MoMA P.S.1 Curator Peter Eleey Discusses 9/11 Exhibition

Alex Katz, 10:00 AM, 1994. Oil on linen. 72 x 96 in. Collection of the artist. Photo courtesy Gavin Brown's Enterprise. Photo by Paul Takeuchi. Copyright 2011 Alex Katz.

“As much as we’ve seen novels, films, plays, and other art forms deal with 9/11 directly,” Peter Eleey, the chief curator of MoMA P.S.1, said in a telephone interview yesterday, “it’s not a subject that has been as directly explored by contemporary art and contemporary museums.”

On Sept. 11, ten years after the terrorist attacks that occurred on that day in 2001, MoMA P.S.1 will unveil “September 11,” a group show of 41 artists that considers that absence and, Mr. Eleey said, “aims to think about how 9/11 continues to shape how we see the world retrospectively.”

About two-thirds of the work in the show was made before the attacks, including a 1998 bronze sculpture of a woman sitting on a park bench by George Segal and a somber Alex Katz painting, dated 1994, that shows two long shadows reflecting in still water. “I’m interested in how we read things into these images,” Mr. Eleey said. “After the attacks, we continued to see the towers everywhere; even two glasses on the bar would suddenly bring them to mind.”

The earliest work in the show, which will fill the entire second floor of the museum and run through Jan. 9, is a photograph by Diane Arbus that shows a newspaper blowing across an intersection at night. “That has a very different connotation now,” said Mr. Eleey.

Also included is a 1975 video installation by Mary Lucier called Dawn Burn, which Mr. Lucier created by pointing an early video camera at the sun as it rose over the East River. “It scarred the camera, so that every other successive image that was recorded on that camera was marked with the scar of that sunrise,” Mr. Eleey said. “As she films over multiple days on the same spot, the scars are magnified and multiplied.”

Mr. Eleey added, “It ends up being both an enactment of trauma and a representation of how trauma persists in memory.” MoMA P.S.1 Curator Peter Eleey Discusses 9/11 Exhibition