A visit to MoMA PS1 in Long Island City for the exhibition “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” a look at cinematic large-format images created by photographer Gregory Crewdson, and a profile of musician and composer Vijay Iyer.

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[soothing music playing] - [Paula] Coming up on NYC-ARTS, a visit to MoMA PS1 in Long Island City for a look at the exhibition Marking Time Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration.

- One of the most symbolic and literal use of portraiture is to offer imprisoned people another representation of themselves, other than the mugshot or the prison ID card.

You see that really powerful in the exhibition with Mark Loughney's series, Pyrrhic Defeat.

Mark Loughney is currently in prison.

Since 2014, he's engaged in this series that consists of 20 minute sketches of other imprisoned people.

[tense music playing] - [Paula] A profile of photographer, Gregory Crewdson, known for his cinematic large format, narrative images.

- I've often said that I divide my life between pre-production, production and post-production.

So pre-production is mapping out the images, writing descriptions, and then productions are usually about four or five weeks where we're all together making pictures almost every day.

- [Paula] And Vijay Iyer shares his joyful spirit of experimentation.

- Music is as far as the creative community.

That's power that we have as a species to do that.

- [Narrator] Funding for NYC-ARTS is made possible by Thea Petschek lervolino Foundation, The Lewis 'Sonny' Turner Fund for Dance, Jody and John Arnhold, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Charles and Valerie Diker, The Nancy Sidewater Foundation, Elroy and Terry Krumholz Foundation, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation and Ellen and James S. Marcus.

This program is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the city council.

Additional funding provided by Members of Thirteen.

NYC-ARTS is made possible in part by First Republic Bank.

- [Narrator] First Republic Bank presents First Things First.

At First Republic Bank first refers to our first priority, the clients who walk through our doors, the first step, recognize that every client is an individual with unique needs.

First decree, be a bank whose currency is service in the form of personal banking.

This was First Republic's mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on our minds.

- [Narrator] And by SWANN Auction Galleries.

- [Narrator] SWANN Auction Galleries, we have a different way of looking at auctions, offering vintage books and fine arts since 1941, working to combine knowledge with accessibility whether you're a lifelong collector, a first time buyer or looking to sell information at swanngalleries.com [dramatic music playing] - Good evening and welcome to NYC-ARTS, I'm Paula Zahn.

Tonight, we'll visit an exhibition at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City that examines how artists bear witness to our society's extensive use of imprisonment.

Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration examines the creative, time-consuming and sometimes secretive methods incarcerated artists must use to express themselves.

The show also includes work by artists outside of the penal system who have been deeply affected by the issue.

We spoke with Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood who is professor of American studies and art history at Rutgers University and the curator of this exhibition.

- Marking Time is a large group exhibition that looks at the impact of mass incarceration on art and culture.

And it features over 40 artists.

Over two thirds of them are people who've been directly impacted by prisons and criminalization.

They are artists who are currently in prison or have been in prison.

And there's also about a third of the artists who have not been imprisoned but for many years they've been making work that investigates prisons, policing, anti-black violence, the range of art in the exhibition really challenge assumptions of what imprisoned people are capable of their interests, their access, the kind of resources that they bring into their creative lives.

And I think one of the most important things is how they work together and create community around art.

One of the first works you see when you walk into the gallery is to Tameca Cole's Locked in a Dark Calm.

It's a graphite collage, a small scale.

It's incredibly powerful.

And she was in prison for about 26 years.

And she made that work in response to some abuses she was experiencing by prison staff.

And instead of saying anything or doing something that could have extended her sentence she turned to making art.

And she said in the making of that work, she created her own base of survival.

Another artists in the show, Dean Gillispie, I think his work really demonstrates ways that imprisoned people experiment with limited resources.

And so over his 20 years in prison, he made these vibrant, playful miniatures based on a kind of nostalgic idea of Americana of Route 66 and every single material that he used were items he acquired in prison often with the help of other incarcerated people who would help what he says, procure materials.

And he also used those works to manage what I call penal time.

And that's experiencing time as punishment.

He would plan out a mandatory, he'd say, 'All this is going to take me six months.'

That was six months that would preoccupy him where he's focusing on art.

And for him, it was an especially meaningful way of managing time because he had been wrongfully convicted.

Jared Owens became an abstract painter in prison.

And he used art as a way of feeling like he had some control over his life and everything he was doing too, was doing a lot of reading on political theory and black history.

So one of his paintings called Ellapsium, he actually takes this icon is called the Brook's iconic slave ship from 1787 that was used by British abolitionists.

And so what Jared Owens did is he takes the slave ship and he overlays the blueprint affair to prison where he was incarcerated and he lines up the holding cells of the prison and the slave ship.

And so you do see artists in the show making these connections between slavery, Jim Crow's segregation, other forms of defacto/de jure segregation and contemporary mass incarceration.

[soft music playing] When I started working on this, I had no idea how important portraits are to imprisoned people.

One of the most importance, both symbolic and quite literal use of portraiture is to offer imprisoned people, another representation of themselves other than the mugshot or the prison ID card.

