As is the case with all surveys (and especially so for those curated by a team of four, spanning several generations), much of “Greater New York”’s fourth iteration feels pretty disjointed. There are no easy takeaways here, and I often wondered if I could see our current day New York in all of this at all. (Where’s all the politics, the consumption, and the ever-encroaching pervasiveness of the digital realm?) “It was important for us not to make a diagnostic show about New York,” said Eely. And indeed it avoids asserting any stable positions. But now—when overlooked artists from the ’60s and ’70s are being surfaced by the market with some regularity—is an apt moment to look back to earlier decades in New York. That breadth of focus taps into a prevalent nostalgia for grittier times when being an artist and having money was something of an oxymoron, and when swathes of Manhattan were ripe for creative use—if more dangerous and unkempt.
While those looking for a singular curatorial vision are in for a gross disappointment, there is an insistence on plurality here that well serves a broad survey. At times, while making a path through the 2015 edition of “Greater New York,” one feels lost. But much like the experience of existing in a complex and often overwhelming metropolis, just when you lose your way, something emerges that feels clear, familiar—something you can grab hold of. So it was, for me, with a knockout room on the third floor consisting of a lustrous, glinting textile by Howardena Pindell across from the lucid, soulful paintings of John Finneran, and flanked by Joyce Robins’s spotted ceramic dishes and Stefanie Victor’s elegant, nuanced metal forms. Together they’re a celebration of texture, color, space, and shape, and a tribute to the diverse heritages and aesthetics encapsulated within New York’s great span.