New York Now: Home @MCNY

JTF (just the facts): A triennial group show consisting of works by 33 artists/photographers. The exhibit was organized by Sean Corcoran and Thea Quiray Tagle.

The following works have been included in the show:

(entry gallery)

  • Elias Williams: 3 archival pigment prints, 2014, 2016, 2019
  • Gail Albert Halaban: 1 archival pigment print, 2022
  • Irina Rozovsky: 4 archival pigment prints, 2011-2013
  • Maureen Drennan: 5 archival pigment prints, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
  • Roy Baizan: 8 gelatin silver prints: 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022
  • Alan Michelson: turkey feathers, monofilament, steel, video (19 minutes 24 seconds), 2001

(main gallery in loose sections titled “Home is a Haven”, “Home is the Body”, “Home Crosses Borders”, and “Home is Chosen”)

  • Cinthya Santos-Briones: 8 archival pigment prints, 2017/2018
  • Paul Moakley: 5 archival pigment prints, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021
  • Xyza Cruz Bacani: 9 archival pigment prints, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2022
  • Amarise Carreras: 1 mixed media, 2022
  • Geralyn Shukwit: 4 archival pigment prints, 2015, 2020, 2021, 2022
  • Sally Davies: 4 archival pigment prints, 2019
  • Linda Troeller: 5 archival pigment prints, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2018
  • Diana Guerra: 1 video (color, sound), 9 minutes 20 seconds, 2020
  • Cheryl Mukherji: 4 inkjet prints, 2021, 1 acrylic on linen, 2020, 1 offset print on matchbox, 2022, 1 silkscreen on newsprint, 2021, 3 vernacular prints (family) 1977, 1986, 1992, 1 hand tinted archival print, 2021
  • Nona Faustine: 1 archival pigment print, 2021
  • Dean Majd: 2 archival pigment prints, 2017, 2022
  • Nolan Trowe: 12 gelatin silver prints, 2017, 2018, 2019
  • Alan Chin: 2 gelatin silver prints, 1990, 2011, 8 gelatin silver/chromogenic prints from unknown studios, family members, friends, 1929, 1948, 1951, 1951-1952, 1966, 1971, 1971-1972, 2018
  • Anders Jones: 3 photographic collages, 2022
  • Ian Reid: 1 dual channel video, 1 minutes 22 seconds, 2018
  • Ariana Faye Allensworth (and Anti-Eviction Mapping Project): 2 risograph prints, 2021, 2022, 1 installation with computer/website, 2022
  • Jamel Shabazz: 3 archival pigment prints, 2003, 2010, n.d., 1 wallpaper (w/Anders Jones), 2022
  • Naima Green: 1 set of 8 Polaroids, 2017, 2019, 1 archival pigment print, 2019, 1 set of 55 offset playing cards, 2019
  • Joana Toro: 6 chromogenic prints, 2015, 2016, 2018
  • Richard Renaldi: 4 archival pigment prints, 2010-2016
  • Laila Annmarie Stevens: 3 archival pigment prints, 2020, 2022
  • Sara Bennett: 4 archival pigment prints, 2017, 2019, 2021
  • Neil Kramer: 3 chromogenic prints, 2020
  • Laylah Amatullah Barrayn: 4 chromogenic prints, 2017
  • Chantal Heijnen: 10 archival pigment prints, 2020
  • Lou van Melik: 4 archival pigment prints, 2020
  • Ramona Jingru Wang: 1 newsprint, 2021

(Installation shots and video stills below.)

A catalog of the exhibit has been co-published by the museum and KPG Monolith Editions (here). (Cover shot below.)

Comments/Context: Annual, biennial, and triennial artistic exhibits are an exercise in consistent commitment by an institution. By making the public statement that a certain exhibit will be shown not just once but repeated periodically, the museum is placing down a marker to reserve a prominent place in an ongoing dialogue. Here in New York, four recurring examples are most visible – the Whitney Museum hosts its “Whitney Biennial”, taking stock of American contemporary art (and to some extent older art that has been rediscovered); the New Museum puts on its triennial, which features emerging art from around the world; MoMA PS1 organizes the “Greater New York” show to feature contemporary (and again some vintage) artists working in and around the city/state; and the MoMA photography department puts together its “New Photography” series, giving us an intermittent snapshot of contemporary trends in photography.

The Museum of the City of New York’s recent entry into this local recurring art exhibit landscape is a photography triennial, specially focused on the city as a subject. This feels like a smart move, in that such a long-term project plays to the museum’s strengths (and collection building imperatives) and clearly differentiates itself from the offerings of the other museums. The plan is that the exhibit will occur every three years, and have a thematic structure, where it can narrow the recent photography made in the city down into a more resonant and relevant issue-driven study. The first iteration of the “New York Now” series has been subtitled “Home”, and given the diversity of the ways people live in the city and the changes to how people think of home coming out of the pandemic years, it feels like a broadly engaging idea worth exploring, bringing together literal places and neighborhoods in the city, families and communities that provide a sense of belonging, and immigrant stories of those making a new home in New York, among other topics and investigations.

