For over a decade, Matt Keegan has worked to synthesize his interest in language, whether rooted in pedagogy and cognition or the vernacular and social. Relatedly, Keegan often incorporates familial narratives into his work to better understand how recorded histories are made up of individual perspectives. He works in sculpture, photography, and video, and for his SculptureCenter commission he integrates these various ways of working. Installed in Long Island City’s Court Square Park, what was & what is distills real estate development’s rhetorical and visual devices in an object that speaks the language of urban development while prompting opportunity for reflection on the fastest-growing neighborhood in New York City.
what was & what is is an 8-foot-tall rectangular perimeter, a nearly empty room of about 180 square feet, built on top of a preexisting but vacant concrete pad. One opportune foundation in a vast zone of development opportunity, the site positions the work at the feet of brand new residential buildings. Like its neighbors, Keegan’s work is constructed mostly in transparent panes, a model home approaching 1:1 scale.
On three sides, the phrase “For a long time this neighborhood was about what will be, and now I think it’s about what is.” traces the upper edges of the sculpture. The quotation is pulled from a developer’s comment in a 2017 New York Times article titled “Long Island City Grows Ever Skyward.” Expressing the apotheosis of longtime speculative interest in Long Island City, it takes stock of the present with a puzzling formulation of self-reflection. If Long Island City is now “about what is,” then what is it about? Has “what will be” turned out to be “what is”? What was the present like when it was ostensibly about the future?
Matt Keegan: what was & what is is the fourth temporary public artwork commissioned through Public Process, SculptureCenter’s high school summer program on public art and urban space. The project is curated by Kyle Dancewicz, Director of Exhibitions and Programs. Matt Keegan: what was & what is is exhibited in Court Square Park in partnership with NYC Parks.
Admission: There is a $10 suggested contribution for entry, $5 for students.
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