Midtown, New York
The problem of the white cube.
Every gallery laments, at point or another, the sterility that the standard white interior environment creates for any show. Though a blank canvas of a space, so to speak, can enhance the pieces within a show, drawing the gaze to the art instead of its surroundings, the repetitive banality of the all-white interior can also create strictly limiting physical and sociological confines. In the new show To Be a Lady , curator Jason Andrew is does not have to contend with this problem. Organized by Norte Maar, the show is housed at 1285 Avenue of the Americas Gallery, or, more literally, the lobby of the UBS building on Sixth Avenue.
This incredibly survey of many venerable women artists (Louise Bourgeois, Alice Neel, Nancy Grossman, and many more) focused on the physicality of each piece. Andrew said that though all of the artists played with and challenged gender roles and identities in different manners, thus subverting the traditional meaning of what being a lady is, what drew him most to the works shown was their strong tactility. The setting for such a show was perfect: 1285 Avenue of the Americas Gallery is set up as a series of panels on both ends of the UBS lobby, which itself is a study in rich, dark wood and light-filtering glass. Opening night found the gallery populated by both those wishing to appreciate the art, and bankers gliding through the space, catching a glimpse of what was on the walls while on their way to or from the office.
Andrew's physicality manifested itself in many ways. The flatness, sharpness, and popping monochromatic color of Susan Weil's acrylic on masonite Sitting Squarely (left) was worlds away from the multi-dimensional chaos of Nancy Grossman's leather collage Potawatami (right).
Louise Bourgeois' Life Flower I (left) spiraled in elegant, invigorating, and perpetual motion, while Genesis Breyer P-Orridge's Amnion Folds (right) used a softness in the amalgamation of unidentifiable, amorphous body parts to create images that were paradoxically disturbing and comforting.
There were works in the more traditional medium of paint and canvas as well. Irene Rice Perreira's Progression of Reds was anchored by a single square of orange paint towards the center of the piece that drew the eye towards it like lightning. The rest of the composition seemed to careen out from this off-center element, multiplying in complexity and beauty.
Charmion von Wiegand's To the Adi Buddha (left) was placed right next to Alma Thomas' Red Scarlet Sage (right) in one of the first panels. Their sharp geometric shapes played off one another. The red and white of Thomas' piece brought to mind a dried, cracked earth that fit together haphazardly while von Wiegand's delicately balanced triangles together communicated strength and force through their outward-facing orientation.
There is too much notable art in this show to be able to do it justice in this platform. Look at all of the photos we have to offer here, but more importantly, go see the show for yourself: the variety, beauty, and subtle tinge of subversion, the take on what it means to be a lady, will make it worth your while. I promise.
To Be a Lady is on view from September 24th, 2012 - January 18th, 2013 at 1285 Avenue of the Americas Gallery.