From Brooklyn to Abu Dhabi, with 'Love'

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Byline: Blake Gopnik

Brooklyn artists Jennifer and Kevin McCoy come off as the quintessential hipsters: he has 1970s shaggy hair, she wears mod-cool outfits. The McCoys' art, which gets shown around the world, is also very Brooklyn: ultra-low-tech videos and installations about movie culture, childhood fears, even the couple's first date--always packaged with a laugh and a wink.

You have to wonder how that Brooklyn vibe is going over in Abu Dhabi, now that the couple has moved there for a year while Kevin launches the art program at the new Persian Gulf campus of New York University. Judging by their latest works from Abu Dhabi, now on view at Postmasters Gallery in New York, it's clear the McCoys, who are in their early 40s, are having culture shock. Their show, Abu Dhabi Is Love Forever, has a perfect subtitle--One Step Past the Airport--that captures both the state of affairs in this Arabian capitalist mecca and the couple's state of mind. "We wanted to make work out of that moment of arriving in new places," Jennifer says.

Driving downtown from the Abu Dhabi airport for the first time, the McCoys encountered mile after mile of construction, every site wrapped in temporary fences covered with giant photos of the "best" of Western culture. Gleaming high-rises. Bellhops carrying bags for a blonde. A businessman working from home on his laptop. But behind those fences was nothing more than empty desert, or half-finished buildings hammered at by guest workers imported from all sorts of places, none of them depicted in the photos out front.

Those fences, and the emptiness behind them, are the inspiration for the piece at the heart of the Postmasters show. …