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Public Art Fund Presents Farah Al Qasimi’s Back and Forth Disco

Back and Forth Disco Photo By Gail Worley
Bodega Chandelier, Manhattan Location on Avenue A Between 5th and 6th Streets (Photos By Gail)

If you’re a NYC resident who likes to ‘get your steps in’ by exploring neighborhoods both new and familiar, here’s a Street Art Safari that you can participate in whether you live in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens! Back and Forth Disco is an exhibition of newly-commissioned photographs by Farah Al Qasimi (b. 1991 Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) that celebrate individuality and the aesthetic choices that make spaces and surroundings uniquely personal.

Grace Beauty Salon Photo By Gail Worley
Grace Beauty Salon, Ave C between E 5th St and E 6th St, Manhattan

The 17 photographs in this new body of work isolate and highlight the beauty of seemingly inconspicuous moments amidst New York City’s visual and audible noise. Presented on 100 bus shelters across the five boroughs, the larger than life photographs are inserted into the paths of New York City commuters at eye level. Works are sited in clusters in over 18 neighborhoods to give the public an opportunity to see multiple photographs within walking or bus route distance. The bus shelters — platforms traditionally used for advertising — bring together images of people, street scenes, interiors, and surfaces to explore the experience of being an individual in a hyper-stimulating city.

Ceiling Mirror
Ceiling Mirror, Grand St between Pitt St and Ridge St, Manhattan

The artist has developed a photographic style that reads distinctly as her own, yet is continuously evolving. Over a month-long period in fall 2019, for the first time, Al Qasimi took New York City as her subject, primarily focusing on local communities where small businesses thrive. She has photographed neighborhood stores, barbershops, streets, and homes from Astoria, Queens to Chinatown, Manhattan to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Drawn to the idea of visual excess, rich textures, and brightly saturated colors—familiar to her from growing up in the Emirates — Al Qasimi captures vibrant instances of self-expression. The works highlight individual style and cultural traditions that break through the chaos and anonymity of the city.

Back and Forth Disco Photo By Gail Worley
Bodega Chandelier, Detail

Central to Bodega Chandelier is an elaborate crystal light fixture that dominates the ceiling of a Yemeni-owned bodega in Ridgewood, Queens, dwarfing the products on display. In Parked Car, garlands of artificial flowers from an Indian wedding decorate a polished gray car in Al Qasimi’s neighborhood.

Parked Car
Parked Car, Delancey St between Lewis St and Columbia St, Manhattan

Al Qasimi’s portraiture challenges traditional ideas associated with figuration by utilizing elements of camouflage, concealment, and revelation. Her process is both spontaneous and deliberate. She photographs friends and strangers alike, often returning to familiar places repeatedly or recreating moments she has seen in public space in more controlled environments. Her enigmatic portraits demonstrate her approach to the genre: the faces of her subjects are partially obstructed or altogether absent, while their vitality is instead accentuated through garments, hairstyles, and poses.

Woman in Leopard Print By Gail Worley
Woman in Leopard Print, Ave C between E 5th St and E 6th St, Manhattan

In Woman in Leopard Print, a single eye is revealed through a reflection in a compact mirror as the woman in a leopard-print headscarf studies herself. In Coco, a cockatoo who resides at a curtain store in Ridgewood, Queens is paid a visit by regulars in the neighborhood. A young boy looks at the bird but his eyes are hidden by his mother’s extended arm, allowing other features — such as the woman’s bright red nails — to become the focal point.

Bakery Window
Bakery Window, Grand St between Jackson St and Columbia St, Manhattan

The photographs in Back and Forth Disco aim to draw out expressive details that spark recognition within communities. Acts of adornment, both to oneself and to the city, highlight the idiosyncrasies and beauty in environments that are often overlooked.

Bleached Sign By Gail Worley
Bleached Sign, Grand St between Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive and Lewis St, Manhattan

Back And Forth Disco Is On View Through May 17th, 2020. Visit This Link For a Map of All Locations.

Woman on Phone By Gail Worley
Woman on Phone, E Houston between 2nd Ave and Bowery, Manhattan

Dollar Store Photo By Gail Worley

Dollar Story (Flipside of  Grace Beauty Salon), Ave C between E 5th St and E 6th St, Manhattan

Kurt Cobain Paste Up By Poet

Kurt Cobain By Poet
This Image By Poet, Other Photos By Gail

Poet is the name of a street artist whose work I discovered through his Pink Mail Box series, which is called Love Letters. I started following him on Instagram under the hashtag #poetwastaken and, over the weekend, I went out looking for a few of the works he’s been posting on his feed. This piece, which includes an image of Kurt Cobain alongside a spray painted quote, is located in Freeman’s Alley on the LES.

