I have a lousy habit of attempting to view art exhibits on closing day, when there's a palpable sense that the gallery employees are mentally trying to shoo me out the door. My attempts are not always successful -- as it turns out, a lot of other locals suffer from the same affliction, and the winding line that snaked all the way through Grand Army Plaza three summers ago when I and two million of my neighbors tried to see the Basquiat show on closing day is testament to this reality. (The museum employees told me that the wait to get in would be about two hours, and I might have waited had I not been accompanied by a very pregnant lady at the time. Let me tell you something about very pregnant ladies: They do not wait on line for two hours for anything unless it is a plate of food.)
Anyway, I'm happy to report that no such winding lines were required to view Mike Nelson's "A Psychic Vacuum" installation on closing day (October 28th). Marking the second time in my life that I've had to sign a waiver before viewing an installation (the first was Richard Wilson's oil room at the Saatchi Gallery), Nelson's work, which was on display in the old Essex St. Market on the Lower East Side, comprised a labyrinthian network of rooms in both real and enhanced states of disrepair. A badly beaten darkroom, a long-unattended motel check in desk, and a derelict barroom punctuated by a busted cash register and singular stool were among the more memorable vistas of the five minute walkthrough. However, the real gasp-inducing drama was saved for the end, when I stepped through a cramped doorframe into a massive hangar-like space in which 30 foot piles of crystal-white sand were piled.
The overall vibe of the show serves as a poignant epitaph for a neighborhood that's poised to shed nearly all of the legacy and context associated with its celebrated history. I joked to my friends that the sand piles would probably become the foundation for the luxury condos sure to be going up in the old Market's lot.
Gentrification rhapsodies aside, "A Psychic Vacuum" made for a splendid afternoon on the first truly Autumnal day of the year. I apologize for not being on the ball earlier so that I might've helped you make it there in time to catch it in person, but follow the jump for some of my own hastily-snapped cellphone pix. There's also a slideshow of (better) images on the show's website, which will hopefully remain active even after de-installation.