P! Gallery on Broome Street, just off Bowery, has been a hugely important center for displaying graphic arts and design since it opened five years ago. Started by graphic designer Prem Krishnamurthy of Project Projects, it has staged over 40 shows since it opened, but now the gallery is closing. Its final exhibit, created by U.K.-based artist Celine Condorelli, is appropriately titled Epilogue and focuses on her research into issues of display and “cumulative labor and support structures.”
The starting point or inspiration for the exhibit is graphic designer Herbert Bayer’s 1930s technical exhibit drawing Extended Field of Vision (borrowed from a private collection for Epilogue) that features his oft-used device of “an exaggerated eye atop a male visitor’s body that observes planes of display in every direction.” The exhibit’s press release notes Bayer’s several “blind spots within existing histories” (i.e. his ambiguous position during the rise of National Socialism) and his later reticence to acknowledge this compromise. Its an important qualifier to the designer’s successful later career but the exhibit does not engage these political issues. Instead, the exhibit puts forward and reflects on Condorelli’s artistic practice that focuses on exhibition display and design. A second—but equally important—subtext for the show is P!’s five-year-long project of exhibits on design.
It begins in the gallery’s Broome street picture window, which features a multi-layered window covering that colorfully frames the views between the street and the exhibition in the gallery. A series of Condorelli’s exhibit-inspired drawings line the gallery walls and a section cut-out of the gallery’s wall is repurposed into an upholstered seating unit for visitors to ”rest, converse, and observe.” A sculptural corrugated plastic room divider/curtain directs the public into the small gallery space to confront the exhibit and to celebrate the unfortunate closing of the gallery. The installation moves deliberately between historic references of exhibit design and the soon-to-be-shuttered gallery. Krishnamurthy started P! as an experiment in collapsing the boundaries of design, graphic arts, and architecture. He achieved it more than any other space in New York during this period and P! will be missed.
P! is at 334 Broome Street; Epilogue runs through May 21, 2017.