The title of this year’s New Museum triennial is “Soft Water Hard Stone.” It’s a moniker that alludes to the natural world, to folk wisdom, and to the kind of quiet, insistent force that makes change over time—the idea being that even something as pliant as a soft current of water, over time, has an effect.
Curated by Margot Norton and Jamillah James, with the assistance of Jeanette Bisschops, the resulting show does indeed land gently. It’s a show of a lot of things that either lay on the ground or look like they were just picked up off the ground, and things that vaguely evoke a ruin. It is all washed-out colors and neutrals and graphite grays. It has a cool emotional tone (though not a cold one).
There are almost no big, central images—it’s a lot of things you have to look at like puzzles, for details. Even the big things and the figurative work feel faceless and diffuse somehow. The mental afterimage the show leaves is of a lot of people standing with their backs to you, talking in low tones.
It offers plenty to think about. As I put together my own thoughts on it, here are some photos of the show, so you can get a taste for yourself.