Roving Eye: A Walk on the Wild Side


I live downtown, and on the weekends my favorite pastime is to see art on the Lower East Side. For me, meandering is also often a trip down memory lane. I have a history in New York City, particularly this neighborhood. In the early 1900s, my great-grandfather owned a vegetable stand between two buildings at Houston and Second Avenue, where he sold fruit and vegetables. I was always told that he catered to the ladies. His was one of the few covered spaces protecting young mothers, who could pull their baby carriages into the store when the weather was bad. I wonder what he would think of the LES today.

Touring galleries on the LES is an experience of discovery and enjoyment. At these still-young galleries, the proprietors will in many cases greet you warmly from the front desk. They’re open to conversation, take time to explain the artists’ work, and are not afraid to debate about the art, or anything far beyond, for that matter. Don’t get me wrong: the owners in the LES are there to sell, but in most galleries a strong emphasis is on conversation and education.

On my most recent loop, I stopped at Sue Scott Gallery and saw a Malcolm Morley show of prints. I had just spotted Malcolm at a restaurant uptown looking dapper in a charming matching suit in red and green. I went on to Eleven Rivington, Lehmann Maupin and On Stellar Rays. At the latter I saw the group exhibition “Face Time,” where I encountered for the first time the ’70s work of the Frenchman Michel Journiac (1935–1995), an artist who made work on gender and the body. I followed it up with a trip to Feature Inc. to see a beautiful suite of anonymous tantra paintings from India that Hudson, the owner, was eager to discuss. Then off to James Fuentes to see Barry MacGregor Johnston’s photos, and then Rachel Uffner Gallery, Miguel Abreu Gallery and Lisa Cooley Fine Art. At Lisa Cooley the dealer and I spoke in the office below a chandelier by Andy Coolquitt. The fixture was made with found objects and must have made a big impression, because I still have it on my mind as I write today.

Next, visiting Untitled, I spoke with gallery co-owner Joel Mesler, and inquired about Henry Taylor’s upcoming exhibition at the gallery in March. I crossed the street and went to Stephan Stoyanov Gallery to see Hannah Barrett’s exhibition, and visiting the basement, I found collages, as well. Then off to Reena Spaulings Fine Art for Klara Liden’s latest show, an installation of recycled Christmas trees.

Often on my way home near Canal I stop in at Canada Gallery before heading south on Bowery. I passed the First Shearith Israel Graveyard, the only remaining 17th century structure in Manhattan, at the rear of a tenement building at St. James triangle.

Michel Journiac, Hommage à Freud, 1972.