Feb 25, 2013

Time & Timeliness: ‘NYC 1993’ at the New Museum

NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star is on view from February 15 to May 26, 2013 at the New Museum on the Bowery (information available at newmuseum.org/exhibitions/view/nyc-1993-experimental-jet-set-trash-and-no-star). The exhibit includes acknowledged and lesser-known works produced in New York City in 1993. The integration of celebrated and omitted artists thickens the discussion of social and political landscapes in a particular time and place. The New Museum's press release insists NYC 1993 was "conceived as a time capsule", an assertion which undermines the applicability and conscious nature of its 2013 iteration. The critique and commentary are modern and impressively relevant to the current social, cultural, and political issues of today. The viewing experience reveals the elegant and cohesive curating style of the New Museum's Massimiliano Gioni, Gary Carrion-Murayari, Jenny Moore, and Margot Norton.

A notable element of NYC 1993 is its extent. The immense show spans all floors and spills out to a neighboring space for a large-scale mixed media installation. The show's physical magnitude – over 5 floors of work from nearly 100 artists – echoed its emotional enormity. Gioni, Murayari, Moore, and Norton crafted an intense opportunity for patrons to view work in the context of its 1993 contemporaries in a single space. The anachronistic approach proves not to be disorienting, but results in a stern and proud presentation of work that is as biting as it was in an early 1990s context. Instead of shying away from the grim realities of New York in 1993 – and chilling similarities to 2013 – the curators present raw documents in contrast and complement to one another. Avoidance is not possible with this group of work, so the curators handle the presentation gracefully but with forceful design, and with respect to the artists.  Heavy topics of internal and external suffering are placed alongside ones that rely on humor or escapism, arguing that both were essential to artistic creation and production in '93.

NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star crafts a balance of old and new, ideological and practical commentary. The audio wafting through gallery space helps unite and set synchronization to each floor and each harrowing issue. There is room for meditation, and balance comes into play through aggressive and subtle tones throughout the galleries. NYC 1993 presents the cross-section of a city struggling with sexuality, identity, memory, and mortality. Gioni, Murayri, Norton, and Moore create a rare opportunity for reflection in pulsing spaces. The voice of New York City in 1993 is a powerful and speaks for itself at the New Museum.


(Image of Karen Kilimnik's manipulation of Heathers (1988) in the John S. Wotowicz Stairs after sunset at the New Museum)


--K. Gronsbell

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