Of course, New York City is not only divided up into five boroughs, but within those boroughs are countless neighborhoods, micro-neighborhoods, districts, and enclaves that have unique characteristics and personalities. So it’s not surprising that several of the photographic projects on view here look closely at city life in a very specific location, documenting both who lives there and how they make that place their own. Paul Moakley captures the celebrations of prom parties, 4th of July parades, and SantaCon breakfast pregaming in Staten Island. In Queens, Maureen Drennan gets inside the daily rhythms of the working class island community of Broad Channel in Jamaica Bay (including an egret in a living room), while Elias Williams sensitively digs into the lives of Black residents in St. Albans, who have faced the aftereffects of a local housing crisis. Roy Baizan focuses his attention on the Black and Latinx families in Mott Haven in the South Bronx (with a particularly strong group portrait of fathers and young daughters), and Ian Reid has made first-person video footage of the conditions inside the Farragut Houses and other affordable housing developments in Brooklyn. In each case, we get a succinct, personal view into a living situation in New York that we might not have experienced ourselves.

Three other artists also examine the idea of place, albeit from slightly more indirect and time-shifted angles. Irina Rozovsky’s lush images made in Prospect Park in Brooklyn capture a wide variety of New Yorkers finding moments of peace, tranquility, and relaxation in the park, mixing the natural beauty of the spot with differing uses of and engagements with that place by various residents and communities. Nona Faustine and Alan Michelson take a more historical perspective, reclaiming the former site of Seneca Village in Central Park with a modern day afternoon tea, and examining the current industrialized state of the Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queens, a former natural shoreline living ground for the indigenous Lenape people. In these last two works, invisible displaced subjects intermingle with current realities, the tension still very much in the air.

A large group of artists in this show don’t necessarily root themselves in a particular New York place, but find their sense of home within a cultural community, either of recent immigrants from a specific country or within a subculture of Americans and hyphenated-Americans who continue to identify with life in another geography and weave that vantage point into their New York experience. Cinthia Santos-Briones tells the story of Amanda and her three children, who fled from conflict in Guatemala and have taken refuge in a church in Washington Heights, where they make a life inside the building while resisting the deportation efforts of the US government. Xyza Cruz Bacani sensitively documents the singular moments of a Filipina survivor of labor trafficking, now married and building a life with her Bengali husband in Queens, the cultural mixing taking shape everywhere from the front lawn to the dining room. And various other artists struggle to incorporate expectations and traditions from afar into their lives here, including Cheryl Mukherji and her Indian arranged marriage heritage, Alan Chin and the power of his Chinese family album, and Dean Majd and the intimate friendships of Palestinian men.

New York’s broad inclusiveness means that many of those who may not have felt seen or accepted in their traditional homes and families have instead found support in communities of their own creation, where they are valued and appreciated more openly. “Home” in this sense is then found in the Black and brown queer couples, individuals, and chosen family of Naima Green, in the Latina transwomen photographed by Joana Toro, in the club goers on shadowy Sunday mornings as seen by Richard Renaldi, and in the LGBTQ+ youth creating their own safe spaces as photographed by Laila Annmarie Stevens. This idea of crafting “home” clearly applies to all kinds of New Yorkers who are searching for a supportive sense of community, including women making lives after prison (as seen in their bedrooms by Sara Bennett), Black women who juggle working and motherhood (as documented by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn), the homeless and those living unsheltered in the streets (as befriended by Geralyn Shukwit), and the disabled (as lived by Nolan Trowe.)

Still other photographers included in “New York Now: Home” have turned their attention to the quirks and eccentricities of New Yorkers and their apartments, including Linda Troeller’s images of the inhabitants of the famous Chelsea Hotel and Sally Davies’s East Village portraits, including one couple sitting with their two dogs on two red high-heeled shoe-shaped chairs. Given the close proximity between New Yorkers in their apartments, there are also plenty of studies to be made of neighbors, roommates, and pandemic-era lockdown families, as seen here in Gail Albert Halaban’s image of a Greenwich Village building on Valentine’s Day (with various scenes playing out in the apartment windows), Neil Kramer’s comically posed images with his mother and his ex-wife, and an unlikely photographic collaboration between Chantal Heijnen and her six-year-old son Lou van Melik, with each making pictures during the lockdown, his made from the backseat of the car during short excursions from their home in Harlem.

One of the shrewd decisions made by the curators of this show, and likely its future successors, is to step far beyond the usual confines of the contemporary art world to search out a wider range of known and less known photographic voices that can help tell a richly multi-layered and approachable story. The complexity of New York City demands such a process, and using this platform to engage with all kinds of photographic visions and methods (formal and informal, documentary and conceptual, street and studio, etc.) will ensure that the city is always celebrated in its uniquely sprawling, unwieldy, everything-at-once glory. Such a show can never be comprehensive, but discerning good faith efforts like this one celebrate the authentic diversity of lived experience to be found here, and remind us that our one individual path through the city continually intersects and overlaps with thousands and thousands of equally compelling others.

Collector’s POV: Since this is a museum exhibition, there are of course no posted prices, and given the large number of photographers included in the show, we will forego our usual discussion of individual gallery representation relationships and secondary market histories.

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Read more about: Alan Chin, Alan Michelson, Amarise Carreras, Anders Jones, Ariana Faye Allensworth, Chantal Heijen, Cheryl Mukherji, Cinthya Santos-Briones, Dean Majd, Diana Guerra, Elias Williams, Gail Albert Halaban, Geralyn Shukwit, Ian Reid, Irina Rozovsky, Jamel Shabazz, Joana Toro, Laila Annmarie Stevens, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Linda Troeller, Maureen Drennan, Naima Green, Neil Kramer, Nolan Trowe, Nona Faustine, Paul Moakley, Ramona Jingru Wang, Richard Renaldi, Roy Baizan, Sally Davies, Sara Bennett, Xyza Cruz Bacani, Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), Kris Graves Projects

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