NEW YORK — How do you picture New York City 25 years in the future? This question was posed to visual artists across the city this September as part of the NYC25 exhibition.
NYC25 is a new thematic initiative of Curate NYC, a nonprofit project run by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. NYC25 offers free curatorial reviews, public exposure and exhibition opportunities to New York City visual artists.
After a month-long selection, the top 25 entries across the 10 NYC25 Judges’ lists were chosen from about 650 submissions. They will be exhibited at the Westwood Gallery in SOHO, Oct. 25 through Nov. 14. The creator of the top entry will win a $2,500 cash reward.
“We are excited about the special theme of New York City 25 years in the future,” said Margarite Almeida, the Executive Director and Co-owner of the Westwood Gallery. “For us, we also are very engaged by artists who are thinking of their concept, thinking of how that makes an impression on what they create.”
“The criteria were really left up to the individual judges,” said Michael Rogers, one of the NYC25 judges. “What I was looking for was visions, rather than images, works that had both visual and emotional resonance.”
Any visual media were accepted by NYC25. “What’s really great, unbelievable, is that the amount of media,” Almeida said. According to Dana Altman, the director of Westwood Gallery, seven categories will be exhibited, including: one installation, five mixed media, two sculptures, two videos, seven photographs, six digital prints, and two paintings.
Chanel Kennebrew, a mixed media artist from Brooklyn shot a series of portraits across New York City and asked people to write down one word that expresses their visions of New York City 25 years in the future. “New York is all about the people and it will be what all of us put together,” said Kennebrew of her own vision of the city in the future. “[New York] will be what we make it. All the possibilities.”
Rogers took notice of Kennebrew’s work after reviewing more than 300 entries. “[It] underscored the fact that an important element of shaping the future is people,” Rogers said. “Technology, demographics and economics are powerful forces, of course, but what we hope for, what we expect, and what we fear should also be just as important.”
Trask Ian, a scientist-turned-artist, will have a 12-foot-high sculpture entitled Holon. It is made from used cardboard that Ian found on the sidewalks of New York City. By transforming waste into refined aesthetic sculpture, Ian poses the question to his audience: What is waste? Ian’s work makes people think about the reinvention of materials already in circulation as an alternative to manufacturing new products. It also alerts audiences to the huge amount of waste they could potentially avoid in the future.
“It’s so amazing,” Almeida said of Ian’s work. “That’s just cardboard, what about water bottles, what about everything else that all of us created on the daily bases. We like the art that make people think.”
Similarly, the environmental theme is presented in Mikhail Gubin’s work. Gubin believes that the population of New York City will constantly increase during the next 25 years and the city will be swallowed by trash. “The sidewalks of the city will be covered with trash heaps,” Gubin said. His own interpretation uses the collage technique from a bird’s-eye point of view. He said the best way to see the world is to see it from a distance. “Looking from a bird’s flight will resemble a huge garbage dump wrapped in a giant clew of tangled fibers,” Gubin said.
After reviewing all of the entries, Rogers said it was a great experience to see the hopeful and playful images of the future, as well as the more pessimistic and dystopian visions.
“I expected numerous images of New York City flooded by rising seas, and indeed there were plenty of those,” Rogers said. “But I was surprised at how much optimism, or at least good humor came through. When it comes to thinking about the future, I think visual artists are a more cheerful lot than my colleagues in the world of science fiction writing.”
No matter what the future will bring, according to Almeida, people should be proud of their efforts to move the city in a good direction. “All the time, we have some stress or worry about future,” Almeida said, “but if we look back, we should be proud to say, ‘Wow, we really did a lot.’”