17 June 2010

West Chelsea gallery hopping

These home-made pencils are only one small bit of a platform with many objects by Ben Gocker in his show at P.P.O.W. Gallery on West 25th Street in New York City. I have been especially enamored of pencils since working at the Amon Carter Museum. There, Paula Stewart and I exchanged pencils as a token gift from our travels. She acquired the habit when she had worked in the photo department before becoming the archivist. Now, I just buy more museum pencils than I can use.

Today's adventures centered on West Chelsea. It started with lunch with Ann Morrell who works at the American Friends Service Committee. Ann and her husband Bill moved earlier this year to the ILGWU apartments on Eighth Avenue. They have a sunny living room with bookcases under the windows. Bright and cheerful. We ate at Le Grainne Cafe, a charming French bistro that used to be Le Gamin. My crepe with turkey, goat cheese, and ratatouille was magnificent.

Food's fine but then we went gallery hopping. Ann joined me for the late Monet show at Gagosian Gallery. As we neared the gallery, we ran into Barbara Reed. Retirement allows one to go gallery hopping on weekdays. It's nice to avoid the crazy West Chelsea weekend crowds.

Ann split after Monet and I crossed 20th Street to Tanya Bonakdar Gallery where Uta Barth and Ian Kiaer were on view. The Barths were especially rich, one with feet on the beach. I am looking forward to going to Fire Island one of the days I'm here in the city. From Bonakdar, I stopped in at Casey Kaplan Gallery and found the Trisha Donnelly sculptures interesting. Donnelly carves big blocks of stone with quite refined parallel lines. Then I went to Printed Matter and actually escaped without buying anything.

Sticking to my list of galleries to visit, I next went to Tracy Williams on 23rd Street to see the Barbara Bloom show entitled "Present" ... as in gift. Great work and Bloom arranged for each of us visitors to get a CD. Haven't played it yet but it is apparently the CD used in the piece with a rug of plans of Steinway pianos. Another piece in the show was a table of glasses with a sound board in the tabletop so that it made sounds as you put your hand over the glasses. This was my first visit to the new Tracy Williams space; they used to be in a rowhouse basement on West 4th Street, an awkward but intimate space. They are working at keeping the intimacy in the new space, partly by interacting with the visitors.

Deborah Bell had a couple dozen photographs from America illustrated by George W. Gardner. Fine photographs. One was of "Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Crumb, Marathon, New York" (1975); I can't wait to get back upstate and ask my sister's partner Barb Crumb if she had relatives in the Marathon area. Another photograph -- "Langhorne, Pennsylvania" (1965) -- included the sign for Flannery's Restaurant along with other roadside stuff. Having just finished reading The violent bear it away by Flannery O'Connor, I was easily finding parallels between O'Connor's characters and the "real" Americans and Americana in Gardner's photographs.

On to the Gocker show entitled "There is really no single poem." Gocker graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is now a librarian at Brooklyn Public Library. Lots of his works resonated with my librarian brain: pencils, words, letters.

I stopped in at Mitchell Algus Gallery and found him packing up to move his space to Morton Street in the West Village. The mean economic times make for even more volatility in the gallerist's life than usual.

Further West on 25th Street, I stopped at ClampArt to see the "Jesse Burke: intertidal" show. I'd first run across Burke at the New York Art Book Fair last fall. Really love the photos. And Brian Clamp had one of my favorite John Arsenault photos in the back "alley" of the gallery: "Getting it in Italy" (2000). I just have to get me one of those John Arsensault photos someday. Have to quit buying so many books (but I did do some freelance cataloging before I blogged). As much as I like the sexy Burkes and Arsenaults, the prints by Stuart Allan were really fine, the varying light of different hours of the day. Reminded me of Spencer Finch's work on the High Line.

On to Galerie Lelong for the Andy Goldsworthy show: "New York dirt water light" with ephemeral "sculptures" on the sidewalks of NYC which faded with traffic. And next door was the William Pope L. show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. This last show opened with a print which had the word "melan-colicky" across the middle. Just cruising, not feeling very melancholy at all.

I've spared you some of the parallels drawn from the gallery visits, e.g., Barbara Bloom's adopted Chinese daughter (think Karen Muller), the new assistant librarian at Bard's Center for Curatorial Studies who is also a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop as is Flannery O'Connor, the whole O'Connor connection to Debra Kruse's art ... well, I HAD spared you those parallels.

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