The new downtown Whitney may be grabbing all the culture-coverage headlines right now—and rightly so—but that doesn't mean the city's other museums are just going to sulk in the corner. So while the Whitney's blockbuster block party on Saturday sent lines around the block, MoMA PS1 had a spring celebration Open House of its own on Sunday, with free admission all day and the opening of the two new exhibitions that now pretty much completes their lineup through the summer.
Crowds were not an issue at the MoMA PS1 Spring Open House, making hanging in the sunny courtyard and wandering around the fully-loaded museum that much more of a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.
The bigger of the new shows is called, deliberately overly heroically, Fine Arts, and it features some eighty watercolor paintings by the deadpan Belgian duo, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys. Subjects here are things like Man and Five Monkeys, and Boy With Small Birds In His Hair, and the style is vaguely classical. You will likely chuckle more than a few times as you walk through the many carpeted galleries that hold the show.
Also on-hand are 15 metal sculptures of random people from the internet. Though these are a good nine feet tall, any sort of power they may have is undermined by their extreme slimness—only eight millimeters thick, apparently—and the fact that the monuments' heads are little more than quick pencil sketches on paper, attached to the skinny giant's face by a tiny magnet.
The other show that opened yesterday was Off the Clock by Math Bass, a series of sculptures and paintings with a bit a visual trickery to go with their bold and graphic aesthetic. I especially liked the way Bass cut through the gallery walls, confusing perspective by creating vaguely mirrored images on either side.
There are several good, slightly older exhibitions at PS1 that also run until about the end of summer, including Wael Shawky's Cabaret Crusades, the artist's epic trilogy of films set during the 11th-century Crusades as seen from the Arab side, all using his amazing collection of handmade ceramic or glass marionettes. I've seen this show twice now, and though I'm too impatient to sit for a movie in a museum, the puppets on display—which are evocative of many things, including characters from the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine—blow me away.
Don't miss Samara Golden's impossible-looking The Flat Side of the Knife, a kind of MC Escher etching come to life in that multiple-story space on the museum's first and basement floors, though its mirrored surfaces make it seem even more expansive; and Simon Denny's horribly, hilariously accurate recreation of some nightmarish tech trade show. Denny's wildly detailed installation is called The Innovator's Dilemma, and the marketing and corporate speak and the overall look and feel of thing are so painfully dead-on accurate that I honestly couldn't tell what was real (all of it?) and what he made up.
Finally, held over from the great Zero Tolerance show that had been running since last fall is the must-see Turkish "hip-hop video" Wonderland by Halil Altindere, in which a group of teenagers express their disgust and anger over the government's destruction of their historic Sulukule neighborhood in Istanbul, all in the name of "urban renewal". You will have the Kashmir-ic riff stuck in your head the rest of the day.
All of MoMA PS1 exhibitions discussed above will be on display through at least August 31. And Warm-Up will begin on June 27.