Jocelyn once described her husband, Gandy Brodie (1924–1975) as a “delinquent Hebrew student.” In the novel Life on Sandpaper (Dalkey Archive Press, 2011), the Israeli novelist and painter Yoram Kaniuk writes about the time he and Gandy hung out together in New York, befriending Lenny Tristano and Charlie Parker, as well as Willem de Kooning and Tennessee Williams.
National Poetry Month reminds us that some words can boogie, and dance they do at two exhibitions on the Lower East Side. A fiery tango between word and image takes place in solo shows by both Natalie Czech and Jeff Gibson. This tango — like when a caption twists an image’s meaning, or an illustration shapes how you picture the words you’re reading — can be tense, competitive and at times even semiotically combative. But just as the tango feeds off of two partners’ intensity, this art benefits from the back and forth.
Last week I had the pleasure of checking out Step and Repeat at Toomer Labzda gallery on Forsyth Street in the Lower East Side. The space is new, and this is their first attempt at a group show. As I’ve written before, I am often skeptical of the whole commercial gallery thematic show thing. I was pleasantly surprised by the exhibit, which features the artwork of Marin Abell, Ivin Ballen, Alisa Baremboym and Leah Dixon. The first thing I realized when I walked into the gallery was how much I love small spaces. I think that gallery goers often take the large caverns in Chelsea for granted. I for one, find it difficult to actually be reflective in Gagosian or Pace. Instead I rush around on their polished concrete floors like a wanton six year old lost in his parents snack cupboard, gorging and sampling, but always short of reflection. On the flip side, the physical constraints of Toomer Labzda gallery are pretty extreme, it’s super tiny, but the husband and wife team have put that to good use. In a one room gallery there is nowhere to hide weak ideas, or b-list artworks.
I’ve been following the work of Loren Munk for years and had the pleasure of seeing the work currently on display at Lesley Heller in his studio years ago before most people even knew they existed. Today, Munk has been exhibiting regularly and developing a following for his map works that document art world scenes in New York and elsewhere. There is a frenzy of color in his paintings and the choices are obviously subjective (and rife with personal politics) but they are intense explosions of information carefully organized and constructed like a spider web in paint. I spoke to Munk about his latest show, Location, Location, Location, Mapping the New York Art World, on the Lower East Side that continues until this Sunday, October 16.
In order to properly follow up on my experience with Creative Time’s social practice summit, and given my heretofore lack of involvement with #OccupyWallStreet protests, I was pretty much obligated to visit Creative Time’s Living As Form exhibition at the historic Essex Street Market. I mean, the art included, for the most part, is all about progressivism and alternative modes of operating within our faulty society. And community! I love that word, community! As a dutiful citizen of the world, surely taking in an exhibition dedicated to valuing people doing stuff together over commercially-based, materialized practice would amount to me contributing something, somehow. Right?
This week I skipped the Chelsea gallery scene (the show I wanted to see was unexpectedly on hiatus when I got there) and found myself on a road less traveled for me and I am sure other art-goers as well. The destination was the Henry Street Settlement Abrons Art Center on Grand Street between Pitt and Columbia Streets. As I walked the several blocks from the F train Delancey stop (several more than I expected), it seemed that the dust of the previous tenement neighborhood still settled on these streets. Not only did it remind me that, as much as New York reinvents itself, the past is never far behind, but it was also a refreshing art viewing experience that I probably would not have found in the white boxes of Chelsea.
Obama laid a wreath at the base of the former World Trade Towers right after Osama had been buried at sea. And, as if on cue the utopian “Festival of Ideas For the New City” launched, vowing to “harness the power of the creative community to imagine the future city and explore the ideas destined to shape it.” Starchitects, visionaries, the homeless, mayors, artists, foodies, freegans, the playskool crowd, beggars, actors, bakers, and 100 plus organizations bulwarked by the combined might of the New Museum, The Architectural League, The Bowery Poetry Club, C-Lab, Columbia University Center for Architecture, Cooper Union, The Drawing Center, NYU Wagner, Storefront for Art and Architecture, and the Swiss Institute looked around their own post-recession backyards to tackle sustainability and revitalization, declaring “yes we can.” And for four days, they did.
A generic survey of New York’s Lower East Side galleries, perused at random on the first week of November, 2010, including observations from a viewer completely outside the art world.
Jerry Saltz often ridicules artists for not going to see enough shows; that they have several cookie-cutter reasons: too busy, not wanting to overexpose themselves in the scene, fear of polluting their unique and singular artistic vision, etc. Well, I set the fear of contaminating my art aside and I went around the New York City’s Lower East Side gallery circuit on Saturday to bring you the report.