A Gallery Tour on 57th Street

Truth be told, as much as I love art, I’ve never been much of a gallery-goer.  I have always constantly visited museums, but galleries are an entirely different monster.  A gallery’s primary purpose is to sell artwork, and usually its client base is a very limited group of people.  Even so, their showrooms are free and open to the public (whereas you have to pay to visit most museums in New York).  And much of the work they show is extremely interesting, including the most current contemporary art.

However, as I’ve strolled Chelsea and gazed into galleries’ windows, I’ve never ventured to enter.  Maybe what keeps me out of them is the emptiness of most galleries, the sense of exclusivity, or the very expensive works of art that I know I won’t be buying anytime soon—and maybe some of you have had similar experiences.  However, I realized there is no reason why I can’t take a look, and today for the first time, I went to explore the galleries up and down 57th Street.  What I didn’t realize though was that here, unlike in Chelsea, the galleries are mostly up in office buildings, hidden from view (luckily I found a guide to figure out where all of them were).

After getting over the initial jitters of entering a very nice lobby and informing reception of where I was headed, I discovered some pretty exciting spaces.  In a few galleries, I was the only visitor.  Most provided a sheet with information about the exhibit and the artists, but the setting was private enough that I felt that I could contemplate the works on my own, and draw my own conclusions.

One show I particularly enjoyed was a group show at fordPROJECT gallery, located in the penthouse of an art deco building.  The show mounted works as modest as a postcard valentine and as grand as a baroque installation that filled a wall.  Each of the works straddled the line between physical object and work of art, playing with different media and surfaces.  Many of the images were seemingly familiar, but distorted what we know and normally experience.  For example, Shanabrook & Georgieva’s crumpled magazine pages or Kent Henrickson’s embroidered toiles.

Across the street in the Marlborough gallery was recent works by Spanish artist Juan Genovés.  From afar, the paintings look like realistic depictions of crowds of people from above, but on closer inspection, the people are actually created with globs of paint and shading.  Moving from the entry to the back of the gallery, the theme is stretched and exploded, with the groups placed in barren, apocalyptic settings or incorporated into abstract compositions.  It was incredible how with so little, the artist could convey such strong storylines and emotions, as if you, yourself were standing on the brink of something.  And maybe I am—this small taste has only made me want to dive deeper and see more.

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