Sunday, May 15, 2011

The best of New York City on $0.00 a day

 "Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."
~ Thomas Merton

Going to art galleries is one of the best deals in New York; it's free and just about any time you go, something will fill you with wonder. Right now, the galleries in Chelsea have so much wonder on their walls, I hardly know where to begin.

Andre Kertesz: "Bockskay-Ter, Budapest"

"Night" is the name of a moody, noirish photography show featuring the work of four great photographers at the peak of their powers: Robert Doisneau, Ilse Bing, Brassai and Andre Kertesz. The images above and below are two examples. See them all at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery through June 2nd.

Robert Doisneau: "Mademoiselle Anita"

From 1927 to about 1935 Marie-Therese Walter was the love of Pablo Picasso's life as well as his model and muse. Picasso and Marie-Therese: L'amour fou, a selection of the extraordinary work that came from that relationship, just opened at the Gagosian Gallery (April 14 – June 25). The exhibition is a remarkable thing to see for its diversity — paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, even a wall hanging — as well as its intense beauty. In addition to Picasso's work it includes photographs and a few seconds of film of Marie-Therese at her beautiful, glowing and playful best. Here she is in her red beret.

Pablo Picasso: one of several paintings of Marie-Therese in her red beret

If you know Kara Walker for her intricate, kinetic, witty silhouettes portraying black history and life in the U.S., her show at the Sikkema Jenkins gallery (through June 4th) will come as a bracing shock to the system.

Kara Walker: "Louise Beavers"

Titled "Dust Jackets for the Niggerati-and Supporting Dissertations, Drawings submitted ruefully by Dr. Kara E. Walker," it is a sprawling, raw, impassioned series of drawings and prints about dreams deferred, co-opted, sold out and destroyed. The block-printed image above is a "dust jacket" blurb written about the actress Louise Beavers.

Jasper Johns was an established art star when I was a student, and he's still going strong at 81. Patterns, numbers and alphabets continue to inspire him, but he's added some new (to me) elements in his current show at the Matthew Marks Gallery (through July 1). In a room devoted to prints and paintings in the series "Fragment of a Letter" (based on one of many letters written by Vincent Van Gogh to his friend Emile Bernard), he incorporates American sign language into his work. 
Jasper Johns: "Fragment of a Letter
The familiar witch-or-urn optical illusion inspires another series of  images. In the intaglio print below, he combines urns, witches, sign language and what he calls "shrinky dinks." The man is having fun. 
Jasper Johns: "Shrinky Dink 4"

We wandered into the CRG Gallery when we saw Ori Gersht's images through the window. Once inside, what appeared to be paintings turned out to be delicately beautiful photography. The series, "Falling Petals," seems to have been shot in Japan in the height of cherry blossom season. The image below is not my favorite, but it's the only one available online.

Ori Gersht: "Falling Petals"

While Ori Gersht's photography sometimes looks like painting, Mary Henderson tricks the eye the opposite way. She is a skilled hyperrealist whose paintings and watercolors might easily be mistaken for photos — until you realize they reveal more than any photo you're likely to see. "Bathers" is the name and subject of her current show at the Lyons Wier Gallery. The painting below amazed me from its use of light to the strands of hair and the grains of sand on the beach towel. See the gallery website for more.

Mary Henderson: "Back"

"Painting is just another way of keeping a diary."
~ Pablo Picasso


  1. Beautiful. Thank you, Michele. I can always count on you for a transporting post. The first four shows look wonderful. Kertesz and Doisneau are particular favorites, and Kara Walker's block print "Louise Beavers" is just my style. You've reminded me that I haven't been to my local galleries in a while, though New York always seems to have greater riches.

  2. Thank you, Katherine. I've been art-starved, too, lately. Working full-time has interfered with gallery- and museum-going. But the New Yorker is a weekly reminder of what I've been missing, and this week I said the heck with it, I'm going. I bet there are some great shows out your way, too. Let me know what you find.

  3. I had no idea that galleries were free -- honestly, that's mind-blowing to me.
    I can't wait to travel that amazing city using your blog as my guide.

  4. Isn't it amazing? The museums charge (or "suggest" a donation) but galleries are free. Maybe we should keep it our secret! When you get here, Becky, use the New Yorker as your guide -- it's what I use.