Three new exhibits open at the P.S.1 museum

For fans of fine art, music, and culture, Queens has long played second fiddle to the juggernaut that is Manhattan. And, admittedly, Manhattan offers the most museums, concert halls, and galleries of any of New York City’s other boroughs.

But for those who want to scratch their artistic itch without leaving the confines of Queens, the P.S.1 museum in Long Island City – a Queens extension of the Museum of Modern Art – is arguably the most fascinating venue. Founded in 1971, (and located in what was once a deserted Romanesque Revival public school building) the P.S.1 museum hosts the work of some of the most cutting-edge contemporary artists.

Three new exhibits, featuring the work of artists Jonathan Horowitz, Florian Slotawa and legendary filmmaker Kenneth Anger, opened this past Sunday and all deal with the way pop culture and the media has affected American culture.

By far the most expansive of the three exhibits is Horowitz’s “And/Or,” located in P.S.1’s main floor gallery. Using a combination of paintings, sculptures, and film, Horowitz explores the breakdown that ensues when these various methods of communication overlap. He juxtaposes oftentimes shocking images and words to make ironic and comical statements about pop-culture icons.

In “CBS Evening News/” (2008) Horowitz frames two digital c-prints on top of each other; the top half is an upper-body photograph of Katie Couric, while the bottom half is the now-infamous shot the paparazzi took of Britney Spears’s lower body, sans underwear. “Hellen Keller Quarter (Capitalist Scheme)” (2003) is simply two framed state quarters with Hellen Keller enshrined on them, alongside a quote in which Keller denounces capitalism.

Other of Horowitz’s pieces poke fun at Jerry Lewis, Marilyn Monroe, and Hilary Clinton. But perhaps the most immersive and impressive piece is “Silent Movie” (2003), which takes up an entire room within P.S.1. Combining various types of media, the piece consists of a large screen playing an assortment of silent clips from old and new movies, while a player piano provides musical accompaniment. The film’s lack of coherency and sound, coupled with both black-and-white and color video, makes an interesting statement on the evolution of movies.
Film can be explored further one floor up in P.S.1 in the exhibit on movie-maker Kenneth Anger, whose artistic work since the 1940s has inspired many of today’s directors. Instead of taking a narrative approach to film, Anger’s movies create striking visuals accompanied by equally absorbing and eclectic music.

The room in P.S.1 that houses the Anger exhibit is dark and decorated entirely in red and silver vinyl partitions, creating a visual presentation that looks as if it could be a scene in one of Anger’s movies.

The exhibit focuses mostly on Anger’s early work, with films like Fireworks (1947), Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954-66), and Scorpio Rising (1963) all on display.

The final new exhibit featured in P.S.1 is by Florian Slotawa, the winner of the museum’s International and National Projects Winter 2009 honor. On display is the 12th in a series of works Slotawa began in 1996 called “Besitzarbeiten,” translated as “property works.” The contents of Slotawa’s Berlin apartment, such as his dining table, kitchen sink, wardrobe, and washing machine, were transported to the gallery and arranged on top of each other, tightly packed.

The new exhibits on display in the P.S.1 museum are fascinating, quirky, and make broad statements about pop culture and politics. A trip to the museum is recommended for any St. John’s student, or any fan of art in general.

Though it may be one of the few artistic landmarks in Queens, it’s one that provides an enlightening experience worthy of Manhattan any day.