COMPANY PICKS from the Lower East Side

COMPANY PICKS from the Lower East Side

Christopher Henry Gallery is currently exhibiting “Knitting is for Pussies,” a multi-media installation by Polish born crochet artist Agata Oleksiak (Olek).  Olek’s crocheted creations have taken over the entire second floor of the gallery, shrouding everything from toilet seats to televisions in brightly colored yarn.  Instead of focusing on the craft aspect of her medium, Olek prefers to think of crochet as an alternative to other mediums and a metaphor for complexity and interconnectedness.  Olek does not limit herself to a gallery setting - her knit-covered bikes can be found on the streets, and in December of 2010 she braved 20 degree weather to surreptitiously don a pink and purple sweater on the charging bull of Wall Street.  Her overwhelming use of a hobbyist’s medium and bright neon colors forces us to re-examine the banality of the everyday objects and what we take for granted.  This show is on view through May 28, 2011.

Heidi Whitman just closed her show “Shadowland” at Christopher Henry Gallery (March 25-April 23, 2011).  Whitman’s paper constructions channel intricate and ambiguous cartographies, the shadows of the cutouts layering additional complexity.  Though delicate in form, these works recall the emotionally charged abstract expressionists, as well as a bit of Joan Miro in their floating lines.  The cutouts free the gestural lines from the two dimensional plane inhabited by de Kooning and Pollock, giving the sense that the markings have themselves taken over and are spider-webbing out of their own free will. 

Hendershot Gallery’s current group exhibition, “Keep Out You Thieving Bastards,” features a range of artists who were born, raised or spent a significant period of time in Minnesota.  Aaron Spangler and David Rathman stood out to me in the show, which is on view through May 8, 2011.

In his carved basswood sculptures mounted on metal, Aaron Spangler combines elements of modern art and images and motifs from American history with a rough punk energy and heavy metal music anger.  The dark coloring of his sculptures adds to the weight of their jam-packed symbolic imagery, giving them a weighty, even monumental quality.   At the same time, his works have a folksy, hand-carved quality to them, but mostly they invoke a dark remembrance of imperial adventures. I see Louise Nevelson meets Bad Brains.

David Rathman’s watercolors reveal iconic Americana in a softer light.  Through muted color and texts, he romanticizes images of cowboys, football players and trucks into scenes that evoke a collective American nostalgia for horses, guns, and wide open spaces.  The contrast between the masculinity of the content and the material transforms the gritty Americana imagery into dreamy watercolors that seem like snapshots of memories. Reminiscent of a William Eggleston composition albeit far more fragile pictorially.

The group show at Rachel Uffner is thematically consistent and very engaging.  Its unassuming nature sneaks up on you and in fact, the show’s press release acknowledges a presumed apologia for drawing and watercolor’s alleged second class status. However, C.F.’s coquettish watercolors of Parisian (why not Paris?) cabaret subjects are self-assured and sensory relief to current trends of giant in-your-face oils.  And Margaret Lee’s Duchampian photographs are appropriate responses  to the increasingly maudlin tableau photography sweeping NYC.

Another kind of double-solo — two artists, one site — can be found at Untitled’s lofty space down on Orchard Street. It’s a collaborative effort by Jonas Wood and Anthony Pearson, who have neighboring studios in Los Angeles and have both shown in Chelsea (Mr. Wood as recently as last month). In this elegant, monochromatic installation, Mr. Pearson’s silvery metal relief sculptures and solarized photographs make an excellent foil for Mr. Wood’s painted and drawn still lifes. Mr. Pearson nudges Mr. Wood’s plants and vessels into more abstract territory; Mr. Wood’s renderings of Greek vases humanize Mr. Pearson’s photo-chemical experiments.

Something about the Lower East Side seems to facilitate collaboration, to judge from the two- and three-person shows popping up all along the block. At Nicelle Beauchene, Tom Meacham’s inkjet-printed, Stella-esque canvases hold Cheryl Donegan’s rowdy gestural abstractions in check. 

At Lisa Cooley, slight gestures in various mediums by Alice Channer, Jamie Isenstein and J. Parker Valentine add up to something quite substantial.

And in the basement gallery of Miguel Abreu, Egan Frantz’s scatterings of numbers and Cindy Hinant’s doodles of tiny hearts enact a rational-romantic duet.

Terence Koh’s gallery Asia Song Society features Dominic Nurre whose “Reciprocity” sculptures combine Champagne bottles, zebra skins, nylon harnesses and vibrating exercise machines, all without producing more than giggles. But there’s a worthier show right upstairs at 47 Canal in another artist-run space, the latest iteration of Margaret Lee’s 179 Canal, the very same photographer mentioned above. There, photographs by Michele Abeles (who, like Mr. Nurre, appeared in “Greater New York” at MoMA P.S. 1) offer teasingly fragmentary views of a hirsute male body, obscured by props and colored filters.

Another photographer, Erica Baum, is showing her poetic series on dog-eared book pages at the tiny Bureau, one of a few galleries remaining below Canal Street. As the art district has consolidated, others have moved north (Untitled, formerly Rental, and James Fuentes) or west (Maccarone).



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