This Thursday night is the kickoff of Third Thursdays, a new monthly event from the LES Business Improvement District showcasing the Lower East Side’s flourishing arts scene. Galleries will be staying open until 9pm and the New Museum is offering free evening admission. As media sponsor of Third Thursdays, we’re pleased to begin a series of gallery profiles today. Last week, Traven, our photographer Jesse Jiryu Davis and I headed over to lower Orchard Street to get things started.
It’s easy to miss the diminutive storefront at 14a Orchard Street. Located just above Canal, on one of the neighborhood’s fastest changing blocks, Chinese signage, a big picture window and a small wooden bench serve as signals that you’ve arrived at the three-year old gallery, Invisible-Exports. But directors Risa Needleman and Benjamin Tischer didn’t need (or want) a grand space in Chelsea to make a strong statement.
A series of provocative shows have definitely gotten Invisible-Exports and its small roster of artists noticed. In 2009, the gallery featured a 30-year retrospective devoted to the work of the legendary underground musician, visual artist, performer and provocateur Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. At the time, P-Orridge was in the process of literally becoming his late wife. Last fall, performance artist Jana Leo‘s explicit yet ill-fated performance piece “Some Like it Cold,” which included a condom popsicle made from her own blood, cemented the gallery’s reputation as a place where almost anything can happen.
Explaining why she and Ben opened Invisible-Exports, Risa said, “we had the same aversion to the way some – not all, obviously – galleries in Chelsea were being run (with very large artist rosters but with only a few “stars” being lavished with attention). Ben added, “the gallery was a reaction to the blatant profit-making that was going on… We have an extremely small roster. Our goal is not only to sell art but to build careers.”
Traven was curious to know whether the gallery, in curating shows, has deliberately sought out provocateurs. The answer from both of them was an emphatic “no.” Invisible-Export’s mission, they said, is to be a place where artists feel they can be courageous, experiment with new concepts and be allowed to fail. “We are drawn to fascinating people who have interesting ideas that may not be in the mainstream,” Ben said. “Just for an artist to have room for failure is a huge deal and it doesn’t really exist many places.”
Much has been made of the Lower East Side gallery boom in the last few years. Ben and Risa have already seen their block transformed. Part of what attracted them to the neighborhood was its legendary diversity. Although gentrification is obviously occurring, they are not convinced it’s happening all that rapidly (especially below Delancey). Risa, whose family has lived for generations on the LES, said, “I think we have a lot of years ahead of us being a gallery district (before it becomes too gentrified).”
Right now, Invisible-Exports is exhibiting the works of New York-based deconstructionist sculptor Paul Gabrielli. In a show that turns the “everyday into the uncanny,” he challenges our definitions of art by creating whimsical assemblage pieces of almost truer than life objects.
Invisible-Exports is located at 14a Orchard Street, between Canal and Broome. Along with the other galleries taking part in Third Thursdays, it will be open until 9pm. For more information on the event, which will be offered every month through the fall, Visit the LES Business Improvement District’s web site.