Long-haul New Yorker’s (and East Villagers like me, especially) constantly bemoan the fact that Manhattan is becoming increasingly gentrified. The innumerable local-business closures caused by the pandemic have only exacerbated the loss of historical identity in an area that was once arguably the coolest neighborhood in NYC. When the legendary Rock & Roll boutique Trash & Vaudeville was forced to relocate from St. Mark’s Place after four decades in the same location, it really felt like nothing is sacred. It is a small conciliation then that a new contemporary art gallery, Public Access, opened this past September in the downstairs storefront formerly occupied by Trash. I recently had the chance to check out the gallery’s current exhibit, a solo show of paintings by artist Marika Thunder entitled Dress Up My Lindsay. The series has an interesting autobiographical backstory for the painter.
122 Rue Du Temple is the Paris address from which artist Jacques Villegle detached many of the movie posters and political notices that he used to make this work in 1968. After tearing fragments of the original images, he pasted these passages of color, text, and image into a chance composition. Many of the fliers used here announced the city’s May 1968 student and worker demonstrations, and the artist considered the people who had posted them to be his collaborators, understanding their use of advertising billboards as a precursor for his process.
Todd Gray’s work draws from his archive of photographs amassed during the past forty-five years of his career. Taken in locations from Hollywood to Ghana (where he maintains a studio), these images have been selected by the artist to explore the complex interrelation of Blackness, diasporic identity, and historic systems of exploitation. For his ongoing series Exquisite Terribleness, begun in 2013, Gray collages photographs into a layered arrangements of thrift store frames, creating compositions of fragmented bodies. Many of the individual photographs that Gray uses for his collages were shot following his own creative visions; others, such as in Euclidean Gris Gris 2 (2018) were commissioned, including many he took as Michael Jackson’s personal photographer in the 1970s and early 1980s. Jackson is significant here for Gray not as a celebrity or figure of controversy, but as a global phenomenon whose almost mythic status serves to frame the complex issues explored in Gray’s work. Michael Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse in 1983 and then tried and acquitted for the crime in 2005. New allegations surfaced in a documentary released on HBO in early 2019.
Photographed as Part of The 2019 Biennial Exhibit at The Whitney Museum, NYC
The enormous sandwich and pack of cigarettes in Still Life Number 36 (1964) reflect Tom Wesselmann’s nonhierarchical approach to subject matter and technique. He believed that anything could be art, including the ordinary consumer items that fill our pockets and kitchen cabinets. In 1962, Wesselmann began a series of large-scale still lifes that incorporated fragments of discarded commercial billboards, which he initially scavenged from trash cans but later procured in new, pristine condition directly from advertising agencies. The larger-than-life proportions of the objects in Still Life Number 36 at first seem to celebrate the surfeit of commercial goods in America’s postwar consumer culture. Yet the layers of collage and painted areas bring together incongruent depictions of reality, creating tensions in the composition that Wesselmann described as “reverberation.
Death From Above: The End Is Nigh (All Photos By Gail)
After a leisurely, scenic walk on the High Line, Geoffrey and I showed up fashionably late at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery for the opening reception of Erik Jones‘ new exhibit of collage paintings, Twenty Sixteen, which is the name of the year that we are in right now! By the time we got there, the place was really packed. Scroll down to see a photo of the hot crowd action!
Where The Gods Go
Erik Jones challenges viewers to see beauty in his chaotic, mixed-media works that merge nude subjects with nonrepresentational, abstract elements. Describing the human figures in his compositions as “aesthetic anchors,” they are the calming foreground upon which bursts of color, stenciled shapes and custom-made stickers create surreal landscapes. Using multiple mediums, such as watercolor, acrylic, colored pencils, wax pastels and oil paint, Jones’ portraits are technically complex and express a heightened sense of realism.
The Forbidden Words
The relationship between Jones’ subjects and the abstract motifs that engulf them can be interpreted as conceptual fashion design. His portraits are dressed in a stunning hurricane of color and geometric patterns, suiting the needs of the individual while also maintaining their own autonomous beauty.
Along with Jones’ hypnotic portraits, Twenty Sixteen features a selection of works where the human form is removed, creating purely abstract environments. Sporadically placed symbols, silhouettes and a unique coded alphabet created by the artist fosters a subjective narrative he refers to as dialogue aesthetics.
I really liked the ones with all the fun stickers, more than the nudes, because I am five.
While this body of work may appear like a dreamlike universe, Jones does not view his paintings as depicting fantasy; they exist in front of the viewer, placed on canvases and paper with skill and thoughtful reverie, as if looking at a real living being.
Smiling Pineapple Detail
Twenty Sixteen reminded me of a cross between This Exhibit and This Other Exhibit, and you may understand why I would make that comparison, if you can be bothered to click on those two links; which is something I never count on.
Erik Jones’ Twenty Sixteen will be on Exhibit Through April 30th 2016 at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, Located at 529 West 20th Street, 9th Floor, in the Chelsea Gallery District.
These two pieces of art featuring the likeness of the late, great David Bowie (it feels so weird to type that) were originally featured in This Post from last summer, but I decided to haul them out again for an encore. Because, clicks.
These portraits above were created from broken and carefully placed bits of vinyl LPs. See more photos at the link above!
Yesterday was one those perfect summer days here in Manhattan, so we went for a leisurely walk on the High Line, stopping in at a few of our favorite galleries, including Jonathan LeVine, where we enjoyed their current Trifecta Group Show.Trifecta showcases three international female artists — Handiedan, Mimi Scholz, and Sandra Chevrier — who are at the forefront of a contemporary art movement with art that reimagines representations of women. Through an array of media, these artists use the female figure as their subject and are strong voices for a new generation of artists. Curator Yasha Young offers, “This exhibition addresses the fact that art created by women has been historically dismissed as craft as opposed to fine art, affecting the development of women in art throughout history. I would like to open doors for women artists and encourage them to step out and up.”
The show fills all three galleries rooms, one dedicated to each artist. In the largest, main space you can see a collection of work by Montreal-based artist Sandra Chevrier, who merges painting and collage in works that reflect upon the self-imposed limitations within our world and the underlying tragedy of oppressed female identity. In her series Cages, finely hand-painted portraits of women are masked with pages from comic books, symbolizing the struggle of having to uphold unrealistic expectations of beauty and perfection.
By imposing these strict limitations society is placing women in prisons of identity and asking them to become superheroes. In the greater body of her work, the images used within ‘cages’ range from scenes of conflict, triumph and defeat. Often focusing on the latter, the artist highlights the fragility of the superhero, their personal weaknesses and exposes the humanity within the superhuman.