And I think you see that really powerfully in the exhibition with Mark Loughney's series, Pyrrhic Defeat.

Mark Loughney is currently in prison and since 2014, he's engaged in this series that consists of 20 minute, for the most part, graphite sketches of other imprisoned people.

And he's nearly up to like 700 of these images.

Our exhibition was actually scheduled to open on April 5th.

And so it was delayed and we opened September 17th.

During that time, Mark continued to make portraits.

I think those works are jarring and they make visible the multiple crises of people in prison.

We know that we're living through a pandemic that has not been controlled.

In prisons, it's even more heightened where Mark is imprisoned recently there was an outbreak.

They locked down the prison which means people are basically in solitary confinement.

So it's like multiple levels of punishment.

One of the things that's really important about this show is to have artists who have been in prison or who are in prison in the same room, in conversation with artists who've never been in prison, many of them are established artists, but who are doing very similar kinds of investigations through their art making.

There's the work of Sable Elyse Smith who's a professor of art at Columbia.

She's a highly regarded contemporary African-American artist.

And her work speaks so much to Daniel McCarthy Clifford, who is a white man living in Minneapolis who spent time in federal prison and came out of federal prison and went to art school.

They both have done these six pronged sculptures.

Sables work pivot is taking the stools that people sit on in prison visiting rooms and turning it into kind of playful blue and gray object that she said it reminds her of the children's gang jacks.

Daniel, his work is this large piece called one time Zack that literally weighs a half ton.

And it consists of hundreds of cafeteria trays that you would see in a prison, that you'd also see those kinds of trays in other institutions like public schools or asylums.

And for Daniel, that's really important because he's thinking about the relationship between all of these types of disciplinary institutions.

[soft music playing] I want visitors to really be fully engaged by the exhibition.

So I really want it to be a dual-pronged experience of really being able to appreciate the aesthetic inventions that are happening and also leave more motivated than ever to ending prisons as we know it.

[soothing music playing] [upbeat music] - Next, we'll take a look at the work of a photographer with a singular vision.

Gregory Crewdson is known for his cinematic, large format, narrative images.

Inspired by movies and paintings, each of his meticulously crafted photographs contains a haunting and ambiguous narrative.

With a career that has spanned almost three decades, he has been recognized internationally for his unique vision.

His photographs are also in the collections of major museums here in New York, including The Met, MoMA, Whitney, and The Guggenheim.

In 2016, after a five-year absence from the art world, Crewdson unveiled his latest series, Cathedral of the Pines at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea.

Produced near his home in Becket, Massachusetts, it was his most personal series to date.

NYC-ARTS spoke with Crewdson when he visited the gallery.

- About five years ago, after a dark period, I moved out of New York into a church in Great Barrington.

And for at least two years after that, I still was not making pictures.

I was trying to find some kind of stability in my life.

During the winter, I would cross-country ski.

And I was deep in the woods skiing and came across a little trail that's in Cathedral of the Pines and that's the title of the body of work.

And it was a moment of revelation.

It was one of those few times in one's life where you see the entire body of work in your mind's eye.

So I knew that the body of work would all be made in Becket on location.

And I would be working with my crew to try to tell stories that connect the figures in one way or another to the natural landscape.

Cathedral of the Pines was done over the course of three years in three different productions.

I've often said that I divide my life between pre-production, production and post-production.

So pre-production is mapping out the images, writing descriptions and then productions are usually about four or five weeks where we're all together making pictures almost every day.

And then after that it's months, if not years, of post-production.

Well, I knew that these pictures for me needed to be pictures that were close to my heart.

And particularly after a long period of not making pictures, I felt like I needed to do everything I could do to be pure and honest in the process.

But also, I want first and foremost the pictures to feel beautiful and mysterious and wondrous.

So that in all my pictures, there's this blurred line between the imagination and reality.

Many of the subjects in the pictures were also people close to me, such as my partner, Juliane and my daughter, Lily and various other family members and people who are from the area.

I think that also accounts for part of the intimacy in the pictures.

My picture is a reside in this collision between very intimate, very private moments but photographed in a very kind of objective or detached way.

So it's those two things coming up against each other.

And I think that kind of accounts for a certain tension that's in the pictures.

I do everything I can do to create a picture that everything in the frame means something.

There's nothing in the picture that for me, doesn't carry a certain weight of gravitas in terms of telling the story.

And we work to achieve that.

That being said, there's always things that are outside of one's control that happened that really add to the ultimate mystery of the picture.

To me, where the ultimate meaning of the picture reside is in my need to try to create a perfect world in pictures and the ultimate impossibility of doing so that collision of order and happenstance.

All photographs are essentially or fundamentally concerned with light.

So in my pictures, I just extend that further and try to tell a story through light.

I was very influenced by 19th century painting.

I lift my director of photography went through great pains to try to find a aesthetic sensibility that felt painterly.

And one of the key things we did in all the interiors is we lit from outside in, so we just have a fill light from the interiors but the primary source, the narrative light, as we call it, would come from the exterior.

I want the pictures to feel timeless.

I work really hard to remove any signifiers of the moment of the culture we're in.

