Finally we get to see a response to Robert Moses’s influence that isn’t enamored with the nimbyist paralysis of Jane Jacobs. “Beneath the Underdog” declares itself to be a show of art “made in the wake of Robert Moses, master builder of New York’s highways, bridges and tunnels, who presided over and politically navigated a period that would forever come to symbolize the struggle between urban expansion and the increasingly uncertain place of the individual.”
It equates Moses, rather reactively, with the “towering vertical landscape of late capitalism,” that world of skyscrapers and luxury apartments, that we know as the New York of the 21st century. And it proposes “horizontal” approaches to art as the antidote, ones that question its system of values by dwelling on abjection, sex, the body, violence, and alienation. None of which were big on Jane Jacobs’s list of urban planning solutions.
Of course, Moses’s vision never had much to do with the vertical. He was himself a “horizontal” guy, more interested in tearing down than building up, focused on highways and parks more than skyscrapers. His housing developments were the glaring exception, but they are a few avenues and a world away from the skyscrapers and luxury apartments the artist-curators decry. And a likelier spot for alienation and abjection too.
The show’s presence in Gagosian’s uptown space, one of the city’s most moneyed, is another injection of cognitive dissonance into the mix.
But it was great to see George Gach’s bronze bust of the master builder looking over the art, like the elder statesman he was for so many decades before his fall. And the show also featured Bas Jan Ader’s trap for rich people, Untitled (Tea Party):