The artworks on display at last night’s opening at The Kitchen were my favorite kind– works that reveal themselves layer by layer. Upon first glance, you might think, that looks nice, or that looks interesting, or even the opposite. Right by the entrance on the second floor, there was a collection of umbrellas arranged on a rack and a drawing of Rodin’s Balzac sculpture. Moving into the main space, I observed a collection of works ranging from drawings to sculpture to video art. As I did my first lap of the gallery, I stopped in front of a collection of charcoal drawings of NYPD officers that looked like they had been drawn in a college art class and wondered how something so unfinished ended up in a gallery in Chelsea. I wondered the same thing about a collection on the opposite wall of pen drawings that looked like badly drawn street maps. It would be a shame to stop there, relying only on first impressions, however. The stories behind these works of art are much more interesting than they initially appear.
All of the artworks in Matter Out of Place challenge the way we think about public spaces, from empty parking lots and housing projects to prominent museums. The artists aim to delve into urban life and explore the human impact on the city. For 20% Chance of Show, Paul Branca asked six artists to create works on umbrellas to be displayed in MoMA’s lobby as a temporary exhibition. He drew Borrowed Balzac based on Rodin’s sculpture in MoMA’s lobby using pens, pencils and markers he borrowed from museum visitors. In the space of the gallery, reactions ranged from reverent observation to playful interaction with the umbrellas.
The charcoal drawings collected and displayed by David Horvitz were actually created at Zuccotti Park during Occupy Wall Street. Along with Adam Katz, Horvitz staged a figure drawing class with the NYPD as models, “reversing the typical mode of surveillance,” as the press release explains. The police became the objects of observation, even while they were watching over Zuccotti Park. Even after OWS was shut down, Horvitz continued to lead his students on walks through Lower Manhattan at night, looking for police officers that they could draw. The drawings displayed are by the students of Horvitz’s figure drawing class.
Perhaps the most interesting work was Time and Motion Studies: NYC Maps by Sara JordenÃƒ ¶ in collaboration with criminologist Amber Horning. I had the chance to talk with JordenÃƒ ¶ and Horning during the opening and they explained that this exhibit is based on a year’s worth of interviews with pimps working in Manhattan and the Bronx. For the project, they asked pimps to draw maps portraying their territory and tracing their daily routine. They collected about a hundred drawings, fifty-nine of which are displayed at The Kitchen. Horning explained that while some of the pimps were paranoid, especially the ones who had recently been released from prison, many of them were willing to open up to Horning and tell the stories of how they became involved in pimping, details about their business practices and the way they experience their urban environment. JordenÃƒ ¶ then visited the sites and created animated drawings featured on television screens near the maps.
Be sure to check out Matter Out of Place while it’s still on! June 27 – August 17, 2012.
512 W 19th Street