Sunday, January 29, 2012

Midtown Gallery Going.

A cold, wet and rainy day is the perfect backdrop to seeing art. Especially when you're planning an all B&W day. My friend Craig, a new New York friend, but also an old friend from my college days, joined me for three stops: the Howard Greenberg Gallery, the Robert Anderson Gallery and the International Center for Photography.

Taking the subway up to 53rd Street was a bit atypical. Most of my previous gallery going was constrained to a few inviting blocks near the water in Chelsea, but today I'd planned a different sort of day, a Midtown kind of day. Our first stop was the Howard Greenberg Gallery at 41 East 57th Street. Walking into the art deco building I realized I didn't know what floor to go to. The security guard helped me with that little problem and I stepped into an elevator bound for the 14th floor, where I was joined by several delivery men, one wafting a cloud of cologne along with his walkie-talkie and wet poncho.

I had read about the Vivian Maier show in the latest New Yorker and was intrigued by its premise. As the press release says: A nanny by trade, Vivian Maier's street and travel photography was discovered by John Maloof in 2007 at a local auction house in Chicago. Always with a Rolleiflex around her neck, she managed to amass more than 2,000 rolls of films, 3,000 prints and more than 100,000 negative which were shared with virtually no one in her lifetime. The black and white photographs–mostly from the 50s and 60s–have been re-printed for us by John Maloof along with a small amount of prints found in the archive. The photos and the story of Maier evoke a woman on the periphery, always looking but never included. Her photos take you back in time, they all feel "of the past". There is a competing show at the Stephen Kasher gallery in Chelsea. This show features Maier's prints from a different collection–apparently the two men have both been acquiring her negatives–but aren't working together. It seems strange to be fighting over, and benefitting from, a dead woman's photo library.

The next stop on our gallery hopping was to 24 West 57th Street. We popped into two places. At the first gallery they were hanging a new show of paintings. The collection was very textured and sculpted work, 2D paintings but with noses and hands and clothing that jumped into 3D. We didn't stay long since they weren't done setting up–and because we were photo focused. From there we moved on to the Robert Anderson gallery to see an exhibit of photographer Barbara Mensch. Ms. Mensch has been photographing her neighbor, the Brooklyn Bridge, for the past thirty plus years. The photos in the show are all current but they evoke a past shrouded in the elements: misty, cloudy, murky, dewy, fuzzy. All the y's. The gallerist was a charmer and walked us slowly through the show, telling us where each photo had been taken, along with details about Ms. Mensch. The show is up through March 3rd, it's nicely curated and would be a perfect lunch break.

We ended the day at the International Center for Photography to see The Loving Story, a group of photos by Grey Villet who was a LIFE magazine photographer. The Lovings, an interracial couple banned from their state because of their union, were fighting Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws–and all race based marriage bans. They were successful, but only after a tenacious legal battle. The exhibit is small but worth stopping by. A documentary about their story will be appearing on HBO on February 14th. Valentine's Day, an overly cute coincidence.

There are two other interesting shows at ICP: Weegee, Murder Is My Business and Magnum: Contact Sheets. The Magnum exhibit walks you through roughly a dozen contact sheets from Magnum photographers, showing how they have captured and edited their best shots from the 1930s to the present. There is a laugh-out-loud contact sheet from the infamous Salvador Dali picture, the one with the jumping artist, flying cats and a stream of water. That bit alone is worth the stop. The show is a compelling look at an almost forgotten bit of photographic history. I can't help but mourn the loss of contact sheets. The accompanying book seems almost coffee table in size, which was a shame,  I wanted to buy it but couldn't bare to lug it home.

No comments:

Post a Comment