Last Friday night there were two LES gallery openings that seemed to brilliantly, if not purposefully, speak to one another. The first show, “Wells Street Gallery: Then and Now” at the Lesley Heller Workspace was full to the brim, where patrons of all ages were spilling out of the entrance and onto the sidewalk. The show was curated by Jason Andrew whose “curatorial projects bridge gaps left in art history,” and bridge he certainly did.
The pioneering Wells Street Gallery from Chicago put abstract artists like John Chamberlain and Robert Natkin on the map. The show not only features work from the era of 1957-1959, including a remarkable, and now rusted, 1956 steel sculpture, “G.G.” by Chamberlain, but also new paintings and sculpture from the artists, which creates a dialogue between past and present. Gerald Van De Wiele’s carved wood sculpture from 2008, “Voice of Caves,” does precisely this when seen in context with his 1957 painting “Quarry,” Tucked away in a corner, in the back of the gallery, there are also hidden treasures of old posters from the Wells Street Gallery. Illustrated with old gorgeous typography they announce openings from forgotten shows of the past, along side one set in an LES gallery “circa 2010.”
Four blocks over, and up two dark flights of stairs (next to Happy Vacation Travel), was another packed opening at JANE KIM/ thrust projects (above). This show attracted a younger and hipper crowd. “Random Individuals Seeking a Dealer” presented the digital photos of four recent photography graduates from the Rhode Island School of Design on a single, uncut roll of ink-jet photo paper that wrapped around the space. This seemed to almost band the artists together in their united (press-release) “Plea to the public to consider the plight of young artists graduating from art school without a dealer.” Amanda Dandeneau’s enchanting nude portraits of a woman (who seems to be her mother), Tre Cassetta’s mysterious female portraits, Tom Prado’s clever urban shots, and Jeff Barnett-Winsby’s popping and colorful landscape photographs weave together a certain and strange contemporary narrative onto the ink-jet paper—a narrative world’s away from the historical Lesley Heller show.