Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Valeri Larko at Lyons Wier Gallery, NY

     I shall preface this by noting that Valeri Larko is an old friend, going back to 1990 when we met at an arts group I was starting (at the very first meeting actually) in Hoboken, NJ. Besides being a pal, she's a pretty darn good painter. So, bias duly noted and proclaimed, onto the blog post.

     Lyons Wier Gallery in NY has appeared more than once here on The Gallery Guy blog. They show excellent work, almost exclusively realistic painting (or "conceptual realism" as they describe it), and owner Michael Lyons Wier really hustles for his artists, both at the gallery and several art fairs. I've known him for a few years and purchased work there (an awesome Fahamu Pecou painting) so I was thrilled when I heard from Valeri that she would be exhibiting at the space.

     This falls into the Better-Late-Than-Never Dept, as The Gallery Guy and la familia were bogged down with the root canal sans anesthetic pleasure of moving, so this post is unfortunately after the show. However, there are plenty of photos here and on the gallery's website.

     Valeri is a plein air painter and made her bones doing landscapes of old industrial tanks and parks with a high degree of skill depicting the light and  color of those sites. She fearlessly trudges into mostly secluded and dicey locales. "All of my landscapes are painted on location. I spend hours roaming around an area until I find something that resonates with me. Once I do, I set up my easel and return to a site many times. A large painting can take up to two and a half months to complete. The process of painting on location over a long period of time is crucial to my working method because it allows me to form a deeper connection to a particular place through careful observation and personal interaction with the people I meet there."

     Larko grew up and lived in New Jersey for most of her life and the majority of her early work's sites are in the Garden State. Having moved to New Rochelle, NY, pieces from the last few years were mainly done in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. Junkyards have been a favored subject presenting a diversity of objects to paint, often festooned with graffiti tags.

     Because of the constantly changing environments she paints in, there's a  potential for compositional disaster when working on a single piece for weeks at a time. While painting one site, she arrived to find a large boat deposited in the area she was painting and wasn't sure if it worked in the piece. After a short time, it was covered with graffiti and she ended up adding it to the painting. "Top Dollar" below.

     "Urban documentation" work such as this also functions as a time capsule of our changing times. They can capture signage, fonts, language, architecture, and economics. Many sites she's painted are gone, bulldozed and built over or waiting for a developer.
     Valeri Larko's work has the added benefits of a good eye, a good hand, focus, perseverance, and a love of her subject matter. When chatting about each other's  work she often referred to her paintings as "my tanks" in an almost maternal tone. That is precisely what sets her work apart from others painting similar subject matter.

"Location Location Location," new paintings by Valeri Larko was on display in October 2015 
at Lyons Wier Gallery, 542 W. 24th Street, NYC. 
To view more works from the show go to the gallery's website.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Brett Amory at Jonathan LeVine Gallery

     This is a weird analogy, but here goes. I like me a good prosciutto and mutz hero now and then. I know what I'm getting, but it's a bit different depending on which deli I go to. That's how I felt going to Brett Amory's third show at Jonathan LeVine Gallery; anticipation to see his work and knowing basically what I'm going to get, yet each show is different. And I always leave feeling satiated and thinking about the next one.

     Speaking of food, first up is this painting of Katz's Deli. On the corner of Houston and Ludlow in New York's lower east side and a place I frequented when I lived there and still do (by the way, if you ever go there, do yourself a favor and get the pastrami on rye. Nuff said.) All the paintings in this show are from the east village and lower east side.

     Now here comes the twist I alluded to earlier. Some of these places are gone, like CBGBs. What Amory does is create a haunting illusion, a spectre of the past establishment by painting it in color and the rest of the painting in black and white. Simple, yet creative and very effective. You know the feeling when you are with someone and you point out where you used to live or went to school, and they just don't have the same feeling you do because they didn't experience it? It's like that.

Mr. Amory with his CBGB painting

     The Mars Bar was a classic dive, and hung in there against gentrification til just a few years ago. It wasn't uncommon to go take a leak and find syringes in the toilet. The place was gross and shitty, but it was "our" gross and shitty.

     Amory combines realistic imagery in a loose, dreamy way with a strong sense of graphic design as he edits out certain details and combines rendered images with bold areas of flat color or white or black. Check out the dark areas in his previous night time urban paintings. He goes back to that in these two night paintings. Another divey bar, Lucy's (right), and the Pyramid Club (below). I remember going to the Pyramid in the 80s and then around 2005 sweating it out at an 80s New Wave tribute night. Full circle. Although in '05 I didn't hear the sounds of broken crack vials crunching under my combat boots as I walked down Avenue A.

     Cup and Saucer is a diner type restaurant in the lower east side. There are alot of artists that paint urban sights, famous places, signage, etc. Amory does the time capsule thing, too, but with his unique imprint, design/composition sense, and painting skills these pieces become more than just documentation. 

     Brett Amory's "This Land Is Not For Sale: Forgotten, Past, and Foreseeable Futures,"  is on display from October 15 - November 14, 2015 at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery, 557C W. 23rd Street in New York City. I highly recommend you see this rich exhibit, especially if you share personal experiences with these places as I do. Or not. It's an excellent show either way. And since this particular post has alot of personal moments in it, below is Jonathan and I at the opening. The photo was taken by my wife, Courtney, whom I proposed to at Jonathan's gallery and we're celebrating our 4th anniversary this week!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"Top 10" booths at Frieze via Artnet

I would LOVE for you, dear reader, to weight in with your thoughts and opinions on this article about the "Top 10" booths at Frieze.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Interesting article from The Atlantic