In the early days of the Covid 19 lockdown, most of us — not just here in Manhattan but around the globe — were spending close to 24 hours a day in our homes. It was during this time that photos began appearing on the Internet and Instagram depicting places like Times Square and other generally heavily-populated ‘tourist destinations’ in states of complete abandonment. It was as if civilization as we know it had ceased to exist, and our cities been left to the elements. The world was looking more apocalyptic by the day. The only thing missing were the zombies.
I thought of these images immediately when I got an email from Hashimoto Contemporary Gallery about their latest exhibition, Quarantine by artist Scott Listfield — who is known for his paintings featuring a lone exploratory astronaut lost in a landscape cluttered with pop culture icons, corporate logos and tongue-in-cheek science fiction references.
The gallery is walking distance from my home, so I made an appointment to see these enigmatic and compelling paintings in person. I was the only person in the gallery at the time of my visit, which made the experience even more powerful. To say that Scott Listfield’s work encourages imaginative extrapolation is an understatement.
Creating haunting representations of iconic LES storefronts, California-based artist Brett Amory puts a surrealist spin on paintings done in the classic style of Edward Hopper.
Jonathan LeVine is currently hosting Amory’s third solo show at the gallery, entitled This Land Is Not For Sale: Forgotten, Past and Foreseeable Futures, and it is pretty sweet.
Economy Candy, Detail
In This Land is Not For Sale, Amory paints a visually gorgeous protest against the transformation of New York’s famed Lower East Side into a gentrified wasteland — something that you will hear NYC natives and long-time residents moan about on a weekly basis, as one landmark neighborhood treasure after another gets bulldozed to make way for a Starbucks or faceless chain store.
Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery
Brett Amory first earned international critical acclaim for his Waiting series: urban settings such as London and San Francisco portrayed as lonely abstracted landscapes of vanishing human assertion.
Cup & Saucer
Pyramid Club, Still Located on Avenue A
This new series offers viewers an insider’s historical road map of East Village radical underground sensibility, from ABC NO RIO and The Nuyorican Poets Cafe to the headquarters of The Catholic Worker, The Pyramid Club and even Moshe’s Bakery.
Amory not only captures the breathtaking physical presence of these neighborhood landmarks but also movingly conveys the sense of the artist as witness. By delivering a painterly personal testimony and protest against the disappearance of these businesses, his work is an example of painting as real-time archaeological retrieval.
The artist’s foremost achievement in paintings, drawings and installations has been to document evolving personal, existential and political credo into masterfully rendered, aesthetically transcendent works of fine art with broad cosmopolitan appeal. In This Land Is Not For Sale he gives his most pointed evidence yet of his urgent need to merge his personal and social consciousness with the unsparing aesthetic demands of his art.
This one is my absolute favorite.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Amory has installed a faux construction site underpass leading to the gallery to parody the constant sledgehammering of gentrification. The show will also include the documentary ‘Captured’, the story of LES legendary photographer Clayton Patterson, as well as a display of LES posters and other neighborhood marginalia.
Brett Amory chats with a fan at last week’s Opening Reception
Brett Amory’s This Land is Not for Sale: Forgotten, Past and Foreseeable Futures will be on Exhibit Through November 14th, 2015, at Jonathan Levine Gallery, Located at 557C West 23rd Street, in the Chelsea Gallery District.
This friendly face greeted FAO Schwartz Fifth Avenue visitors as the main fixture on the two-story clock tower, which was located inside of the store’s main entrance from 1986 to 2004. It now overlooks the escalators that take customers to and from the store’s lower shopping floors.
Oh MLK Day, I took myself out to the “Weekend Brunch” at 7A — my favorite local Brunch spot and a restaurant I’ve frequented for the twenty years that I’ve lived in this neigborhood. The word is out now that 7A — cleverly named for its location on the corner of Seventh Street and Avenue A — will shut its doors for good at the end of January. My waitress told me that the owner is moving to California and just wants to sell the property off and be done with it. And that’s just shame, because 7A was the best.
When I first moved to the East Village and didn’t know many people, I hung out a lot by myself. One of my favorite things to do in those years was to visit 7A on the weekends for their delicious brunch, sit at a table by one of the windows and just watch people walk by. You could not buy better entertainment than that. But 7A has always been about so much more that good Freak Watching. The prices were always very reasonable, the food excellent (their guacamole-laden Mexican Burgers featured better ground beef than you find in most steak houses) and plentiful (I never left hungry) and the service friendly and efficient. 7A was a colorful local hangout where you could just be yourself.
7A was, out of necessity, renovated and redesigned a couple of times over the past two decades, but it never lost its character.
This is the massive meal I had for Brunch on my recent, and perhaps final, visit. A California Omelet stuffed with refried beans, cheese and tomatoes and topped with their delicious homemade guacamole, accompanied by Green Salad, Crispy Home-fried Potatoes and Seven Grain Toast. Brunch also included Coffee or Tea and a Cocktail (In this photo, I am about to enjoy a Screwdriver, which, as you can see, is tall enough to get you buzzed). This feast costs only $14.95, which means that with tax and generous tip you get more food than you can barely stuff in your face for about $20. What a bargain!
With the way things come and go in NYC and the rate at which landmarks and beloved establishments are being swept aside to be replaced by another fucking Starbucks, sentimentality is, perhaps not surprisingly, in short supply around here. Because you just can’t afford to get too attached to anything anymore. And while the loss of 7A is hardly as emotionally and culturally devastating as the closing of The Kiev, I will miss it.
I’m not sure what 7A’s final day of business will be (the 31st is a Thursday) but you might have time to grab one more famous Weekend Brunch if you step on it. Goodbye 7A and thanks for all the memories. I hope your staff finds good new employment!
On This Date, November 30th In 2003: The corner of Bowery and Second Street in New York City was renamed Joey Ramone Place in honor of the singer of The Ramones who passed away from cancer on April 15th in 2001. The sign is one of the most popular landmarks in NYC for “souvenir seekers,” shall we say. To dissuade those who are light fingered, the sign has been moved to 20 feet above ground level.