Open Call Group 2: Provocative new art from provocative new artists
One of the most exciting things about living in this fast paced, hyper active metropolis we call Manhattan is how often we can be surprised by the extraordinary. Walk down to the park and you discover an out of this world dim sum restaurant. Ride on the subway and be entertained by musicians playing Buddy Holly or The Beatles. Book a tennis court and you can find yourself playing next to Leonardo di Caprio or Venus Williams.
My aim in visiting the new Hudson Yards on 30th Street and 11th Avenue in Manhattan was to write about….you know….the new Hudson Yards. The shops, the crowds, the interesting mixture of high priced stores such as Cartiers and Rolex and Piaget juxtaposed against the free and accessible display of architecture and art. The cafes and candy shops surrounded by upscale first class restaurants. While inquiring about the much discussed ‘observation deck’ that Hudson Yards was promoting we were told by an extremely affable, well dressed guard named George that sadly, the observation deck would not be open for the public until 2020. Since the Edge (as it is called), will reach approximately 1,000 feet off the ground and jut out 65 square feet with a glass floor, and since it would cost $50 to visit, and since my wife Kelli is deathly afraid of heights well below the afore mentioned 1000 feet, the delay suited us just fine.
Where we could go, however, George suggested, and which would be equally impressive if not more so, was to The Shed. The Shed at Hudson Yards is a brand new, state of the art performance art space which features everything from theater to art to classical music to hip hop to dance and more. It was created so that artists of all kinds would have a space to showcase their talents. Despite its pedestrian sounding name, once you get inside the place is enormous. The event going on at the moment was entitled Open Call, where 52 artists were selected from over 900 entries and given the chance to show their work to the public. Unlike the Edge, which was to be on the 100th floor, Open Call was located on the 2nd floor, which made Kelli feel a lot better. And unlike the Edge, it was free, which made me feel a lot better. So we went. Enter the extraordinary.
Inside the tremendous hall were the works of 22 brilliant new artists, featuring a mixture of paint, sculpture and multi media. This was Group 2 (Group 1 had opened May 30th, Group 3 will open August 9th)
The first exhibit was an interactive installation set by Gabriela Corretjer-Contreras, exploring the history of invasion and exploitation of Puerto Rico. ‘Nena’ is the artist’s alter ego and this her bedroom. Visitors were invited to actually wear the clothing on display, so they might feel as Nena felt. This was an invitation my nine year old daughter declined. She thought the gowns and dresses were beautiful but actually putting them on ‘was a bit creepy’.
More appealing to her, however, was the work of Moko Fukuyama. ‘A Kind of Pain’ is a video projection along side a sculpture which ‘explores the spiritual and ethical ambiguities of harvesting fish for food’. (The lesson did not take, however. AJ had a smoked salmon sandwich on the way home).
‘Meditation on the Making of America’ by Kiyan Williams may have been the most powerful and moving exhibit on display. Here the primary tool for the artist is soil, and it depicts our country built on exploitation and violence, with black bodies and land as the foundation.
The history of the zoot suit and its use as camouflage was the inspiration for Troy Michie’s ‘Foreground as Background’. The work is made from deconstructed garments and handmade paper.
The frequency of suicide attempts by jumping out of the windows of Chinese factories is so prevalent that suicide nettings have been created to address the problem. One migrant worker, Xu Lizhi, took his life at the age of 24 but not before composing a poem ‘A Screw Fell to the Ground’. The artist Tahir Carl Karmali used the poem as inspiration for his creation ‘Lotus’ and material is made from the same material they use for the suicide nettings.
The most visually arresting piece for us was Asif Mian’s ‘Decoys in Varying Shades of Nothingness and Specter’. Simulating the surveillance cameras after hours in a sporting goods store, the twin infrared thermal cameras project visual temperature variances of bodies and objects.
The boldness and relevancy of this art and these artists cannot be overstated. Each piece is equally compelling and disturbing as it addresses our planet and our society in 21st Century America. Open Call Group 2 is free to the public and runs through August 25th, 2019