Kurt Cobain By Poet Photo By Gail Worley

Once I found the piece in person (and if you’ve seen Freeman’s Alley, you know that’s no easy feat) I was disappointed to discover that the quote had already been pasted over by another artist’s work, even though Poet’s piece had only been up since January 28th. This kind of thing happens so often that Poet said he has learned not to let it bother him. Everything is a work in progress.

Kurt Cobain By Poet

Poet, who is based in Los Angeles, told me a bit more about the Cobain piece in a chat via Instagram. “The Kurt Cobain piece was actually initially derived from his quote “Thank you for the trajedy (sic), I need it for my art.” I had spray painted that next to that paste up, but the very next day it was covered by another paste up. This lead me to a add a short and sweet message of “I’m so happy” over Kurt’s image. I’ve been painting that quote for about a year now, and with paste ups only for a few months.”

Watch for more street art by Poet to be featured here in the coming weeks!

 

Modern Art Monday Presents: Woman Dressing Her Hair Pablo Picasso

Woman Dressing Her Hair Pablo Picasso By Gail Worley
Photo By Gail

Pablo Picasso created this work, Woman Dressing Her Hair (1940) in the months prior to the German occupation of Royan, France, where he fled from Paris as the Nazis advanced across Europe. He depicted a woman inside a boxlike room barley bigger than her body; her massive figure is awkwardly compressed and her contorted body juts this way and that. Transforming a familiar and typically serene subject in art history — a woman grooming herself — into a powerful grotesque, Picasso lent expression to the anxiety and confinement that attended this dark period.

Photographed at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Remedios Varo, The Juggler (The Magician)

Remedios Varo The Juggler By Gail Worley
Photo By Gail

In Remedios Varo’s The Juggler (The Magician) 1956, the titular juggler (or magician) stands on a platform of a carnivalesque cart filled with fantastical objects and animals.  He performs before seemingly identical figures robed in a single gray cloak. To produce this composition, Varo worked in the manner of early Renaissance masters; she transposed preparatory drawings onto a a gesso-primed panel which had been scratched to give it texture. She also deployed decalomania, a technique favored by the Surrealists in which materials such as paper or aluminum foil are pressed onto wet paint to transfer a pattern that may be embellished. Its atmospheric effects can be seen in the magician’s garments and in the background trees.

Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Shai Dahan’s Red Dala Horse Mural on Broome Street

Shai Dahan Red Dala Horse By Gail Worley
All Photos By Gail

It’s been months since we had a lovely, sunny weekend day in Manhattan where I wasn’t also otherwise occupied with a trade show or a museum visit, or some other plan that was going to keep me indoors all day. But this past weekend we enjoyed enough good outdoor weather to venture out on an Urban Art Safari, and that’s just what I did!

Shai Dahan Red Dala Horse By Gail Worley

As I turned onto Broome Street, walking west near the corner of Forsyth, I spotted this fantastic, Bright Red Horse which towers up five stories of a six story mixed-use building. A bit of Googling revealed that the artist, Shai Dahan (whose name is clearly visible at the top right corner of the mural) painted the horse in October of 2019 as a gift to NYC, his former home. Dahan currently lives in Sweden.

Shai Dahan Red Dala Horse By Gail Worley

This particular Red Horse is modeled after the Dala Horse of Sweden.

Shai Dahan Red Dala Horse By Gail Worley

You can read more about the artist and this fantastic Red Horse in a Q&A with Brooklyn Street Art located at This Link.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Maria Freire, Untitled (1954)

Maria Freire Untitled 1954 By Gail Worley
Photo By Gail

“At the start of the fifties, Uruguayan artist Maria Freire (19172015) recalled, “I abandoned figuration for the perspective of the imagination, anxious to create a new space.” To develop her own style of abstraction, she initially experimented with sculpture, creating virtual volumes through a single, dynamic line. Complex spatial effects also characterize her abstract paintings, such as this Untitled piece from 1954. Though free of perspective, Freire’s painted interwoven forms seem to recede, even dance, in an ambiguous space in tension with the painting’s flat surface.

Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Joseph Cornell, Taglioni’s Jewel Casket

Joseph Cornell Taglionis Jewel Casket By Gail Worley
All Photos By Gail

The first of dozens of boxes Joseph Cornell made in honor of famous ballerinas, Taglioni’s Jewel Casket (year) pays homage to Marie Taglioni, an acclaimed 19th-century Italian dancer. According to legend, Taglioni kept an imitation ice cube in her jewelry box to commemorate dancing in the snow at the behest of a Russian highwayman (a traveling thief). The box is infused with erotic undertones — both in the tactile nature of the materials (glass cubes, velvet, and a rhinestone necklace purchased at a Woolworth’s dime store in New York) and in the incident itself, in which Taglioni reportedly performed on an animal skin placed across the snowy road.

Joseph Cornell Taglionis Jewel Casket Photo By Gail Worley

Although he spent his entire artistic career living and working in Queens, New York, Cornell drew inspiration from the European art he saw at the Julien Levy Gallery — the first in the United States to exhibit Surrealist work — and he often inspired the European Surrealists in turn. In a press release for a 1939 exhibition of Cornell’s work at the Levy Gallery, Salvador Dalí heralded it as “the only truly Surrealist work to be found in America.”

Joseph Cornell Taglionis Jewel Casket By Gail Worley

Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Modern Art Monday Presents: John Kane, Self Portrait

John Kane Self Portrait
Photo By Gail

While Self Portrait (1929) realistically depicts John Kane’s body in his late sixties — detailing his veins, chest hair and wrinkles — it is also an object of decorative display, with a frame painted around the canvas edges and arches defining the figure’s head. Rendered in muted colors, the bare-chested artist faces his viewers against a stark background, recalling classic self-portraits and images of Christ. Kane explained, “Chiefly, I am impressed with the works of the old masters. These I cannot study enough.” Working by day as a laborer, Kane could not attend formal art classes, but he devoted much of his spare time to studying and practical painting.

Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Modern Art Monday Presents: Yellow Quadrangle By Rhod Rothfuss

Yellow Quadrangle
Photo By Gail

“A painting should be something that begins and ends in itself,” Rhod Rothfuss wrote.  With this cut-out frame, the artist put his principle into practice: in Yellow Quadrangle (Cuadrilongo Amarillo, 1955) the slender yellow rectangle on the left juts out, and the support takes on the shape of the painting itself . While his work was indebted to that of Joaquin Torres-Garcia and to European abstract artists such as Mondrian, Tothfuss was also influenced by vernacular practices. The alkyd resin present in this work was also used by the artist to create floats for carnival parades in his native Montevideo.

Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Rose III By Isa Genzken

Rose III By Isa Genzken
All Photos By Gail

It’s so hard to see all of the beautiful things there are to seen NYC; especially when you don’t even know what you’re missing. It can take going just a few blocks out of your way by complete accident to discover a breathtaking work of public art that’s already been in that location for a year or more. And you never would have seen it if you didn’t have to get a new iPhone battery at the Apple Store located in the Oculus mall adjacent to the World Trade Center. These were the circumstances that brought me face-to-face with German artist Isa Genzken’s monumental sculpture, Rose III, which was erected in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park in September of 2018.

Rose III By Isa Genzken

Standing at a height of 26-feet, Rose III is forged from painted steel and is on long-term loan to Brookfield Properties, which owns the park. Genzken, who is known for capturing the fragility and impermanence of roses in her public sculptures, rendered a Yellow Rose that was based on an actual rose she picked and developed for production, in Switzerland.

Rose III By Isa Genzken

Ric Clark, senior managing partner and chairman of Brookfield Properties, has praised Genzken’s sculpture as being a “captivating addition to Zuccotti Park and the landscape of lower Manhattan.” It certainly is a fantastic subject to photograph with the nearly endless perspectives and dramatic backdrops created by the panorama of high-rise buildings surrounding the park.

Rose III By Isa Genzken

It’s completely surreal. Manhattan’s iconic skyline is said to have inspired Genzken’s work, as many of her sculptures stand tall and narrow. Some of her other notable works have been installed throughout Manhattan. One that I am very familiar with, Rose II (2007) is installed at the Museum of Modern Art, where it is part of the museum’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden.

Rose III By Isa Genzken

“The Rose is both an homage to a city that Genzken knows and loves, and a strong statement for unity and equality that every passer-by in this city of millions can enjoy,” said Laura Hoptman, a curator who organized the installation of Rose II at MoMA. “It is a simultaneously a reflection of the empathy of the artist as well as the humanity of its spectators. Like all great art is.”

Rose III By Isa Genzken