Newsletter Spring 2017

Exploring the Polyphonic: Street Art, Quilts, and Tattoos in the Chelsea Galleries

Angela Whitlock
Cohort ’16

During the 2017 New York Residency, IDSVA students had the opportunity to explore galleries and sites of the city that appealed to us. The day after visiting the Chelsea Market, we made our way toward the rows of bustling galleries Chelsea is known for. The following afternoon, prior to the Commencement Ceremony, I had the opportunity to return.

Base, 2010, Eric Aho (DC Moore Gallery), Photo by Kate Lenahan

Base, 2010, Eric Aho (DC Moore Gallery), Photo by Kate Lenahan

Tilting Board, c. 1988, Barry Cohen (Allan Stone Projects) Photo by Lisa Williamson

Tilting Board, c. 1988, Barry Cohen (Allan Stone Projects) Photo by Lisa Williamson

The diversity showcased from one gallery to the next was impressive, and made for intriguing contrasts within a polyphonic chorus of artworks. Where one gallery exhibited somewhat impressionist flower paintings, another had neon sculptures and bold, modern art reminiscent of graphic design. Another gallery consisted of a vast open space with large field paintings throughout. Another depicted comical scenes by Benny Andrews in his The Bicentennial Series exhibit. It was a whirlwind of exposure to many different types of art packed into a small area and viewed within a short period of time. Each floor of every gallery had something hidden; something waiting to be explored.

Two galleries stuck out for me. The first, the Taglialatella Galleries, consisted of a collection of mini Koons sculptures, works by Lichtenstein, Yves Klein, Damien Hirst, Basquiat, Shepard Fairey, Takashi Murakami, and Peter Mars, to name a few. Primarily being showcased were works by an artist called Mr. Brainwash. I had never heard of this artist before, but thought his name was clever and his work bright and catchy. His commentary was reminiscent of Banksy, although slightly more humorous and bold. In fact, many believe that Mr. Brainwash, or Thierry Guetta, is actually an elaborate prank staged by Banksy himself. This gallery was psychedelia, kitsch, street art, and modernism all rolled into one.

Pitchfork and Shovels, 1970, William Umbreit (Allan Stone Projects) Photo by Jonathan Morgan

Pitchfork and Shovels, 1970, William Umbreit (Allan Stone Projects) Photo by Jonathan Morgan

Pitchfork, 1970, William Umbreit (Allan Stone Projects) - Photo by Jonathan Morgan

Pitchfork, 1970, William Umbreit (Allan Stone Projects) - Photo by Jonathan Morgan

On my second visit, I went to the Jonathan LeVine Gallery, which had the exhibition The Shape of Things to Come. While none of the artists were familiar to me, this was one of my favorite exhibits. It featured an amalgamation of optical illusion-themed work from artists Jamie Brett Treadwell and Sam Gibbons alongside pop-surrealistic works by Chris Berens and Jasmine Becket-Griffith. There were also quilts by Ben Venom that mixed the element of craft with vintage biker and tattoo motifs that complimented Paolo Del Toro’s large-scale felted wool totem pieces. Toro’s pieces seemed to evoke the carnival masks discussed in Mikhail Bakhtin’s Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics which we read for class this spring. It all brought me back to a time in my own life where a creative spark had awakened due to newly discovered artists such as Mark Ryden, Shag, and Camille Rose Garcia.

The Garden, 1996-98, Portia Munson (P.P.O.W. Gallery) Photo by Kate Lenahan

The Garden, 1996-98, Portia Munson (P.P.O.W. Gallery) Photo by Kate Lenahan

Doll House Reliquary, 2012, Portia Munson (P.P.O.W. Gallery) Photo by Lisa Williamson

Doll House Reliquary, 2012, Portia Munson (P.P.O.W. Gallery) Photo by Lisa Williamson

Overall, the Chelsea galleries set themselves apart from the majority of the museums we had encountered throughout the residency. There were no strict regulations as to how work was displayed, no stringent assembly to the work’s placement, and the juxtaposition of styles and materials lent itself to an “anything goes” situation. The dialogical ensemble of the West Side continues to ceaselessly promote the hybridity of contemporary art in a city that never seems to run out of excitement and novelty.