Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Friday Morning in New York

OK, OK. I've dawdled long enough and I can't postpone it any longer; I have to wrestle all my experiences and memories of the recent arting trip to New York into some kind of post, or posts. Writing about it chronologically would be one way to organize it, but why should I let that influence me?

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.

L. Gabriele Evertz, Contrast and Assimilation: Blue, 2009,
acrylic on canvas over wood, 24 x 24 inches;
C.  James Juszczyk, The Wanderer, 2009,
acrylic on canvas, 29.5 x 33.5 inches;
R. Gail Gregg, Crosscut, 2005, encaustic on coardboard,
16 x 12.5 inches
Since you will have all the images from the exhibition to look at on the AAA site, I'll show you what else I photoed - the back room.

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

The desk

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.


Unknown said...

Nancy, So enjoyed this post. My schedule is not permitting me to visit NY this summer so it is great to get an inside view from 3 well-seasoned art enthusiasts. I am particularly drawn to the work you posted by Brian Dickerson--enjoyed your details on his surface.

Jann Gougeon said...

Wonderful post. I really enjoyed seeing all this!

Anonymous said...

Based on how tired and hot you all looked I am glad to be sharing this via your blog. THANKS!

Ben Stansfield said...

not only am I grateful that you showed me Brian Dickerson's work, but you also took photos of the same kind of things I would: back rooms, behind-the scenes stuff.

slasch said...

Thanks for the guided tour Nancy! looking forward to the afternoon's walk about. i'm thinking.... the Dickerson pieces on Binnie's terrace, with a tall mojito! all that dark surrounded by green, and the sound of the water.....

Tamar said...

Looking forward to seeing the Brian Dickerson exhibit later this week--thanks for sharing the photos. As for the AAA show at OK Harris, I also found the work in 'gray room' to be the most engaging. Was it the scale of the work? Or the connections between the pieces?

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone!

Jane, Ben and Susan - thanks for your appreciation of Brian Dickerson's work, and, Tamar,I'm so happy you're going to see his show. I think the grey room at the AAA show was great because of all the components you mentioned. It just felt right.

Susan - Binnie's terrace just cries out for an art installation or maybe to inspire a work of art - darks, greens, flowing, mohito-ish - like that.

Lynette - you made the right choice. Next time, when it's cooler.

Ben - hanging out in the back room is always where the fun is.

Jane - too bad you couldn't join us but glad you have described us as "well-seasoned"

CMC said...

Wow... that Dickerson work is to die for... Love that you told us more than we could see. I will want to be sure and keep an eye out for him.