Lush Life, an exhibition that takes its name and inspiration from Richard Price's 2008 novel, opened yesterday at Sue Scott Gallery on Rivington Street. Staggered throughout the month, eight more exhibits curated by Franklin Evans and Omar Lopez-Chahoud will open at other Lower East Side galleries, each presenting an interpretation of a chapter from the Lower East Side-based novel. The first show of the series at Sue Scott showcases works based on Chapter One, Whistle.
If yesterday's opening is any indication, this will be an excellent series. Co-curator Franklin Evans took us on a tour of the freshly installed works.
At the entrance of the exhibit is a video called Other Halves by Nanna Debois Buhl. The documentary mixes contemporary images of the Lower East Side with historical neighborhood photographs by Jacob Riis as commentary on the changes that the neighborhood has faced -- a central theme of Lush Life. "Jacob Riis kind of tells our story," Evans explained, and this video raises important questions like, "Who's in power to tell the story?"
The rich depictions of history in Lush Life showcase the Lower East Side's evolution over the years. A common thread through the neighborhood's past and present is the segmentation of varying social classes, cultures, and age groups; this idea comes through in the structure of the gallery itself, which has two distinct rooms and a wall preventing a visitor from seeing much of the work upon entering.
In transforming the opening chapter into art, it was important to present a basic tension of things to come, a potential for sound and action. With this in mind, Evans transposed "silent" minimalist art, like the red cedar blue-red night mirror by Justen Ladda, with "loud" busy works like Object, an oil-and-flash on canvas painting by Joanne Greenbaum.
Object is bold, abstract, and geometric, with curving lines like a subway map and segmented irregularly shaped designs. Evans describes it as an "information system," and it hangs on the wall opposite the entrance as a key or guide by which to view the exhibit.
One of the most fascinating pieces in the exhibit is an installation piece of a plywood bar, (Bar) Unfinished Business, by David Kramer. It's rudimentary, clean, and tightly structured with a nostalgic feel. The artist happened to be at the gallery when I visited and offered me a shot of bourbon (from his bar) along with some insight into his art. He described his work as representing Lower East Side bars where there are "endless possibilities, but really, it's always the same." He made an aesthetic decision in leaving the bar as bare plywood and also did so to foster the idea of "unfinished business."
His bar also serves as a parody on the theatrical and faux-historical nature of many new downtown bars. "They straddle this place between fake and experience," Evans said. "This very much exposes the fabrication of all that."
The exhibit, which runs through August 1, also includes work by David Shapiro, Alice O'Malley, and Judi Werthein.
On Stellar Rays gallery will open for the Chapter Two exhibit on June 23. We'll continue to follow the openings, and will report back:
Sue Scott Gallery, Chapter One: Whistle
June 17 - August 1
On Stellar Rays, Chapter Two: Liar
June 23 - August 1
Invisible-Exports, Chapter Three: First Bird (A Few Butterflies)
June 25 - August 6
Lehmann Maupin, Chapter Four: Let It Die
July 8 - August 13
Y Gallery, Chapter Five: Want Cards
July 8 - July 25
Collette Blanchard Gallery, Chapter Six: The Devil You Know
July 8 - August 13
Salon 94, Chapter Seven: Wolf Tickets
June 24 - July 30
Scaramouche, Chapter Eight: 17 Plus 25 Is 32
July 8 - August 7
Eleven Rivington, Chapter Nine: She'll Be Apples
July 15 - August 13