New York is going arty this May. Madison Avenue BID’s Art & Design Weekend is fast approaching. Spring auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s are on this week, and Frieze New York, New York’s first live art fair in a year, kicked off last week. Galleries are open, some by appointment only, and new finds are everywhere.
And this coming Saturday, May 15th, a gaggle of galleries will be taking part in the Madison Avenue Spring Gallery Walk. The galleries are free and open to the public, with some of the participants offering timed curated talks and other presentations. Even though New York City is happily opening up, the galleries participating in the Walk have strict limits as to how many art fans are allowed entry at one time. And visitors need to be masked up.
On view will be everything from exhibits created during the pandemic from artists with very personal perspectives on time spent in lockdown to art from different centuries and cultures. The BID is also arranging another celebration on Madison: Students at New York’s School of Visual Arts, or SVA, who had their annual end-of-year show cancelled due to the pandemic. A whole different kind of exihibit for their works will be unveiled in some of the available shop windows on the Avenue. This is a big boost for the students as they, and all schools, could use some extra appreciation. You can visit the website and register for timed visits to the galleries and events you are interested in attending. Click on the link below and see what’s happening.
Acquavella Galleries has some fascinating new work by American Israeli artist Jacob El Hanani. The artist is know for his meticulous micro drawing on paper. Given that art on paper is hard to conserve, he used the last year’s broad swaths of time to develop his micrography skills on canvas.
The piece over the fireplace in the previous photograph is titled The Horizontal Hebrew Alphabet. The piece is ink on gessoed canvas. All of Mr. El Hanani’s work is painstakingly done.
The artist was at the gallery when I was there. He has been creating art using micrography for a long time. I asked him how he managed to not destroy his eyesight. Looking up and focusing on something far away every fifteen to twenty minutes is his solution. Good advice for screen-weary eyes.
A magnifying glass left on a mantlepiece lets visitors explore work in more depth. It is a great idea, as there are many things to discover in each piece. Viewing close-up and faraway offers different ideas.
The man on the right took advantage of the glass. Masked gallery goers are already enjoying the art.
On view on the ground floor is Eva Hesse / Hannah Wilke: Erotic Abstraction. Curated by Eleanor Nairne of London’s Barbican Art Gallery, it offers loaned pieces that intrigue. Both women created feminist, minimal art starting back in the ’60s and ’70s. We lost both of them too soon.
Acquavella, 18 East 79th Street
Around the corner at the Arader Gallery, there are floors of watercolors, prints, maps, books and other things. There is an important group of images of Plains tribes from Karl Bodmer that ties into an exhibit of his work at the Met. You can also find more Indian images by Georges Catlin.
Mr. Bodmer was a meticulous draftsman. Two finished works are for sale, along with preliminary sketches made for the watercolor portraits. The drawings and watercolors have amazing details.
A portrait of Sih-Chidä and Mahchsi-Karehde sits next to a study of Indian utensils by Karl Bodmer.
A 19th century view of the Brooklyn Bridge sits above a Currier and Ives image of the city of New York with the same bridge. There are maps and charts from around the world here. And if you love all things Audubon, there is a dedicated space just for nature lovers.
Arader Galleries, 1016 Madison Avenue
Korean artist Ran Hwang has a new exhibit at the Leila Heller gallery. The exhibit, titled Hope Springs Eternal, was created during the pandemic. The artist was looking for calming moments.
Ran Hwang lives and works in New York. The pieces are multi-layered, and are made of many using buttons, pins and other materials. The series follows small cherry blossoms as they bloom and fall.
This piece, Past Memories_R, is constructed on top of a mother-of-pearl inlaid Asian table top.
A handbag forms the basis of another piece. The artist conveys bright and joyful moments that look beyond the pandemic.
The luminous works reflect the artist’s deeply rooted beliefs in Zen Buddhism.
Leila Heller, 17 East 76 Street
I walked into the Levy Gorvy gallery as one exhibit was being installed on the ground floor. The Basquiat from 1982 at the back is part of a group show called A Perfect Day.
Heading upstairs I discovered a gallery full the work of Eleanore Mikus. Working in New York and later, Ithaca, New York, from the ’60s until her death in 2017, she created what she called Tablets.
The exhibit is called Voiceless Poems. The artist worked primarily in whites and blacks with the occasional neutral thrown in. Most of the works are oil on plywood. Not traditionaly painted, they were worked on the flat, with pigment layered and arranged. Somewhere between painting and reliefs.
There is also a wall covered with works on paper. The paper was hand folded with ink and other mediums applied to it. The works on paper are more colorful and just as texturally interesting.
Back downstairs, the Agenda 2030 by Michaelangelo Pistoletto was put in its proper place next to a 1984 Richard Diebenkirn, Ocean Park, 126. And yes, the detritus in the Pistoletto is a bunch of plastic bags. Very artfully arragned detritus, though. The room works beautifully.
Levy Gorvy, 909 Madison Avenue
A few blocks down Madison, I walked into the Baahng & Co. gallery to find the artist prepping her work. Sophie Matisse, the New York based artist of those Matisses, was putting the finishing touches on Secret Garden, a group of work conceived around the game and images of chess.
I came back later to see the pieces hung. Secret Garden I and Secret Garden II are made of chess pieces on tapestries. In the center sits The Nile (Not Just a River in Africa). The artist said that it was about things she discovered about herself during the pandemic.
If you are a chess player, Grafitti 101 will show a chess move that might be familiar. Not being a chess player, I enjoyed the mix of plush, peeling and placing.
Another chess-related hanging, with more symbols and moves, is built on a worn rug.
These pieces were also done during the pandemic. They were created with a view towards looking out. Something we all did over the last year. The ocean view at the right has a small North Star, not visible in this photograph, above the clouds meant to give hope and guide the way.
There are also some works by Jaye Moon in another room. The Wizard of Oz installation includes Hey What’s your dream and Paradise in Binary Code at the back of the room.
Baahng Gallery, 790 Madison Avenue, Fifth Floor
Rosenberg & Co. is showing works of two abstract expressionist artists, Jeffrey Wasserman and Beatrice Mandelman. Mr Wasserman was part of the New York dowtown art scene in the ’70s.
Abstract expressionism originated in New York City and quickly spread to other parts of the country. Two Wasserman pieces, The Garden Gate: A Man’s Estate and The New Dawn were done in the ’80s.
Beatrice Mandelman studied with Matisse and Leger, but she primarily worked in Taos, New Mexico. The influences of her teachers shows in a playful way. Both the artists conceived wildly colorful works of abstraction.
Rosenberg & Co., 19 East 66 Street
The Opera Gallery has a great variety of works by different artists on display. This sculpture of vintage Spanish royalty by Manolo Valdes greets you as you enter the space.
Niki de Saint Phalle is known for her earth mothery Nanas. This one was sculpted in marble, making it quite unique. If you want to see more of de Saint Phalle’s work, head out to MOMA PS1.
Anthony James is an English artist who works in reflected light. Staring into the pieces is mezmerizing. He does indeed sculpt with light.
This is only a small taste of the many galleries participating in the Madison Avenue Spring Art Walk this coming Saturday, May 15th. Make a day of it by planning to have a nice lunch on the Avenue, then visit your pick of galleries, and perhaps do some shopping. And while you’re on the Avenue, check out the SVA student’s work at 698, 700, 777, 779, 781 and 926 Madison Avenue. Maybe these new artists will one day make it into the galleries on The Walk.
Opera Gallery, 791 Madison Avenue
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.