Portal – New Art for Historic Places

Progressive Current, by Alexandra Pacula, oil

Progressive Current, by Alexandra Pacula, oil

Traveling on to Lower Manhattan, specifically Federal Hall, I found the fabulous Portal show, which ended Tuesday.  Organized by 4heads – who also produce the art shows on Governor’s Island – this exhibit featured work of almost 30 artists, across media ranging from photography, sculpture, oil, ink, and discarded consumer electronics.  There was also a lovely sound installation by Aaron Taylor Kuffner of javanese gongs with robotic mallets that would sound at various intervals.

Portal art show in the Federal Hall rotunda with work by Will Kurz

Portal art show in the Federal Hall rotunda with work by Will Kurz

In the center of the ground floor rotunda was Will Kurz’ re-creation of a disconcerting New York street scene  replete with lamp post, fire hydrant and garbage pail, and life-size street people fashioned from plaster, wire and newspaper.   Also in the rotunda was Becky Brown’s Personal Effects, a mixed media installation of found computers and electronics, most painted white, that she re-purposed into art, which was both calming and thought provoking – where do all our devices go to die?  Do they have an afterlife?

Sculpture made from r-purposed plastic bottles by Nikki Lederer

Sculpture made from r-purposed plastic bottles by Nikki Lederer

Some of my favorites were housed upstairs:  Nikki Lederer’s sculptures from re-purposed plastic bottles; Alexandra Pacula’s Progressive Current, a large (around 7’ x 9’) oil painting which looked like Times Square shot with a strobe and fish-eye; Maximus Clark’s 3Dolatry digital print portraits which were meant to be viewed with 3-D glasses (one red and one blue lens).  Marie Koo had two oils which would be great illustrations for children’s books, especially her Bad Moon Dancing (have you ever wondered what the animals in the forest do under a full moon?), and Simona Prives had some delicate digital collages with monotype and ink.  On the lower level, Taezoo Park’s Digital Being made from circuit boards, solar panels and LED’s was great, as was Jackie Mock’s Breaking One Wishbone a Day for One Year, which consisted of broken wishbones inside hand-made specimen cabinets – brought back many happy memories of Thanksgiving dinners.

Bad Moon Dancing, by Marie Koo, oil

Bad Moon Dancing, by Marie Koo, oil

There were lots of other works in this show.  I hope the US Parks Service, which is responsible for Federal Hall, hosts more of these types of shows.  Federal Hall  – on the site of the first US Congress, Supreme Court and Executive Branch offices and where George Washington took the oath of office – is an important part of US history; uses such as this enliven what is an otherwise boring space.  Perhaps they could work with groups such as 4heads  to re-imagine Federal Hall.

You can find the on-line catalogue for the Portal show here  

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