The PS1 Contemporary Art Center is an offbeat offshoot of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. It’s housed in an old Public School (hence the name) in Long Island City, only a few stops away from the hubub of upscale commercial activity by 5th Avenue. But it seems to inhabit its own world of quiet thought.
Nothing is pretentious, everything is beautiful – or at least interesting. A couple weeks before Christmas, I found myself with a free day and a free ticket, and decided to venture over. The day was cold and overcast, like a wet blanket laid across the sky, so I bundled up before I set out.
Even as Manhattan teemed with gawking tourists and cranky Christmas shoppers, this industrial-ish area was empty and quiet. I picked my way around some workers putting up a new installation in PS1’s courtyard (something to do with felt) and up the steps. After I bought my ticket, I set off through the white-walled renovated classrooms, my footsteps echoing. So different from the main MoMA, where I had to elbow my way through the Tim Burton exhibit.
Downstairs were various student pieces (gorgeous). I took a couple pictures, until I got fussed at by a guard. There’s also a piece called “Swimming pool,” by Leandro Erlich, with a twist. That’s all I’m going to say because I don’t want to ruin the surprise!
The next floor took me through a several rooms filled with modern conceptual pieces from 1969. It was like taking a trip back in time and having a conversation with artists who were influenced and inspired by the Vietnam War, campus protests, and the Civil Rights movement.
But the top floor, oh, that was my favorite. Well, it’s a bit of a weird setup. Most of the rooms are just art classrooms or administrative offices. It seemed like I could have wandered right in and had a conversation with the curator.
The room that took my breath away – or rather, gave it back – was the open air room. As the door opened and another visitor came out, I was caressed by a breeze of cool air. I walked into the small, spare space and sat down on a teak wood bench that hugged the square wall. Others sat quietly as well. And we all stared up at the sky.
You see, there was a square hole in the ceiling. There was no molding or trim. For a moment I wondered if I was looking at a window, or a picture of the sky. But it was just the sky itself. The light was slowly fading, and I sat there, silently watching the sky turn blue and purple. Sometimes a seagull would wheel into the frame and I would contemplate it as it moved in and then out of my view.
I would never sit and watch this on a TV, or a computer monitor. But I was entranced by the sky. I thought back to my childhood, when I would lay on my bed and watch the clouds move past through my skylight. I lost track of time, and when I left, I felt peaceful and happy.
When I got outside, I checked my phone and saw a missed call from Ogilvy. They were calling to say I got the job. 🙂