The frantic pace and manic energy of New York City life seem to slacken when urbanites abandon their concrete enclaves for wide-open spaces and greener pastures. The exodus of so many New Yorkers can make Chelsea feel less intense for three glorious months. Art galleries respond to this seasonal shift by mounting that ubiquitous thing known as the summer group show. While some galleries invite guest curators to organize quirky or ambitious shows others return to their roots offering exhibitions that highlight their best artists and artworks.
Summer shows are designed to match the mood of the season: relaxed, indulgent, wistful, and fun. “Compilation” at Jack Shainman successfully embodies that summer feeling without pandering to it. The exhibition features a number of well-regarded artists and readily recognizable works, but it is not only El Anatsui’s wall-sized bottle cap tapestries or Nick Cave’s sound suits that merit a visit. “Compilation” deserves more than a quick stroll because the real gems are not the blockbuster pieces.
Radcliffe Bailey’s beautiful mixed media collages present evocative investigations of history, memory, experience, culture, and imagination. Pages of sheet music are nearly obscured by swirling washes of color, creating regal scenes on which images of classical African sculptures are layered. Leslie Wayne creates a visceral experience of painting with her signature, small-scale works. Like many painters of her generation, Wayne seeks to push the bounds of abstraction in her paintings by incorporating elements of sculpture. Thick, dynamic layers of paint are applied and layered on canvas then shaped and molded entirely anew. The chunky cream colored pigment of Paint/Rag #20 (2013) is flecked with bits of lavender, orange, and custard; its draped and pleated form recalling the precision of its name. Susana Solano has created drawings, collages, and other works on paper throughout her career, although she is best known as a sculptor. Here she presents two unassuming collages (both Untitled) that echo the influence of Minimalism, which is the undergird of her human-scaled sculptures.
While it may often seem that New York City’s summer gallery exhibitions cater to a mainstream audience with a smattering of familiar objects and name-artists, I am always pleasantly surprised when these shows manage to offer something new or remind me of why those artists and those works are worth a look anyway. “Compilation” does both. It’s a thoughtful exhibition that is flexible enough to be enjoyed by art world aficionados and laymen alike.
Chelsea Block Party Returns, With Jack Shainman at the Helm
Offering up a heavy dose of cool just in time for the summer heat wave, Jack Shainman Gallery is hosting the second annual Chelsea Block Party this Thursday, July 11th. Relocating from last year’s location on West 20th Street, the party will take place on West 24th at Shainman’s new, 2,400-square-foot space, which opened in March. While last year, 20th street galleries Bortolami, ZieherSmith, Elizabeth Dee, Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden, and Anton Kern co-hosted the party, this year Shainman is flying solo without its 24th street neighbors.
“We opened the space quietly this spring, but given the success of the event last year, we thought it would be a great way to announce our presence on the block,” said associate director Elisabeth Sann. “Last year it happened that most of the galleries on 20th Street were opening their summer shows on the same night so it made perfect sense to join forces. We had a great turnout including guests of the galleries as well as passersby from the High Line and gallery openings on other blocks and we expect the same this year.”
Art world PR rep April Hunt will deejay the event for the second time, while Kimchi Taco and Luke’s Lobster food trucks will serve up snacks.
As for the art, Shainman will debut a show of selected works by Hank Willis Thomas, including “Question Bridge: Black Males,” his ambitious collaboration with Chris Johnson, Kamal Sinclair, and Bayeté Ross-Smith. The transmedia project and five-channel video installation focuses on black male identity in the US. “It seemed like the perfect fit to have a block party for an exhibition that’s so focused on community,” Sann said.