though, would we?

Greater New York 2005 (through September 26, 2005) at P.S. 1.

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