This reminds me of the debate as to whether it's better to eat your favorite thing off the plate first because you just can't wait to get at it, or whether to save it until the end so it can be savored and will be the last part of the meal you taste. I think I'm going to go for the best first, as I do when eating, because there's always the chance I could stroke out before I clean the plate - or finish the post.
|Dawdling on Binnie's terrace on Friday morning|
(Greg Wright, left, and Binnie Birstein, right)
|View from Binnie's terrace - See why we were dawdling?|
(By the way, you can click on most images to see them larger.)
Brian Dickerson at Kouros Gallery
We began our expedition on Friday by first visiting Kouros Gallery at 23 East 73rd Street, on the upper east side. We went specifically to see a solo show of constructed paintings by Brian Dickerson, whose work I had seen online and included in a post in my Art of Bricolage blog. Brian had seen the post, emailed me and kindly sent me a catalog of the show that contained images of his work and an excellent essay by Eve Bowen of The New York Review of Books.
|Brian Dickerson, Untitled II, 2010, 30 x 23 x 7 inches, wax, oil, mixed media on wood|
|Autumn's End, 2010, 31 x 21 x 5 inches, oil, wax, mixed media on wood|
Seeing work online and then in person can sometimes be disappointing, but this was certainly not the case here. What was surprising was the scale of the work. All three of us had thought that the work was much smaller, perhaps because of the intimately worked surfaces, but these pieces were substantially sized, many pieces fairly deep, and all having a powerful presence. The color was a surprise, too, because although the overall tone is fairly dark, there are areas of saturated color that appear in some paintings behind the main plane or in a corner of the piece. These colorful places suggest that perhaps the entire piece was once strongly colored and became darker over time.
|Roseboom, 2010, 71 x 31 x 6 1/2 inches, oil, wax, mixed media on wood|
This is thoughtful, carefully made and deeply considered work that required being made over a long period of time. There are traces of change, earlier states, blemishes, hidden color, multiple coats of paint, scraping, wear and marks. The work looks as if it had been made from old, used wood, but I understand from the catalog that it is all new wood that has been worked to its present state.
An unusual feature of Brian's work are the small openings into the interior of the works. These gaps or spaces seem to offer glimpses beneath the outer skin and into the heart of the paintings. The spaces are mysterious, unknowable, unfathomable. To me they represent the mystery of life itself, the source that humankind is always trying to reach through religion, philosophy, meditation, drugs or some other method of discovery that allows movement beyond the present to attain the sublime secret.
I was really wowed by this work and think that it shares a feeling for the darkness, for loss, for the sense of time and memory that I strive for in my own work. Sensing a shared sensibility doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it is a powerful connection.
American Abstract Artists 75th Anniversary
at OK Harris, 383 West Broadway, Soho
Next we took the subway down to Soho and walked a few blocks over to OK Harris. This enormous gallery was founded by Ivan Karp in 1969. Ivan Karp was Leo Castelli's co-director for ten years, from 1959 to 1969, when he left Leo and went out on his own, establishing his gallery as the first on West Broadway in Soho. When I was in school at MassArt in the late '80s, Soho was the locus of a thriving art scene. Now it's mostly expensive clothing and shoe stores - the way of Kardashian World.
|Outside OK Harris showing the advertising banner. |
All of Soho used to be filled with these in the heyday of the gallery scene.
The groups of men are cigar smokers and construction workers.
OK Harris is so big that they put on five solo shows at one time and do that seven times a year. It is so big that it could fit the huge American Abstract Artists 75th anniversary show into the space and still feel gigantic. I took only one picture that shows how big just one gallery is and doesn't do a good job of it.
|Front gallery showing one corner|
I took some scattered shots of works that I liked, but the AAA site has a full complement of photos showing the whole exhibition. In fact, their site has images of more work than we saw because OK Harris was closing for a month and a half the night we were there, and many works had already been removed and packed for shipment.
For some reason, the black and white and/or grey works really appealed to me, and those are the images I'm including here. This is kind of surprising, given all the color in many works.
|Merrill Wagner, Wave, 2009, rust preventative paint on steel,|
41.25 x 60.25 inches
|John T. Phillips, My Daddy Drives a UFO, 2008,|
oil on linen, 76 x 78 inches
|Mark Williams, Split Diptych-Correspondence (1033), 2010|
acrylic on canvas, 14 x 21 inches
I guess there is a certain horizontal stripeyness that these works have in common, and who does that remind me of? Hmmm.
The small grey gallery was, by consensus, the best gallery in the show, and one group in particular was a hit with us, image below from the AAA site.
|Left side storage area in back room|
|Binnie looking at some paintings on the floor - showing desk at the back|
|Right side of storage area in back|
|Staff lunchroom - a great collection of signs|
|Suspicious characters lurking on the front stairs|
Always one of the day's highlights, lunch on Friday was exceptionally good. We were hot, tired and ravenous. It was late and our Iphones were not giving us the right info. We stumbled onto a great little place called Bistro Les Amis on Spring Street.
|Inside dining room at Bistro Les Amis|
The air conditioning was soothingly cool, the service was friendly and prompt, the prices were not too bad and the food was excellent. Furthermore, the restrooms had piles of paper towels. Ahh, heaven!
I'll have to continue with the afternoon events in my next post. Stay tuned for the Chelsea galleries, a face-to-face meeting with a Facebook friend, and a great dinner at a Japanese restaurant - oh, and the High Line.