via NYTimes, Art Review | 'New York States of Mind'
Never Mind the Map: Sometimes New York City Is More of an Idea
By KEN JOHNSON
Published: December 21, 2007
Oh, say can you see? With its red and black stripes and black stars on a green field, David Hammons's beautiful "African-American Flag" hangs high over the central exhibition space of "New York States of Mind" at the Queens Museum of Art.
Thus placed, the flag seems more than an elegantly mordant comment on race in America. It reads as the symbol of a separate country, a land where conservative American values are inverted, where liberal tolerance and reckless creative ambition thrive, and where dissent is valued as highly as consent. A country called New York City.
It is this view of New York that the curator Shaheen Merali wanted to frame when he organized this exhibition for the House of World Cultures, in Berlin, where he leads the department of exhibitions, film and new media, and where the show was on view earlier this year.
"The metropolis of New York differentiates itself from the rest of the United States in dialectical opposition," announces Mr. Merali in his opaquely worded but politically obvious introductory wall text.
The show, which includes about 30 artists who live in or have lived in New York, is too small, narrow, uneven and confusing to live up to its grand idea. Focusing on cerebral, tendentious works, it comes off as more didactic and ideological than imaginatively adventurous. What's more, it seems less about New York than about the trendy interests of the international curator set.
Still, this is an interesting, provocative exhibition. If you want to have a lively argument about the true nature of New York art, it’s a good place to start.