Lower East Side Art Crawl

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday April 24, 2014

Spring weekends invite art tours—an idea most recently touted in the New York Times [see]. Tomorrow I'll be taking students of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on a Lower East Side art crawl, so I'm sharing my route with DART readers here. 

If you need to fuel up before starting out, you can grab a bite at Whole Foods Houston Street. Then head south on Chrystie Street for the first stop.

Lehmann Maupin, at 201 Chrystie Street, is showing Klara Kristalova Big Girl Now. This theatrical installation features large-scale porcelain figures, mostly young girls and fanciful creatures based on a diversity of influences that include music, memory and current events, literature, myths and fairy tales. The artist explores adolescent angst and the idea of parallel worlds, dualities that are common, if often repressed, in the adult experience. Closing April 26.

A few doors to the south, at 195 Chrystie Street, Fitzroy Gallery offers Timothy Hull’s Pastiche Cicero. For anyone who has found themselves blissfuly lost among the Metropolitan Museum’s Greek Vase collection, this show will offer a few jokes along with some finely executed art. Hull sets up his theme with wall paintings [the only kind there were back in that day] of palm trees and phallic urns, flatly worked in sugary shades of blue and green. Here and there little shelves sport cheap Wedgewood-style souvenir vases filled with fresh herbs. The fethishistic nature of thickly worked paintings that smartly evoke ancient message systems is almost denied by Hull’s sparkling Adriatic palette of blue and white. Closing April 27.

Take a left onto Delancey and go to James Feuntes, 55 Delancey Street (between Eldridge and Allen) for the first of two installations celebrating the famed Real Estate Show (above), which launched an alternative arts movement on the Lower East Side in 1980. Organized by Colab, a group formed by artists and activists to collectively generate exhibition opportunities, funding and resources, the Real Estate Show took place in a city-owned building that the organizers and artists occupied without permission—after months of failed negotiations with city agencies. The exhibition aimed to deal with what the artists saw as a real estate crisis in a city that was further marginalizing the non-wealthy through greed and gentrification. Information. Closing April 27.


Double back to Christie for No City is an Island at The Lodge Gallery, 131 Chrystie Street, between Delancey and Broome. The gallery directors invited former members of Colab to respond to the exhibition's title as a theme around which to contribute work (above). With artworks spanning 35 years, No City is an Island conjures up the vibe of a vanished New York as it compares and contrasts the urban realities of then and now, and honors ABC No Rio, the influential arts organization that emerged from Colab's actions. Surrounded by today’s newly shinier Lower East Side, the presentation offers much to consider regarding the role of artists in society. Information. Continuing through May 20.

Walk south a short block and turn right onto Broome. There’s a row of galleries on the south side of the block including CanadaMarlboroughJack Hanley and Nicelle BeaucheneAll four are worth a visit. Most intriguing, perhaps, is The Valley of Dry Bones (above), an installation by Marie Lorenz, in which the Jack Hanley Gallery is filled with large posts that recall a collapsed pier. Among the ruins are large-scale macramé-like weavings through which the artist prompts viewers to consider coastal detritus as a new form of material worth, and to be more aware of our production of, and interaction with, garbage. Interspersed videos (one of them, below) create the aura of a future in which all human endeavors are ordered by disorder. References to the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy are unwritten but evident. Information. Continuing through May 18.

Double back north on Christie and turn right on Delancey for the last two shows, in three stops. Hionas Gallery presents Cats Talk, sculptures by Jill Levine, that embody a new mythology for the ancient deities of Mexico. Levine’s wall mounted sculptures are anomalies, each one a lively figure born neither of nature nor folklore, but rather the artist’s own travels and reinterpretation of iconography. In addition, a series of small pencil and gouche drawings, like textile designs in their angular regularity, show how the artist has transformed folk motifs into her sculptures. Information. Continuing through May 11.

Next door at Calicoon Fine Arts are several leporellos, or accordion books (above) by Etel Adnan, an artist/poet whose work from this series is included in the Whitney Biennial. Born in Beirut in 1925, Adnan studied at the Sorbonne, UC Berkeley, and Harvard University. The watercolor-and-ink leporellos, one of which unfolds to a length of more than 20 feet, evoke the continuing warfare and its disordered aftermath in the artist’s homeland, articulating her experience of exile from familiar landscapes and languages. On view at the gallery’s second site, around the corner at 49 Delancey Street, are paintings based on the recurring motif of Mount Tamalpais, near her California home. The landscape’s distinctive forms—mountain, horizon, sea, sun—capture minute shifts of sensory experience and Adnan’s response to the natural world as repose from the violence and indifference of war. Information. Continuing through May 23.

The LES BID has a handy map you can use to plot your art trek, here.

But if you want a curator-guided art crawl that will benefit a great arts organization through your contribution, you can get tickets/$30 here [$75 at the door] for the 19th Annual Rema Hort Mann LES Art Crawl on Sunday, April 27. Hosted by James Fuentes, Inc., 55 Delancey Street, it starts at 2 pm. Information or 212-966-8444. There will be a wine reception in the gallery at 5 pm.

Photos: Peggy Roalf 

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