A Walker in Photo CityChelsea First Thursday - November 5, 2015Norman Borden
First Thursdays in New York are usually fraught with a heightened sense of expectation; there are numerous new exhibitions to see and many opportunities to be seen. You wonder what the night will bring. Hey, if you're a New York based millennial+ with some interest in the arts, there are worse things you could do than spending an evening in Chelsea hobnobbing with like-minded individuals. Or so it seemed from the crowds wandering in and out of galleries open for the event. On West 26th Street, I was disappointed to learn that Stephen Kasher Gallery had closed for the evening, the opening reception had been held the week before. I'd been looking forward to seeing Thomas Roma's “In the Vale of Cashmere.” I'll be back. Robert Mann Gallery also had its opening the week before so I wouldn't be able to view Holly Andres's “The Fallen Fawn” that night. Her work intrigues me: in this new exhibition, she recounts her childhood memories of her older sister's encounter with a woman's lost suitcase. The story unfolds through the use of nineteen cinematic images, many of them mysterious. I want to see them up close: maybe next week.
The Andrea Meislin Gallery was open for “a 7th option” by Israeli artist Ilit Azolay whose work is also included in a concurrent installation at MoMA's recently opened Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015 exhibition. Curated by Jonathan Touitou, her show at Meislin is comprised of a 36-foot long panorama that literally wraps around the gallery. Azoulay traveled around Germany to collect and photograph objects and architectural fragments and then created an open-ended narrative with no definitive ending: the viewer is invited to complete the story. An impressive, detailed monograph that accompanies the exhibition provides details about the genesis of her photographs.
For example, “Exhibit 76: Molar Tooth, Summary of Findings: Tooth number 36 from the bottom jaw of Saint Wolfgang of Regensburg; The sixteenth century preserved molar tooth is displayed in a golden reliquary in the crypt of the All Saints Chapel in Regensburg…Internal church documents reveal that about 70 years after his death, 16 of the saint's surviving teeth were distributed among 16 major Catholic churches." This is a complex, fascinating work of art that demands the viewer's time and attention.
Back on West 26th Street, the Benrubi Gallery was half-closed, meaning the door was open but not for long. I went inside for a quick look at Laura McPhee's powerful exhibition, “The Home and the World, a View of Calcutta.”
McPhee offers a unique perspective on life in this city of 15 million people, showing the effects of nature on the built environment; the mix of culture and class, the dichotomy of tenement and palace, antique and modern. As might be expected in India, vivid color is on display, whether in works of art or in architectural details. One stunning example is the 2005 image, Puja (Prayer) Room, Sikka Palace (Now Replaced by High Rise Apartment Blocks). Also revealing is her series of “Driveway Portraits” where the artist captures pedicab drivers, street entertainers and domestic servants posing for her. In all, McPhee's exhibition is a revealing, intimate portrait of a city of contrasts and color.