LES(S) IS MORE

In recent years, New York has seen an interesting gallery, studio, and artist movement into the Lower East Side and into Brooklyn. Of course, trendier Manhattanites have been flooding downtown into Soho, the East Village, and even Williamsburg for years – this kind of migration is nothing new. But the arts heart of the city had remained firmly rooted in the Chelsea gallery scene. In many ways, Chelsea is still the commercial heart of the city – the big galleries are, indubitably, firmly posted there. But more and more interesting art galleries, often times featuring emerging artists, are popping up in newer and grungier downtown locales, creating wonderful new art pockets in this art-crazed city.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to stop by Rose Kallal’s show at Lyles & King Gallery on the LES. I had heard great things about the show and was excited to see it – I almost missed it because the gallery hidden, tucked below street level in a little artsy nook. Once inside, the show is great. Kallal combines projected images, sound, film loops, reel-to-reel players, canvas, sculpture, and other objects and senses to create a unique, compelling experience for her viewers. In the back room, four 16mm projectors are set on a loop, casting multicolored geometries on the opposite wall. The shapes emerge and fade, pulsing in a trance-like pattern that evokes 80’s Sci-Fi moves and 60’s hallucinogenics. Her gallerist notes that Kallal’s installation speaks “of endless collapse and rebirth through technology on the brink of obsolescence.” Maybe. It’s certainly worth seeing for yourself.

Last night, I managed to stop by an art opening at Magenta Plains gallery, another LES outpost, slightly farther East than Lyles & King. Magenta Plains was presenting their newest exhibition, which features three artists: Ellie Rines, Melissa Brown, and Aaron Aujla. I’ll be honest: I didn’t think much of Rines or Aujla’s work. Nor did I think much of the opening – the small rooms were packed with the hipsteriest of the hipster art crowd, all wearing overalls and mysterious sack-like garments while sipping PBR’s pulled from a cooler, with almost no one looking at the actual art. Down in the basement, the crowds thinned out a little – and it was there that I found Melissa Brown’s three paintings. The works are large-scale, double-sided paintings on corrugated aluminum. Arranged neatly and simply in a row of three against a wall, the works evoke Brown’s “Past, Present, Future” – they are artistic tarot cards. Her “Present” was the most striking to me: the center painting is a dizzying whirl of black and white, with decks of cards zooming up and down the composition in apparent motion. At the very center, an Ace of Spades confronts the viewer at the apex of one of the zooming arcs. Even to the artist, her Present is a superstitious mystery.

 

Not everything on the LES is good, I’ll admit. But it is fresh – which is good enough for me 

Kelsey Leonard