After getting all excited by yesterday morning’s announcement of the New Museum’s new international triennial for emerging artists, we were plunged into the eerie, postapocalyptic world of the musem’s “After Nature” exhibition, which opens tomorrow and runs through September 21. “The future it presents is pretty grim,” said director of exhibitions Massimilano Gioni, who organized the show with curatorial assistant Jarrett Gregory. Another tip-off: the taxidermied headless horse (a 2007 work by Maurizio Cattelan) stuck to the wall. The exhibition aims to “survey a landscape of wilderness and ruins, darkened by uncertain catastrophe” (surely the best kind), and so Cattelan’s decapitated horse shares the museum’s cathedral-like fourth floor space with Zoe Leonard‘s 70-foot “Tree” (1997), hobbled and propped up on crutches, and the 1894 “Celestographs” (sheets of photographic paper left on the windowsill overnight) of Swedish writer August Strindberg, a wild-haired posterboy for doom.
The third floor is dominated by Robert Kusmirowski‘s “Unicabine” (2008, at left), an ominous replica of Ted Kaczynski‘s Montana hideaway, but otherwise evokes a showcase of tribal spoils, with Dana Schutz‘s vivid autogoblin canvas, “Man Eating His Chest” (2005), and Thomas Schutte‘s seven pole-mounted ceramic heads standing guard over Berlinde De Bruyckere‘s “Robin V” (2006-07), a wax cadaver in a glass coffin.
If that all sounds unbearably bleak, there are signs of life one floor below, although they’re mostly botanic. William Christenberry‘s photos, taken from 1974 to 1991, show an Alabama cabin being gradually swallowed by kudzu vines. And occupying a corner is Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla‘s “Growth (Survival)” (at right), in which the artists have repurposed Jenny Holzer‘s scrolling LED screens as grow lights for a hybrid tropical plant. It’s “artwork that recycles other artwork,” said Gioni yesterday, adding, “I thought it was an interesting idea of what the museum of the future might be: a place that can be used to keep vegetation alive.”