There's no cell phones, there's no sort of contemporary cars or anything like that.

So it's really about creating a world that feels familiar and mysterious at the same time.

I think in the end for me, Cathedral of the Pines represents a journey between, before and after.

And it represents in many ways, going through a period of darkness into a period of light.

And even though there's in many cases, the sense of disconnection or sadness, I feel like the hope comes from the light and the beauty of the picture itself.

[dramatic music playing] [soothing music playing] - Composer, pianist, and MacArthur fellow, Vijay Iyer is an eclectic and masterful musician, respected as one of the foremost jazz pianists of his generation.

He is equally at home composing for string quartets and electronic media.

He has written music spanning several genres for orchestras, filmmakers and even poets.

He brings the spirit of experimentation and collaboration to all of his projects.

NYC-ARTS spoke with Iyer in one of his favorite places that musical instruments gallery at The Met.

[jazz music playing] - My name is Vijay Iyer.

I live in New York City and I make music.

This space has a number of ancestors of my instrument of choice.

So it's good to get to know them a little.

[piano music playing] I also played violin for a long time.

And the string instruments here are really interesting.

I'm also really interested in instruments from other parts of the world.

My heritage is from India.

And so looking at all these instruments from different parts of Asia and Africa too, has been really inspiring for me.

My primary way of playing the piano is by improvising.

[piano music playing] I was partly self-taught in that sense but my main role models for how to do that were people like Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, McCoy Tyner, Bud Powell, Herbie Hancock, Jerry Allen, they all from the African-American community they all made music defiantly against all odds.

And they're exuberantly creative and brilliant innovators.

Improvisation is something we all do all the time.

This is the way you walked down the streets or drive a car or converse with people.

Well, another example is, if you go out dancing, nobody told you exactly what to do or whom to do it with.

So it's very normal the experience of improvising.

And so I guess no one ever told me not to.

So that's what I do.

[music playing] Improvising with rules is also something we're very familiar with.

There are a lot of examples from everyday life you can imagine like basketball.

Basically basketball is extremely regulated situation with an unforeseen outcome.

So that's kind of what we do when we play together.

It's not that different.

We have some ideas of how it could go but we also try to open ourselves to what's happening right now and respond to each other.

And that's infinite, that process, there's no limit to it.

[jazz music playing] What I've found is that just making something with somebody else brings out some version of you that you might not have access to otherwise.

So it's this transformative process where we kind of become something there.

[jazz music playing] And not just do that, but through that process, build something.

And that takes patience, that takes a lot of attention.

[jazz music playing] Even when there's repertoire involved like when we're playing my compositions or someone else's or I'm playing a raga or playing some kind of groove or something, it's still about what you do now.

[jazz music playing] People often ask after we perform what percentage of that was improvised.

But I think I understand the impulse to ask that question.

The person who was observing wants to know if I was making choices that she was experiencing.

So it's kind of about compassion.

It's about empathy.

It's about to what extent we were there together.

Music is as far as it creates community.

That's a power that we have as a species to do that.

So that's what I'm trying to do - Next week on NYC-ARTS.

A look back at some of our favorite segments featuring the best of arts and culture in our area.

- You just see an image and you understand the purpose of the poster right away.

In fact, that's what makes a good effective poster.

If a poster doesn't communicate its purpose to you in less than a second, it's failed.

[choir singing] - I attended Alley Camp in Chicago, Illinois in 2001 at the age of 13 and at the camp I learned about Mr. Alley's history, I learned about the works he choreographed and we learned discipline.

- One of the most highly recognized American self-taught artists is the portrait painter, Ammi Phillips.

In the period of 1817 to 1820 or so, his portraits are very dreamy.

They're beautiful pallets of these shimmering muted colors.

[piano music playing] - They are for the people.

And I want people to take them and interact with them.

Obviously take a picture but take a blossom, take some home.

The more that we can have these kind of soft moments of just beauty and joy for no other reason even if it's for an hour or 10 minutes, it's job is done.

[soothing music playing] - I hope you've enjoyed our program this evening.

I'm Paula Zahn.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Have a good night.

[soothing music playing] - [Narrator] Funding for NYC-ARTS is made possible by Thea Petschek lervolino Foundation, The Lewis 'Sonny' Turner Fund for Dance, Jody and John Arnhold, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Charles and Valerie Diker, The Nancy Sidewater Foundation, Elroy and Terry Krumholz Foundation, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation and Ellen and James S. Marcus.

This program is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the city council.

Additional funding provided by Members of Thirteen.

NYC-ARTS is made possible in part by First Republic Bank.

- [Narrator] First Republic Bank presents First Things First.

At First Republic Bank first refers to our first priority.

The clients who walk through our doors, the first step, recognize that every client is an individual with unique needs.

First decree, be a bank whose currency is service in the form of personal banking.

This was First Republic's mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on our minds - [Narrator] And by SWANN Auction Galleries.

- [Narrator] SWANN Auction Galleries, we have a different way of looking at auctions, offering vintage books and fine arts since 1941, working to combine knowledge with accessibility whether you're a lifelong collector, a first-time buyer or looking to sell information at swanngalleries.com.