The artworks in the latest exhibition at the Fisher Landau Center for the Arts, titled “Visual Conversations,” engage not just the viewer but also the other pieces they share rooms or the hallways with.
The photographs, paintings and sculptures on the first floor speak directly to the viewer with — for the most part, what else but — words. The black and white photo of the iconic Long Island City Pepsi-Cola sign, one of a very few if not the only Queens-centric artwork in the Fisher Landau coffers, tells the onlooker to drink soda.
Joseph Kosuth’s “Fetishism (Corrected) #7,” a work New York Times writer Roberta Smith called beautiful in 1988, starts with a framed page of Freud’s work in German. In the margins are his corrections, which Kosuth has made jump out of the frame, literally, with bright purple neon cursive amongst a tangle of black wires. Does the tangled mess that the artist has created relate to the essay’s topic or is the squiggle of wires just a necessary aid to working with electrified neon?
Other works on this floor call the viewer a name — “Psycho!” — while another discusses “What a Painting Aims to Do.”
On to the second floor, which deals more with political activism and eyes — eyes looking out, eyes looking to another person, eyes in pain and eyes filled with confusion.
In the political vein there is the lifelike oil-painted flag by Edward Ruscha titled “Plenty Big Hotel Room” and the Pledge of Allegiance printed on a 10-foot red canvas by artist Barbra Kruger.
Annette Lemieux’s “Black Mass” of hundreds of uniformed workers holding blank signs says a lot without any words. Lemieux could have blacked out the words because she thought the signs of “more pay” and “better treatment” were too generic. Or were the words blacked out because the viewer has seen this image many times before in person and in newspapers, and doesn’t need to read the words to understand what the protesters wanted?
As for eyes, there is the perplexed baby transfixed on an object somewhere out there, the clown meekly peering at the audience and the Klu Klux Klan member peeping out from his white shroud.
The third floor doesn’t converse like the other levels. This is where the big dogs are displayed — the Georgia O’Keefe, the several Jasper Johns, the several Andy Warhols and the Willem de Kooning.
Dean at the front desk thinks these works are interacting with each other, and not with the audience. A volunteer on the third floor also believes that level’s display doesn’t obviously converse like the other ones, but wouldn’t go further.
Are these paintings just too great to keep in storage or would Warhol just prefer the company of Johns over the company of say — me?
When: Through Nov. 30, Thursday through Monday, 12 to 5 p.m., closed Nov. 22 and 23
Where: Fisher Landau Center for Art, 38-27 30th St., Long Island City
Tickets: Free, flcart.org