Sunday, July 31, 2011

Three Chelsea Galleries and the High Line

Remember when I went to New York? Well, I barely do. It seems so long ago, but I insist on dredging my cluttered memory bank to bring you the remnants of my experiences. Thank goodness for photos or my mind would be a complete blank (well, nearly).

Three works by Ruth Hiller. The gallery website gives the dimensions of the
far right piece, called "oe", as 34 x 14 x 2 inches.

NOTE: Click on any of these images and they will open larger.

Ruth Hiller at Winston Wachter
So there we were in Chelsea - hot, tired but determined. We wanted to see Ruth Hiller's show at Winston Wachter on West 25th Street. (Note: there is an umlaut over the "a" in Wachter but I don't know how to add it.) Ruth is an encaustic homie and her work looked great in the gallery. I have to admit right up front, however, that I failed to get the titles and sizes for individual pieces.

Greg acting as the human scale again with large pieces by Hiller

Ruth's statement says that she is exploring "the parallels between microscopic and macroscopic elements....I find the visual similarities astounding." These are parallels that Greg has also explored in his work. Ruth works with very smooth surfaces on panels or slabs of wood with rounded corners. Each piece has one or more dimensional protuberances that are sliced open to show layers of color within. She calls this work "3D encaustic."

Side view of one of the works

One small room in the gallery was lit with blacklight to illuminate Hiller's use of fluorescent pigments.

Four large works
Hiller's saturated colors, rounded forms and colorful three-dimensional elements made for an unusually minimalist exhibition of work in encaustic that was striking in its simplicity and clarity of concept.

Binnie with one of Hiller's large pieces

Along with Ruth Hiller (her website here), the gallery was showing poured enamel paintings by Leah Durner and glass sculpture by Eric Woll. The resonance between the works of the three artists made for a unified show with a pared back but vibrantly colorful look.

Four large poured latex enamel works by Leah Durner

Closeup of two Durner works

Installation of glass beetles by Eric Woll entitled "The New Normal",
60 x 47 x 7 inches

Glass squirrels by Eric Woll

This is Winston Wachter's summer show and it will run until some time in September (date not given), so there is still time to see it in person.

Li SongSong at Pace Gallery
We happened to be walking by Pace on West 25th Street and stopped in because the building looked so attractive.

Exterior of Pace Gallery, West 25th Street, Chelsea

When we went inside the massive space, I was overwhelmed by the heavy impasto on the gigantic paintings by Li SongSong. I was so fascinated with trying to capture the dimensional effect of the two or three inch thick painted surfaces, that I barely scanned the overall images presented in the work.

The gallery's website says this is the first solo U.S. exhibit by 38-year-old Chinese artist Li SongSong, and the show consisted of 11 giant works, up to 17 feet wide.

First big gallery in the nterior of Pace

This is a detail of the painting in the photo above that's behind
the two viewers. I didn't see the image of the painted figure until
I later looked at this photo. All I could see in person was texture.

I was hoping to include some better photos of the work from the gallery's website, but apparently they are not allowing the photos to be grabbed. And they don't have info about the size of each work or the subject. So all I can say is that the paintings were constructed from slabs of canvas or aluminum overlapping one another and they were very big.

Here's a side view of one of the biggest paintings that was constructed from
slabs of painted aluminum.

Another view of the same piece

And still another view

You can see that I went right into construction mode when I saw this work.

And here's a closeup of the impasto that looks like cake frosting

The website says that Li works from photographs and film stills, some of which record world history and some of which are more personal. He blows up and grids the images into panels and then grids again with pastel colors and graphic patterns that distort the images, sometimes digging through the impasto to hidden colors layered underneath. This technique makes the original images "become[s] abstract and expressionistic, both obscuring and neutralizing the original content as it explores the imperfection of memory."

Two paintings in the show that certainly look like they commented on Chinese society -
and not in a good way.

