Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gallery Dealers: The Good, the Bad, the Insulting

Tuesday, an interesting day in the art world.  I start out getting picked up by a limo and escorted to New Jersey to visit (again!) Mana Contemporary to check out (again!) 
the work of Eugene Lemay, whose work I am going to write about for d'ART Magazine.

But before I say any more about Eugene Lemay and his visionary art and projects, 
I need to vent a bit.  Bear with me.

Anyone who has been in the NY art world for more than five minutes has had some kind of
excruciating experience at a gallery.

Artists especially bear the scars of feeling like some kind of craven beast crawling around
sniffing out that one special gallery that will take our work and show it.
Or at least be marginally polite with their cruel rejections so we can feel marginally human again.
But today I'm not going around as an artist, I'm "collecting" cool stuff for the blog, 
so in a way, I'm a collector, that most prized and catered to gallery visitor, the one who has doors
opened for them so they don't have to stand outside an impervious glass facade like a drooling fool,
trying to figure out where the door is and how to open it.

On with the tale.  After the NJ visit I stopped in at the 529 building on W. 20th Street with its
11 floors of art galleries.  When I reached the seventh, I visited the Howard Scott Gallery,
one of my favorite galleries, Howard being a true gentleman who cares about
and has faith in his artists (he'll be showing my friend Rick Klauber's work in the fall).
His current show is the work of Amsterdam-based Toon Kuijpers, quiet, painterly and exquisite still lives...

...that speak a bit about Morandi...

(Morandi photo from internet)

...and at times William Bailey
(whom I modeled for in the late 80's, BTW).

(William Bailey photo from the internet, "Mercatale Still Life" 1981.  Oil and wax on canvas,
Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund.  copyright 2012 William Bailey)

But back to my rant.
After I leave Howard Scott, I happen to notice the following artwork in a nearby gallery...

(Courtesy of Alejandro Diaz and Royale Projects)

...which I think will make a pithy addition to the blog, where I'll say something clever about happiness 
being not only expensive but also blah, blah (insert clever phrase here).
The gallery appears deserted, so I proceed to take a photo, not easy since the digital camera absorbs 
the light and makes it unreadable... I finesse a bit to attempt to get a good shot. Meanwhile, the gallery dealer comes in and says,
by the way, 
do I know that I should never take a photo without asking first?  Never ever?
That I should always ask for permission? Always? That it's just freaking common courtesy to ask first?
I apologize, saying I saw no one to ask, a feeble excuse in his book, and I further dig myself into a hole by alluding to my blog where I often talk about art and artists, 
and perhaps I might speak of this piece?
Well! Mr. Gallery Dealer scoffs, I probably don't even know the artist's name, do I?
No, I say, that's why I'm walking over here to the desk, to look for information, a list, 
perhaps a press release.
Mr. GD follows me over to the desk, unconcerned that no press releases are in sight, 
wondering aloud if I know that it's only common courtesy to ask for 
permission to take photos in a gallery?
I take his obsessive questioning as a signal to leave,
whereupon I walk out of the gallery and take a photo of his sign - without permission! -
which I have rendered here virtually unreadable by the magic of photoshop, 
not wishing to be a name-dropper.

After I return home, I google "happiness is expensive" and find the artist's name, 
Alejandro Diaz, and his gallery in Indian Wells, California, Royale Projects, which 
happily and inexpensively gives me permission to use the image, along with proper credit, of course.

After the photo fandango, I find myself taking another picture without permission,
this one in the stairwell, which says,
"USA is not the boss"
while little silver letters document the opposing view:  "Yes it is."

On the sixth floor of 529 is another favorite gallery, Elizabeth Harris, now showing 
William Carroll's "City Silhouettes"...

...that also seem a bit Morandi-like in their elegant spareness, their purity of vision, 
giving us the essential Platonic "forms" of things that are 
(paradoxically) gleaned from everyday experience.

Also at E. Harris, Bill Weiss paints of "Doing and Non-Doing" and all the doing seems to 
spring from the left side of the canvas, 
an invasion of whimsical forms that reach and strive, 
leaving us both anxious for them to complete their missions while 
savoring the space they haven't yet touched.

 I also visit the Kim Foster Gallery where I am given enthusiastic permission to take pictures.
The above, a work on paper by Paul Glabicki from his "Order" series, springs from his internet search of the word "order."  The resulting imagery, depicting the many tangents it takes him on, is all hand drawn and arranged in wreath-like compositions that revolve around an empty center,
full of details that appear scientific, planetary, arbitrary, willful and intelligent beyond our means.
Rather like the internet.

Glabicki is using the computer for inspiration - grist for my own mill being that my own work is done staring into that little screen for hours on end while one thing or another 
flies past and morphs into another thing, and then another..

(Jeanne Wilkinson, "Feer Euphoria" 2012, digital collage, used with permission)

...which brings me full circle back to Mana Contemporary and the work of Eugene Lemay,
also done on the computer, very large prints that are affixed to the wall with wheat paste,
creating holes in our vision that we fall into, a soft and velvety darkness that seems 
not frightening and empty but luxurious and full.

His work reminds me of Margery Edwards, the Australian artist whose art estate
I handled for many years after she died in 1989 at the age of 57.  
During her last years she painted black paintings
that spoke of a kind of "unknowing" - 
not an emptiness but instead a kind of ethereal landscape to be explored.
I wish she could see Lemay's work - she would understand it implicitly.

(Margery Edwards in her studio, used with permission.)

Eugene Lemay's work is made of layers and layers of letters written in Hebrew and 
some with Arabian script, letters never sent
to the families of men from Lemay's time as a soldier in the Israeli army, families on both sides.
The letters are layered until they build up a dark scrim that resembles the landscape that he was sent out
to learn and explore as a soldier, at night, with no lights.

Mana Contemporary, under Lemay's leadership, is working on a program that will bring Israeli and Palestinian artists together to work on mutual projects.
Lemay is an artist and also a businessman. At the end of our interview, he points to the building (above) next to the one that now houses Mana Contemporary and explains that it will be a center for fashion, and then there will be a theater further on, and where the parking lot now lies 
there will be a sculpture garden.

Art, along with happiness, can be expensive, 
and there are means here to do amazing things.

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