Hot Colors Hot Topics, Downtown Galleries

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday October 3, 2018

Downtown has much to offer for an autumn Saturday gallery walk—with so many places along the way for lunch, ice cream, and really good coffee. Here’s a selection of shows to bring some vivid hues into play.


Graham Nickson, Red Lightning Sunset I, 2005

Graham Nickson: Cumulus, Monumental Trees and Transient Skies, through October 21 at New York Studio School. This show of large-scale watercolors done by Nickson over the past 19 years, in locations ranging from Umbria to Hawaii and some local spots in between, presents 45 paintings of rapturous skies, monumental trees, and vivid sunsets, all from the collection of William Louis-Dreyfus. 

The show, curated by NYSS faculty Karen Wilken and Rachel Rickert to mark Nickson’s 30thanniversary as Dean of the school, offers solid proof of the artist’s success in taking on “forbidden subjects”—sunsets, for example, that in lesser hands, could result in banality. There is nothing banal in the way in which Nickson piles on his brilliant pigments over the large sheets he typically works on. He eschews the transparency that traditional watercolorists take as a given, instead covering every square inch of paper with saturated colors that create new equivalents for mood, atmosphere and light. 
Graham Nicksonat New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, 8 West 8thStreet, NY, NY Info

Left: Kyle Staver, Swan Flight (detail), 2017

At Zurcher Gallery, to the south, a solo show of paintings and painted clay reliefs by Kyle Staver, presents a fantasy world of out-of-body experiences peopled by mythological figures that seem located in heavenly and undersea galaxies. Contrasting her flatly painted female figures against highly structured environments of expansive space, Staver creates a narrative art that offers humor along with painterly references to artists from the Renaissance until now. The relationship between the small reliefs and the large canvases gives viewers the opportunity to engage with the artist’s process, as well as stirring up questions about how and when.

John Yau recently wrote in Hyperallergic, "By introducing a touch of comedy, Staver opens up well-known myths and stories, making them more human than lofty. Wit, tenderness and empathy inform her views of the tragic, suggesting that we are not fated to suffer, even though we will…. More importantly, she bestows power upon the women in her paintings, lifting them out of the familiar role of victim and vessel. By transforming a pagan world into one in which women can be heroes, she advances the likelihood that we will have to revise everything that we know if we are to proceed.

Kyle Staver at Zurcher Gallery, 33 Bleecker Street, NY, NY Info


At Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, Ruby Sky Stiler’s Fathers presents recent sculptures and paintings that emerged from her recognition that throughout art history, there are few images in which a father and child are portrayed. The male gaze has so effectively limited the participation of men in scenes of domestic intimacy—in favor of voluptuous women as Madonnas, vixens, and helpmates. Stiler’s minimalist approach to linear reliefs and sculptures refer to Greek Vases, in which male athletes are often the subject. Here, the fathers and children are delineated with curved bentwood, offering a sense of softness more usually associated with female forms. Slightly more figurative paintings on panel employ hard-edge graphic forms as backgrounds to figures reminiscent of Paul Klee, whose flesh is delineated in pastel geometric forms.

Ruby Sky Stiler: Fathers continues through October 7 at Nicelle Bauchene Gallery, 327 Broome Street, NY, NY Info Stiler will introduce her book, Fathers, on Friday, October 5, from 6 to 8 pm. Info 
Below: Ruby Sky Stiler, Father and Child, 2018

Margot Bird, from Poodle Saga

Walk almost to the boundary of East Chinatown for an escape to the poodle planet created by Margaret Bird, on view at Sargent’s Daughters. The artist creates a new utopia, delineated in neon colors, where aliens have, it seems, enticed earthling poodles into their fun-filled, unaverage world. “Bird does not impose a narrative on her characters: aliens ride poodles like circus showgirls and poodles sprout butterfly wings or long snake-like necks in the candy-colored fluorescent world….We are able to catch glimpses of how this other world might have emerged, but there are no specifics.” Yep, couldn’t have said it better. In addition to the paintings are a group of vessels shaped from thrift-shop finds that include porcelain poodle figures beautifully joined to flower-shaped vases; one of these held a bouquet of heavenly palest-pink roses on my visit.

Margot Bird, Poodle Saga, through October 14 at Sargent’s Daughters, 179 East Broadway, NY, NY Info


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