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September 11 art show stands out for what it avoids

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The attacks of September 11, 2001 were the most witnessed disaster in history, yet to capture their impact, a new exhibit has no art, pictures or music depicting that fateful day.

Works in the show, "September 11," opening on Sunday at New York's MoMA PS1, make reference to the World Trade Center towers or to a blue and sunny sky reminiscent of that day, but let viewers make their own connections to the deadly attacks.

In fact, most of the 70 or so works in the exhibit at MoMA PS1, the Museum of Modern Art's satellite location in the New York City borough of Queens, were made before 2001.

Selected from a wide-swath of contemporary artists, with some work dating back to the 1960s, the exhibit is meant to trigger memories and emotions 10 years after planes crashed into the twin towers, bringing them down and killing thousands of people, without addressing that day explicitly.

"There were certain things that we did not want to see, I think in part because of how much we have been forced to see," said MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey, describing the challenge of assembling an art show on the well-documented tragedy.

The torrent of images from September 11, Eleey said, "dramatically complicated how art could respond."

So, he chose instead to avoid showcasing it directly.

Curators installed a 1999 audio recording called "World Trade Center Recordings: Winds after Hurricane Floyd" by artist Stephen Vitello in the basement boiler room of the museum.

The recording is of eerie creaks and groans of the skyscrapers as they were buffeted by a hurricane.

An untitled 2008 work by artist Roger Hiorns consists of mounds of silvery dust of a pulverized passenger aircraft engine spread on the floor in a seemingly haphazard way.

A photograph by American artist William Eggleston of a hand twirling a colorful iced drink in the sunny cabin of an airplane might bring to mind how an ordinary flight turned into a hellish nightmare. The photo, "Untitled (Glass in Airplane)" is from the 1960s.

The show also includes a light installation by James Turrell, and works by American artists Diane Arbus, Alex Katz and Ellsworth Kelly. It ends on January 9, 2012.

(Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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