Friday, February 12, 2010

First Art Evening - Chelsea & the Lower East Side

Last night we went to have a taste of the art madness of New York. We attended some openings in Chelsea and then a performance on the Lower East side in a gallery called On Stellar Rays.

I'm not a good schmoozer so felt odd in these situations, how long should you stand before something if you don't get it and/or don't like it. I suppose you can like something without 'getting' it, or maybe if you like it you 'get' something about it? Anyway, some I found quite uninspiring and seemed desperately wanting to be something, anything at all that could be hyped. I know this portrayal of the 'scene' sounds negative, maybe I'm just disillusioned. It seemed so revoltingly elitist to me! I can't believe this is always the case, maybe I'm being naive and have had the luxury of experiencing lots of DIY art based activities where there's lots of freedom and err no money!

Amongst all of this there were two artists that stood out for me, which isn't bad to see two great lots of art in one evening, so mustn't grumble! One was an installation artist called Catherine Albert and it was really great to be able to talk to her. Her work (pictured) consisted of suspended salvaged sash windows from an 1880s building on 23rd Street. En masse they looked ethereal and haunting and her photography of previous installations, also on show, were lovely, with translucent geometric shadows cast by light passing through the dirty glass panes.

The other was a painter called Ryan Schneider. (Also pictured) I can best describe his work by saying it made me wonder what Matisse might have painted on acid with really sickly colours. I don't usually go for work that seems to be in the wonky I-wish-I-was-Henry Darger genre as it often feels forced. But I liked these, it was like melted ice cream on canvas and hyper-real. In his artist's statement he talks about his work being like purgings, and they do have that very excessive feel.

Last but not least we went to On Stellar Rays, a small but perfectly formed gallery on the other side of town, this part reminded me of East London, Brick Lane way so felt quite at home, or at least as at home as I do in very trendy London. We saw a performance called 'Born to Perform' by the artist Maria Petschnig. Now as I posted before, I have trouble with performance art, as I feel like I need more context or the equivalent of a phrasebook to find my way in. Ever seen the episode of Spaced where Tim, Daisy & Brian go to see David Walliam's character Vulva perform some art? 'Not finished!' he shouts when people clap at the assumed ending, he waits 5 seconds then says 'It's finished!'. One thing we felt compelled to ask is why do so many performance artists get their kit off, especially the ladies? Answers on a postcard. Anyway, I really don't know how to describe the live work that was interspliced with super8 footage of Catholic parades and nude children on swings and secret annexe doors, I felt like I'd turned two page over at once in a novel, a bit lost. The one thing I did like and I loved it, was a shot that she uses as a still for publicity; thick black elastic is stretched over body up and across in the shape of a cross. Coupled with the religious, bodily and exhibitionist motifs of the piece it's a very arresting image.

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