156 Artists Explore Living and Working in NYC

Lutz Bacher’s Magic Mountain. All Images Courtesy of MoMA PS1

Every five years curators at MoMA PS1 and The Museum of Modern Art come together to search the five boroughs of New York City looking for the artists that define the current moment in the New York art scene. The process results in the quinquennial Greater New York exhibition.

This year’s show surveys artists that deal with the historic and current reshaping of the city in which they work. For its fourth iteration the show was curated by Peter Eleey, Douglas Crimp, Thomas J. Lax, and Mia Locks. “The show Greater New York has been around since 2000, when MoMA and PS1 came together and at that point in New York there was a need to contextualize the work of emerging artists, since then a lot has changed with the robust commercialization of the art world in New York,” explains Lax to The Creators Project. “Rather than continuing the same prompt we wanted to turn it inside out and look at what it means to be an artist living and working in New York today.”

Sara Cwynar’s Gold- NYT April 22, 1979 (Alphabet Stickers) 

In widening its scope to include more established artists that have lived, worked—and in some cases died—in the New York for most of their careers, the more than 400 works by 156 artists focus on the connections and tension that has driven New York City over the last 40 years. Thematically “access, social relationships, and the limits and possibilities of the city became a kind of blueprint for thinking about the artists we wanted to include in the show,” says Lax.

Participating artists include Richard Artschwager, David Hammons, Glenn Ligon, Lorna Simpson, and relative newcomers like Cameron Rowland, Kevin Beasley, and Sara Cwynar. The show highlights artists who work across all mediums. Its “kunsthalle” is a room filled with sculptures—Tony Matelli’s Figure 1 and Figure 2 of a life-size naked man and woman standing upside down is across from John Ahearn’s Maria and Her Mother, of two women embracing, and Judith Shea’s Easy Does It of a woman in a black dress in Converse—that are representative of the deep multicultural roots of the city.

Erick Mack’s Pain After Heat

Greater New York uses the city as its point of departure not just in location but also in material. Artists like Eric Mack collected the materials he uses in his fabric paintings Claudine and Pain After Heat on the city streets. The paintings that are comprised of a mix of rope, dried orange peels, wood, plastic, and cotton blankets, locates Mack’s work in a long list of New York artists who used the city’s trash in their work. “Eric is an artist I've known for 10 years, and there is a way his work thinks about multiple histories of New York City,” explains Lax, who is also the Assistant Curator of Media and Performance Art at The Museum of Modern Art. “Rauschenberg or Basquiat similarly made use of found materials in their work, and that informs Eric’s work and how he thinks about fashion and self fashioning also plays a large role in New York City.” 

Alvin Baltrop’s The Piers (With couple engaged in sex act)

The show also prominently surveys New York film, performance, and photography, during the golden age of the 60s through 80s. “Joan Jonas whose work was first performance based then turned to video, used the city as a site of possibility,” says Lax. The exhibition also displays Alvin Baltrop’s photograph series which includes, Friends (The Pier), that unearth the politics of being queer in New York in late 70s as well as a photography series by artist Henry Flynt that documents the City in urban decay.

Henry Flynt’s The SAMO Graffiti

Lax says the show is trying to show that, “New York is changing, and the changes in the last few years have accelerated in relationship to the real estate market and as a result of that a dislocation has occured for many people including artists.” The show is meant to mark moments of celebration in the city’s recent history. “There’s mixed feelings of sorrow and total joy you see in a lot of the works on view, that tension is hopefully what people feel as they move through the project.”

Sculpture by Amy Brener

Greater New York is on view through March 7, 2015. For more information, click here.


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