Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Westward Ho

The changes that New York City has undergone over the past decade or two are well publicized. It is far safer, cleaner and generally more livable than ever. Of course, as always, there are the detractors. There are those who charge that the changes have rendered the city soulless, uninteresting, that the very spirit that once made New York great is now dead.

In general, I find these laments somewhat absurd. I can't imagine that anyone really wants a return to the "old New York". I personally don't need to be riding subway cars that derail on a regular basis or to be accosted by miscreants as I walk down the street to feel that I am having an authentic life experience.

But I do understand the sentiment on some level. We all like to feel braver, tougher and more cutting edge than we are. And living somewhere that requires bravery and toughness can serve to cultivate the fantasy. I recall experiencing a brief frisson while wandering with my friend Rob through a particularly dark, deserted neighborhood in Philadelphia in the shadow of a decommissioned power plant in search of a Super Furry Animals show. And Marissa and I did feel quite hip attending a gallery party in the same Philadelphia neighborhood in what I can only assume was an abandoned industrial building. But both times, the excitement gave way to outright fear at certain points, which cast a decidedly unpleasant cast over the evenings. Ideally I'd have the cool without the scary.

So when I came across Far West Chelsea for the first time years ago, I was convinced that I had hit the motherlode. Just inaccessible enough to have remained vaguely gritty

it has retained enough of its industrial character


to be considered by the art world a suitably provocative place in which to locate galleries. And it is just accessible enough such that the moneyed classes were willing to follow the artists, resulting in safe streets and some adventurous architecture

by the venerable Mr. Gehry, Mr. Nouvel and Ms. Selldorf. And the Metal Shutter Houses, the renderings of which I admired a year ago, has now established itself in the pantheon as well. The amenities in the area are not bad either.

After brunch with a couple of friends at Trestle on Tenth this past weekend, I could hardly leave one of my favorite areas without checking out a few exhibitions that I'd been hearing about in the neighborhood galleries.

Gagosian's exhibition of Anselm Reyle's work put a smile on my face almost immediately. A myriad of shapes covered in brightly colored metallic finishes is almost always a mood enhancer...

photo: The New York Times

photo: Contemporary Art Daily

...especially when said shape is a hay bale.

photo: ArtNet Magazine

I'm not sure I can say the same thing about nude photos of Charlotte Rampling and a young model in the Louvre...

photo: Lehman Maupin Gallery

...but I have a small obsession with Ms. Rampling so can kind of overlook Juergen Teller's seemingly careless photography. Strange...I've always liked those Marc Jacobs ads of his. I suppose everyone has an off day now and again. It's just too bad that his occurred in the Louvre while photographing one of the more compelling women around.

After wandering for a few blocks, walking through the irresistible new Balenciaga and Comme des Garcons stores on the way, I came across the highlight of my day--Maya Lin's "Three Ways of Looking at the Earth" at Pace Wildenstein.

Three different topographies, presented in three different mediums, from three different perspectives...



...it was one of those installations that you could spend ages wandering around and through. And I did, until the light outside begin to fade.

8 comments:

vicki archer said...

How wonderful to be able to meander these galleries at leisure...great post, xv.

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

Laura...what great writing...wonderful..you are good !
Very Good....

Love the art galleries too. I am jealous of that one.

Ahhhh...living in New York City. I am envious...

I know about the "creepy feeling" in a big city. When we go to L.A. I stare out the car window at those"industrial" sections.Wonder what is going on there. Who lives there? Am glad that I am safe. Have taken a wrong turn going to a Lakers game one year..and I've never forgotten it. Was this America? Yikes.....

Stay cozy.....
Kary

Laura [What I Like] said...

Vicki - Thanks so much...it is quite the privilege to have them so close.

My Farmhouse Kitchen - Yes, I prefer the sanitized industrial neighborhoods rather than the real industrial neighborhoods...

Laura in Paris said...

Thank you for the tour. I have not been in NY for many (too many?) years.

Laura [What I Like] said...

Laura in Paris - come visit!!

Jane said...

You are a lucky lucky girl. Sadly we are a bit art deprived in Aust. There are lots of great local artists but quality can be variable and then when we get exhibitions (like the disappointing Degas one) they have been badly curated.... I guess its just a very small market here.

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

My first visit to Chelsea, I didn't much care for it. Somehow it didn't feel "New York" enough to me for some reason. And I was bothered that SoHo was losing its center-of-the-art-world hold to Chelsea. But on subsequent visits I fell hard for it. There is something amazing about having so much art--much of it insanely important--concentrated in one place. Were I ever to manage to move to New York, the level of art there would be my single biggest reason for doing so. I'm really glad you take advantage of it, Laura.

The Townhouselady said...

I loved this post. Great read. I used to live in Chelsea (24th btw 9th & 10th) back in the early 90's during my FIT days. Before it became gentrified so to speak.

I knew 'the change' had begun the year before the landlord decided to DOUBLE our rent and ending my Chelsea days.

Great area. Great Post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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