The four 8 by 12-foot greenhouses, lined up in a row, that greet visitors to Michael Wang’s Extinct in New York strike just the right balance between eerie and inviting. Each bright and airy greenhouse contains plants that used to, but no longer, grow wild in New York City, arranged in regimented grids of tabletop planters and vitrines. Organized by the Swiss Institute, and displayed as one of two quite promising inaugural exhibitions in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Arts Center at Governor’s Island, the installation’s calm atmosphere is more buoyant than its elegiac title would lead you to expect.
Yet the installation contains elements that tincture this calm with disquiet. Visitors cannot enter the greenhouse interiors, which creates a sense of separation, as though the plants were laboratory specimens. The orderly plant grids — in which, for example, a plant last observed growing in the city in 1819 (Cirsium altissimum, or Tall thistle) sits alongside a plant last observed in 1994 (Viburnum cassinoides, or Witheroid Viburnam) — reinforce the feeling of laboratory artifice. The motley plants themselves, whose names and dates of local extinction are provided in a checklist, exist in various stages of their growth cycles, from sprouts poking up through the soil to full-grown plants whose leaves have begun to droop and brown. In both form and content, Wang’s installation resembles an assisted living facility for plants.
Extinct in New York works so well because it avoids the pathos you might expect such a facility to evoke. In a side room, a series of wispy, brown watercolors depicting plant parts trades on a similar dynamic. Each painting has been paired with a 5 by 7-inch color photograph of the present-day site where the pictured plant was last observed. The visual disjunct between the photographs’ prosaic cityscapes and the watercolors’ poetic closeups makes the two images seem unrelated to one another — a feeling that is enhanced by the different media. In smart and subtle ways, Wang’s project turns on precisely such productive tensions: between optimism and pessimism, abstract concept and material form, past and present, art and life, life and death.
Michael Wang: Extinct in New York continues at LMCC’s Arts Center at Governor’s Island until Oct. 31.
An extraordinary variety of artists came to Jon Swihart and Kim Merrill’s backyard potlucks, discussing not just their work, but also the events and challenges of their lives.
With A Lion for Every House at the Art Institute of Chicago, Floating Museum riffs wildly on the art rental programs of some museums.
The Newark Museum of Art Presents Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection
Photographers Antony Armstrong Jones, Milt Hinton, Chuck Stewart, Barbara Morgan, and more capture a breadth of legendary and local musicians and performance artists. On view through August 21.
A Thing for the Mind takes Philip Guston’s 1978 painting “Story” as a starting point to examine the myriad ways in which this piece has filtered into the work of other painters.
An Oakland librarian and a French teacher in Oklahoma City collect ephemera they discover in returned and used books, from photos and recipes to love letters.
Art and photographs, publications from the 19th and 20th centuries, manuscripts, posters and more are set to cross the auction block on August 18.
Until you’ve seen a place for yourself, it’s a bit of an abstract idea. So why not ask Artificial Intelligence to create your travel poster?
Incarcerated people will be allowed to read Heather Ann Thompson’s 2016 Blood in the Water, except for two pages featuring a map of the prison.
The long-lost painting resurfaced at the upscale Urban Gallery in Tel Aviv, sparking the anger of Palestinians.
“Guests in love, please understand — most of the exhibits in our museum are objects ‘born’ many years ago and subject to completely different moral standards,” said the Fort Gerhard museum in a statement.
This week, the Webb space telescope wows, übernovels, crappy pigeon nests, the problem with “experts,” and much more.