This spring marks the Queens Museum’s first season developed under new president and executive director, Laura Raicovich. And it’s all about inclusion for the Roslyn native. Throughout her 20-year career, she’s dwelt in that special place between politics, community activism and art. “My father’s family came from Italy just after WWII. For an immigrant’s daughter, those kinds of issues and political questions come to the forefront of your mind.”
She arrived at the Queens Museum after directing global initiatives at Creative Time, the NY non-profit behind important public art like the twin beacons of light that shone over ground zero. Her engagement with social issues is paired with curatorial insight honed at the Dia Art Foundation, the Guggenheim and the Public Art Fund.
Four spring exhibitions offer a glimpse of where her vision will lead the museum. They’re timely and timeless, homegrown and yet global. “Anything that’s hyper-local in Queens is international because of who lives in Queens. 10 out of 10 people you bump into in the street are either texting, WhatsApping or Skyping with someone halfway around the world,” Raicovich said.
The Queens International, the museum’s biennial, will feature contemporary artists who live or work in the borough, highlighting the area’s incredible diversity. This year, it features collaborative efforts of local and international creatives with works that span artistic disciplines as well as borders and cultures. Hundreds of Queens artists applied, 35 were chosen. A highlight this year is “The Garden of Forked Tongues,” a map filling the 40 x 100 foot entry space documenting the supposedly dead languages that are still spoken on the streets of Queens.
The exhibit of William Gropper’s political cartoons and paintings from the 30s and 40s raises ageless questions. “They hit the nail on the head of every single hot button issue we have today,” said Raicovich. “Migration, xenophobia, government corruption, money in politics, race in America—all of these issues are right there.”
Rebecca Solnit’s explorations of maps and the political, social and economic changes they document and enable will be included in her Nonstop Metropolis: The Remix show. And Hey! Ho! Let’s Go is dedicated to the Ramones—the raw, raucous, sons of Queens that rocked the punk scene in the 70s and 80s. “The Ramones open the door to a whole group of people who might not otherwise come. I want to cross-pollinate,” Raicovich said. “One of the things The Queens Museum does beautifully is offer real issues that both art audiences and non-art audiences can connect with, but also a space for play and imagination. You can come to a world of ideas and find a sanctuary.”
See them: William Gropper’s political art Feb 14-July 31. The Queens International, Rebecca Solnit’s Nonstop Metropolis: The Remix and Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones and the Birth of Punk all open April 10 and run through July 31.