Chelsea Gallery Walk, January 2017

As I visited galleries in Chelsea for a long afternoon, I stood ready to be amazed, bored (really, this commands scads of money?), or inspired. Looking back, the artists and their work sift out in to several categories; the piece I most wish I could buy and live with, work that inspires me to get to my own loom, the most crazy/imaginative work, and interesting textiles or textile-inspired work.

A final category is work that I find uninteresting to begin, and then come to appreciate upon closer examination.  That happened in the first Chelsea gallery I stepped in, Bortolami, featuring an LA artist, Ivan Morley.  Dense pop imagery including wooden planks, bullet holes, and references to the Old West, exploded in bright colors across large canvases. At first glance around the room, I was not drawn in, but as I looked at the shapes and movement (not so much any imagery) in the canvases, they became more compelling.

This is a painting; it has roughly the same composition as the embroidery shown next.

Then I noticed that some were embroideries — in the same scale as the paintings, and even with the same general layout. From his bio sheet:  “Morley’s elaborate embroideries accompany his equally elaborate paintings, which he assembles on lubricated glass, and then peels off in skins, applying them to panel. These idiosyncratic process began as his reaction against the restrictions of traditional Euro-centric painting methods, and are now simply an alternative way of rendering equally alternative narratives.  Morley’s materials are as much the content of the work as the original stories from which the paintings were born.”

I preferred the vibrancy of his thread colors versus the paint colors
Detail of the embroidery

Work that might result in a work on my loom: Yug Hyong-Keun at David Zwirner

Yup, one of the most important Korean artists of the 20th century, was influenced by visiting Mark Rothko in 1974. They share a sensibility for massive, simple shapes. Yun appreciates the textile quality of his canvases.  He wrote in 1976, “…I want to make paintings that, like nature, one never tires of looking at.  That is all I want in my art.  Canvas is still made just from those old and familiar materials: cotton and hemp. Looking at it, I always feel its warmth and familiarity.  This affinity comes from the absolute simplicity and freshness of the natural fiber. This in itself is a work of art.” As I passed through the rooms, spellbound, I kept thinking: rya.


Interesting textile-related work: Michelle Grabner at James Cohan.

One interesting aspect of Grabner’s bronze sculptures of blankets, seemingly suspended, was their lack of color – of the original colors. It would be fun to see photos of her process, and what the original objects looked like. The varied turquoise-to-bronze hues of the resulting pieces were beautiful.

She also had several large-scale grid-like paintings evoking fabric, and like fabric, there were a few color pathways, like a set of fabric choices.  There are many images of her paintings and prints that evoke textiles on her website.


Most crazy/imaginative work: Matt Johnson at the 303 Gallery 

I walked by the corner gallery.  Wood sculpture – well, OK. But wow! One man was the only other viewer in the room, and we peered carefully and quizzically.  How can he make that wooden sculpture look like a broken-up corner of styrofoam packing?  And the Amazon box!  My favorite was the sack of concrete mix.

The work I wanted to buy: Masao Yamamoto at the Yancey Richardson Gallery 

If someone  told me the beautiful, small bird photographs by Masao Yamamoto were printed in the late 1800s, I would have believed it; the evocative monotones images were so beautifully printed, and they had an old-fashioned sensibility. You know how so many flyers in galleries are merely filled with unconvincing self-important art babble? In contrast, the Yamamoto flyer was not hyperbole:  “Ranging from a pigeon contemplating his reflection in a pool of glassy water to a solitary eagle flying high above the Mongolian mountains, Yamamoto’s birds suggest the fragility, beauty, and ultimate mortality of all life.”

This photo is from the gallery website

I walked through the Chelsea galleries all afternoon, until I was too saturated and tired to open one more heavy glass gallery door. The day was perfect for walking.  It wasn’t too cold, but might have been chillyfor this man, if he were not a bronze sculpture on the High Line walkway.