How many unremarkable corners of this city have great art in them? How many exhibitions do we miss because we didn’t hear about them though we would have loved to? You can’t walk a few blocks in this city without passing by a space with public art and a university or institution with a collection (that often can only be seen at odd times on odd days). The Hunter College gallery at 68th and Lex is unremarkable in and of itself, but I have seen some strong shows here in the past few years.
Open Work at Hunter College is a good show, that could have been truly great. It has so many possibities and encompases much of what conceptual art was and has become. The catalog is a beautiful object filled with essays and interviews that far expanded my knowledge of the Latin American artists that are shown here. The shows flaws have little to do with the art or artists in it and much to do with the lack of space it is granted. This could easily have filled out the print galleries at MoMA (about half the work is from MoMA anyway it seems).
The upshot of a small space is the economy with which the curator chose these items. The prints, photographs, journals and publications that make the exhibition are far reaching if often minute. I relish the opportunity to see small lovely objects. A LeWitt folded paper piece and artist book. 12 of the 75 Stains (Sea Water, Gun Powder, Oil Paint) from the 1969 Ed Ruscha portfolio Stains (MoMA currently has several of these on view in their permanent collection).
As for artists that I was clueless about, the list is long. I will highlight only one: Clemente Padín is a wonderful new find for me. The mail art and prints in the exhibition are revelatory. I wanted to get my hands on the work. There are several cases that get you tantalizingly close to books and pamphlets that are begging to be inspected. They were in fact non commodified art to be handled and passed around. I understand of course why not and there are even one or two iPads to help you inspect some of these items closer.
If you have the opportunity, go and see a small and important show. I do hope it will be expanded and shown on the scale it deserves. Ultimately, it will overwhelm you with the quality of many small things.