After the Plaster Foundation

Twelve mostly New York-based artists ruminate on life and property, art’s vexed role in gentrification, and the impact of race on having a home. Some combine sculpture and photographic media into hybrid objects such as a stripped-down construction backhoe with talking video screens or a 47-foot-long digital image of tread tracks in mud woven on a Jacquard loom. Invoking the desire to dig, to build, to possess and dispossess, these works also suggest that the rapid and visible change in New York neighborhoods—both in terms of who can live where and the built environment itself—goes far back in time and far into the future. From a beloved art-world figure who lived as a perpetual guest to an artist’s mother performing her preparations for a visit from her realtor, portraits of individuals emerge on video, embodying the complexity of living within and without property in the digital age. Under the central skylight, a crackling video fire is surrounded by elegant seating, while a house has seemingly sunk into the museum’s atrium with only its roof remaining above the floor, suggesting both refuge and play, apocalypse and daily desperation. Whether satirical, speculative or grounded in the work of organizing, the works in the exhibition also suggest ways of resisting the reach of capital into our homes, and innermost lives.

The Plaster Foundation was what artist, filmmaker, and luminary of the underground Jack Smith called the SoHo loft where he lived and performed. After his eviction in 1971, Smith injected frequent references to rent, “landlordism,” and even something known as “claptailism” into the titles and scripts of many subsequent works. Smith’s eviction took place as the twinned processes of deindustrialization and reinvestment into FIRE (finance, investment, real estate) started in earnest in New York, leading to outcomes visible and tangible in the city today. Although first, perhaps, a play on the grant-making organizations Smith both depended on and was vocally contemptuous of, “plaster foundation” is also a building metaphor, with failure built in.

Artists include Jennifer Bolande, Ilana Harris-Babou, Heather Hart, Simon Leung, Shawn Maximo, Museum of Capitalism, Sondra Perry, Douglas Ross, Peter Scott, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Caroline Woolard, and Betty Yu.

After the Plaster Foundation is organized by Larissa Harris, Curator, with Sophia Marisa Lucas, Assistant Curator, and Lindsey Berfond, Assistant Curator, Exhibitions & Public Programs.

Image: Ilana Harris-Babou, Fine Lines, 2019. Video stills. Courtesy the artist.

After the Plaster Foundation is made possible by lead support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Major funding for the Queens Museum is generously provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Lambent Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation. The official hotel sponsor of the Queens Museum is Boro New York.