Monday, February 28, 2011

Sunday Evening on the Lower East Side

Installation view of Ruby Sky Stiler, "Inherited and Borrowed Types," at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery. All photos February 27, 2011. Photos: 16 Miles

Each time Lower East Side galleries throw open their doors for Sunday evening openings, as they did last night, it still feels like a tiny miracle. But it shouldn't. The neighborhood mainstays have been open for two, three, four, even five years now. Dealers are making their rents, artists' sophomore shows are opening, and new galleries are joining the crowd. This whole thing just might last for a while.

There were no less than ten new shows opening in the area yesterday, but there were also a handful closing out their runs, like Ruby Sky Stiler's second exhibition at Nicelle Beauchene, her first at the gallery's Orchard Street location. Small collages, woven from pages of a book and detailed with spray paint, line two walls. Four headless portrait sculptures hold the center. They are assembled from blocks of foam, but given their meticulous surfaces, you could be forgiven for thinking they're stone. "Stiler’s relation to art history in this case shares more with the 'September issue' than it does with October magazine," artist Sara Greenberger Rafferty writes in a winning essay that doubles as the show's press release, lauding Stiler's ability to forge "a personal style out of "disparate" influences. As Rafferty notes, although Stiler's process has something in common with the construction of fashion, it is far from "vapid or fleeting."

Installation view of Frank Haines, "Under the Shadow of the Wing," at Lisa Cooley. In foreground: Untitled, 2011. Mixed media, 63 x 30 x 19 in.

Frank Haines was also marking his second solo outing at his Lower East Side gallery, Lisa Cooley. The sculptures are the highlight here: complex geometric forms splattered with heavy layers of paint. Imagine an amalgam of Sol LeWitt and Sterling Ruby, and then douse it in the occult. An accompanying lecture, scheduled to be presented on March 10 by a Frater Puck, is entitled: "Traversing the Boundless: Modes of Transgression and Transcending Duality — From Baphomet to Marlene Dietrich — A brief discourse on methods of the exploration of taboos, boundaries, and cognition itself, as intimated in Art, Culture and the Occult." See you there.

Installation views of Anissa Mack, "Second," at Laurel Gitlen

Berlin and New York artist Anissa Mack was toasting her second Lower East Side exhibition, too, at Laurel Gitlen (who showed Mack's work back when the gallery was based in Portland and called Small A Projects). There were neither jegging nor Pepsi-can sculptures this time, but there were other treats on hand: a laundry basket serving as a pedestal for a lattice-like sheet shaped like a sailing ship, a series of posters about supercentenarians printed from Wikipedia, and two negative reliefs of a woman's head stuck on opposite sides of a wall. With the exception of the flat triangle pieces that she stretches long on walls, Mack is operating without a rigid formula or trademark work to her name. It is thrilling stuff, and I can't wait for round three.

Installation views of Josh Tonsfeldt at Simon Preston Gallery

Josh Tonsfeldt has also been operating without a single, distinctive look for some time, and that continues at his second Simon Preston show, which includes tiny paintings (one sporting cherry pits), videos, and a handful of odd assemblages, exemplified by the tire-and-fruit work near the entrance. Tonsfeldt is included in Alex Gartenfeld's exhibition at the Zabludowicz Collection's space in Times Square, "Proposal for a Floor," which opens tonight.

Installation views of Brendan Fowler at UNTITLED

Contra Tonsfeldt and Mack's new work, Brendan Fowler's show at UNTITLED sees the California–born multi-talent unveiling more of his multi-frame works. It's somber, austere stuff this time — photographs of flowers and hands and, curiously, a paper invitation to the show's opening. His sculptures are morphing into walls and corridors, evincing installations by Nauman or Asher, threatening to function as architecture. As the invitation notes, there is more Fowler on the way: at the Spare Room, next Saturday, from 7 to 9 pm. Will he throw a curve ball?

Anya Kielar, Difficult Conversation, at Rachel Uffner Gallery

Installation view of Gianna Commito at Rachel Uffner Gallery

Meanwhile, the cause for celebration at the Rachel Uffner Gallery was a debut show of classy stripe–filled abstract paintings by Gianna Comito made from watercolor, casein, and marble dust. They have been gently beaten up in some parts. Though apparently extroverted, they begin to look a little melancholic and sad after a while. Give them some time. And there is another reason for a visit: the new, all-white Anya Kielar tucked away behind the desk for the time being.

Installation view of Nancy de Holl & Esther Kläs, "Opossums Persimmons," at Bureau

Installation views of Sam Lewitt, "Total Immersion Environment," at Miguel Abreu Gallery. In foreground: Test Subject A4 Coarse, 2010. Commercial vehicle rearview mirror, Arizona Test Dust® ISO 12103-1, PTI ID: 10452C, Batch 26 Mar 2009, photomount, adhesive vinyl lettering, 20 x 23 x 12 1/2 in.

Installation view of Rachel Beach, "Gather-er: New Sculptures by Rachel Beach," at Blackston

Also seen: the very-crowded opening of Nancy de Holl & Esther Kläs, "Opossums Persimmons," at Bureau, Sam Lewitt's large-scale photographs in "Total Immersion Environment" at Miguel Abreu (which has been extended through March 6), and Rachel Beach's winding wood totems at Blackston, which I would love to see in the same room as Patrick Hill's recent work at Bortolami. Finally, one of the neighborhood's newest arrivals, The Artist's Institute, stayed open late to mark the arrival of two silver paintings by German artist Silke Otto-Knapp. An accompanying text says of Otto-Knapp's work, "Like dance, her paintings happen in the here-and-now."

Silke Otto-Knapp at The Artist's Institute

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