Tamar Zinn at The Painting Center
When our plans for New York had firmed up a bit, I arranged to meet my Facebook friend, Tamar Zinn on Friday afternoon. We seem to agree so frequently on political comments as well as art in Facebook, that I thought it would be fun to meet each other in person. Coincidentally, Lynette Haggard had just posted an interview with Tamar in her blog and Tamar had two paintings in the show "Grey Matter" at The Painting Center.

Two works by Tamar Zinn in "Grey Matter"

Tamar's wall in the show - we thought it was the best  of the exhibition

Before meeting Tamar, we first went to The Painting Center on 27th Street to see the show. This is a great space, a non-profit, that shows about 20 exhibits a year and posts images of artists' work in a online database, the Art File, and in an artists' registry. For details see the Center's website. (And by the way, they are closed for the summer.) Tamar's work looked great in person. You can see more of it on her website.

Overhead view of the High Line
(all images, unless otherwise noted, from the High Line website)

The High Line
Next we headed over to the High Line, an elevated public park. I have heard so much about it and was really looking forward to seeing it in person. (Don't forget to click pix to enlarge.)

The abandoned High Line

A brief history taken from the website: The elevated railbed was originally built in the 1930s to remove dangerous freight traffic from the city streets as part of the West Side Improvement Project. (There were so many accidents between trains and street traffic before the High Line was built, that 10th Avenue was known as "Death Avenue.") The last trains ran in 1980 and the railbed was abandoned until demolition was threatened and Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, was formed to save it in 1999.  After a lot of hard work by the group and its supporters, the property was handed over to the city, a design process began and the selected team of James Corner Field Operations, landscape architects, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, an architecture firm ("experts in horticulture, engineering, security, Maintenance, public art and other disciplines") began design and construction. (Check out those websites for some fabulous project info on the High Line and others - worldwide.)

Here's a great computer-generated video that shows the design process in flyover mode - really cool.

The High Line was scheduled to open in three phases: Phase One June 2009, Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, and Phase Two June 2011,West 20th Street to West 30th Street. (I don't know what happened to Phase Three but apparently CSX Railroad still owns the section between West 30th and West 34th Streets.)

Overhead view of High Line park

People walking on the High Line with traffic below

Plantings - now really huge

People relaxing on wooden loungers

New Yorkers needing a lawn to lounge on

Watertowers visible from the High Line - note how pathway contains rail-like
impressions in the concrete

My skyline view with plantings foreground

Viewing windows to the street below

High Line at dusk looking out toward the piers

This park is really spectacular. The photos here don't show how varied the plantings are and that some are really large scale. They are like prairies or meadows of native plants, most now in flower or with seedheads from flowers that have passed. I was sorry that my Iphone had run out of gas by the time I got to the High Line, but these photos from the website are probably way better than I could ever have done anyway.

So we had a great time sitting at a little table and chairs, enjoying the people watching in a cool breeze and waiting for Tamar to join us. It was a real pleasure to meet her in person and learn about her life in the city. After chatting for a while, we walked along the High Line and then left it to pass through the now-totally gentrified Meatpacking District and up to 7th Avenue. We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant recommended by Tamar, where we were joined by Winston Lee Mascarenhas, another encaustic homie, who was in New York for a residency at the School of Visual Arts.

By the time we trained it back to Binnie's in Connecticut, it had been a very full day. But on Saturday, we were getting up bright and early to make it to the Met for the Alexander McQueen exhibit. More about that in the next post - if I can remember that far back.


Anonymous said...

Great trip report Nancy. We have a lot of overlaps!

I treat visits to the High Line (year round) as essential, like my stop overs at the Rubin Museum--a place to get regrounded, recentered. Love it.

Also caught the Li show. Very ambitious to be sure.

As for the experience of seeing the McQueen exhibit, I'll let you wax rhapsodic on that when you do. Unbelievable. SO glad I didn't pull my usual "I'm not interested in fashion" and miss it. It was unforgettable on so many levels.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post Nancy. I must get to Ruth Hiller's show soon. Next time you are in NYC we should get together for dinner. I live only 10 miles north of NYC.

Jenny Ross said...

On Line chealsea art galleries to stop honest hardworking artists like us from being ripped off by these money grabbing so called promotional galleries.