On October 17th, in the bustling and windy streets of the Lower East Side in Manhattan, about 20 galleries officially kicked off the start of the first inaugural Lower East Side Art Week. In the hopes of boosting gallery attendance and creating more programming, such as artist talks, tours, performances, and panel discussions, Lesley Heller and Bart Keijsers Koning, both gallery administrators themselves, organized the week, which spans from October 17th to 21st.
Each gallery participating is within walking distance. Throughout the week, there will be different dedicated events at each gallery in the hopes to create a better understanding of each gallery and the artist’s voices they hold. To make the week special, each gallery decided to exhibit a female artist or group of female artists including both emerging and established artists. From feminist displays to intellectual inquiries on limitations of the human body, these exhibits amplify the voice of female artists and attempt to balance the gender gap in the art world.
Liz Collins’s exhibition Conduition resides on the first floor of the LMAKgallery, while protest signs from the Women’s March titled Still they Persist is located on the second floor. Collins’s work is sculptural and uses texture, material, and stimulating color to evoke the flow, fields, and vibrations of the movement of energy. Each piece is meant to have its own identity and represents a duality, such as chaos/order or tension/release. Meanwhile, the second floor’s signs, posters, and other apparel from the Women’s March represent the current feelings of oppression and frustration women have been feeling towards the social, cultural, and political environment. These two exhibitions could not be more different, yet each belongs to the LES Art Week’s exhibitions and rest easily within the theme.
Portraiture also found a home at the Lower East Side’s Art Week. Two artists, represented in two different galleries, have unique takes on the subject. Jessie Edelman’s Muse exhibition at the Denny Dimin Gallery seeks a disidentification of the figures she paints. In this, she wants her floating graphic figures with organic contoured outlines to disrupt specifity and embrace ecumenical power. Each figure is a muse, meant to rework symbolic, iconic and allegorical meanings: an ambitious task in a society that craves literal representation in portraiture.
Yet, literal representation in portraiture is not forgotten or rare, as proven by Amy Hill’s Back to Nature series featured at the Front Room Gallery. Hill’s paintings address the culture, fashion, and political climate of the 1960s. Using comparisons, Hill has paralleled 19th-century American folk art painting to the culture of the 1960s and anxiety of the Vietnam War. The works also echo today’s movements towards sustainability and current society’s own way of returning back to the land. Hill’s images directly reflect the anticonsumerist environment that was an essential time in forming her own attitudes towards life.
In the Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, Rachel Monosov’s The Blind Leader show comments on both large and small social implications that have been addressed through an autobiographical context. Her piece titled The Waiting Room is a metal fencing enclosure, which provides either a physical or mental closure for space within. The cultural context that viewers place on the fence makes them obedient to its entrapment, even though the fence could be surpassed. This piece becomes both a commentary on the social conditions people subject themselves to and the sense of “waiting” as an existential state of existence. Similarly, each of her models creates a scenario that comments on social construction.