It hardly needs to be reiterated that New York City is the country’s—if not the world’s—most important breeding ground for art both low and high, but that’s pretty much the mission statement of Our City Dreams. Chiara Clemente’s documentary traces a backward chronology among five women from different generations who have all migrated to New York City to pursue a career as an artist. Starting with 31-year-old street artist Swoon, Clemente (whose previous credits include portraits of Frank Gehry and Jim Dine) documents the life and work of female artists born in each proceeding decade down to Nancy Spero, still going strong in her early eighties, with Egyptian abstract eroticist Ghada Amer, feminist Kiki Smith, and performance-art pioneer Marina Abramovic coming in between.
The idea is to have each artist’s work stand on its own while fashioning a mosaic of attitudes toward New York City. But while at the bare minimum Our City Dreams offers informative sketches that might pique the curiosity of those unfamiliar with the work of its subjects, beyond that, both the film’s understandably divided structure (unlike the singularly focused Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress, and the Tangerine) and its unaccountably ADD editing (a Swoon exhibition seemingly overrun by street punks is sloppily assembled and given no context) prevent the art from being explored or even seen in depth, while the main thematic thread—several generations of female artists forging their paths in New York City—remains obscure.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Joshua Rowin's review of Our City Dreams.