The Comfort of Strangers, opening at MoMA PS1 on July 31, is the third iteration of MoMA PS1’s Rotating Gallery series. Rotating Gallery, a series of five-week installations that are presented in conjunction with quinquennial exhibition Greater New York, showcases the practices of four under-recognized New York-based curators: Olivia Shao, Kate Fowle, Cecilia Alemani, and Clarissa Dalrymple.
Organized by Cecilia Alemani, The Comfort of Strangers brings together work from the 1970s and 1980s, combining figuration with abstraction, monumentality with fragility, and reluctance with exuberance. Borrowing its title from a novel by British author Ian McEwan, The Comfort of Strangers imagines unusual connections between different art works and art worlds, reminding museum visitors that New York is a stratified and complex landscape. Works by four artists living and working in New York comprise the exhibition.
Executed in the 1970s as an evolution of his early expressionist canvases, Jack Whitten’s large-scale paintings reveal hidden geometrical shapes that emerge from an abstract surface. Realized by layering different strata of acrylic paint, which is then treated with a large squeegee, these works freeze the artist’s physical gestures into molecular forms that preserve a lyrical aura.
The portraits of 94-year-old Sylvia Sleigh depict friends and acquaintances of the artist in everyday poses, sitting on chairs, standing in the garden or caught in pensive moments. Reinterpreting traditional portraiture through a saturated palette of flowery colors, Sleigh turns common people into icons of a remote, devoted veneration.
Judith Bernestein’s large-scale charcoal drawings from the mid-1970s intertwine controversial imagery with a political slant. With harsh strokes and aggressive signs, the artist combines mechanics and sexuality to compose intricate diagrams of our desires. The mysterious presences in her piece Five Vertical Panels stand as silent witnesses guarding the exhibition.
Leslie Thornton’s lifetime epic Peggy and Fred in Hell, which she started in the mid-Eighties and has only recently finished, is an otherworldly account of the life of two children as told through their imaginary adventures and unsettling adult behaviors. Pervaded by an eerie atmosphere, Peggy and Fred in Hell animates the exhibition with a surreal sound track.
Schedule of MoMA PS1’s Rotating Gallery Series
Rotation 1 - Olivia Shao: May 7 - June 13, 2010
Rotation 2 - Kate Fowle: June 19th -July 25, 2010
Rotation 3 - Cecilia Alemani: July 31 -Sept. 5, 2010
Rotation 4 - Clarissa Dalrymple: Sept. 11 - Oct. 17, 2010