New York Be Nice

Kristin Morgin- Chelsea Mornng Part Three 2009

orig. published December 15, 2010 by CityArts

I can only assume that the title of Kristen Morgin’s New York debut exhibition, New York Be Nice, is a plea for a kind review, because it bears no relation to the work itself. It’s an odd title for a body of work that references neither New York nor niceness. Rather, this is a show that seeks to conjure a kind of nostalgia for American pop culture that owes little or nothing to New York City.

Zach Feuer Gallery has been populated with Morgin’s meticulously made, unfired clay sculptures of old comic and schoolbooks, toys and other images of childhoods past. One piece, “The Repeating Table,” is a long arrangement of objects. Set up on a roughly made wooden table, the faux objects on one side precisely mirror the real ones on the other. These tableaux of objects are technically fascinating and impressively crafted, but the effect is static and dead feeling, like specimens
in a laboratory. After one marvels at
the workmanship, there’s not much
else there.

Other sculptures repeat the conceit. Kid-sized tables littered with the refuse of childhood are quiet and empty feeling. The work could be seen as sad—where have all the children gone?—but instead there is a pervasive sense of numbness to this show. As objects, rather than as art, one can’t help but like the faded colors and nostalgic objects that Morgin has made. They’re like finds at a flea market or junk store in Williamsburg. But, sadly, that’s where they stop.

The parodying of pop culture, even when technically skillful, still must pack an ineffable punch in order for the work to transcend as inspired or inspiring art.
Through Dec. 18, Zach Feuer Gallery 548 W. 22nd St., 212-989-7700.

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