Art In The City: 3 Progressive Picks From Uptown to Downtown By: Steve V. Rodriguez

Last week,  on a beautiful Spring day in New York City, I visited three  new  progressive art exhibits covering some extensive territory including both east and west  sides. From Uptown’s Guggenheim Museum to Downtown’s Deitch Projects Gallery which unfortunately will close at the end of May, I ended my day in Chelsea at Gallery 1500’s brand new Brazilian photographic exhibit.

Artist Julie Mehretu Photo: Mark Hanauer

Artist Julie Mehretu Photo: Mark Hanauer

Starting Uptown at the Guggenheim Museum you’ll want to check out the new exhibit by Julie Mehretu entitled “Grey Area”. Part of The Deutsche Bank Series at the Guggenheim, “Grey Area” features six new large-scale paintings that range to approximately 10 x 14 feet in size. Don’t let the title of the series fool you, these six paintings are very complex and worth seeing in person. Mehretu’s work is inspired by an eclectic pool of sources including historical photographs, urban planning grids, modern art, and graffiti. From a distance, each painting  can appear muted and calm especially positioned together in the Guggenheim’s Annex Tower 2. However, the ‘Grey’ appears to be an intersection of divergent powers, wars and built environments that are highly energized and have clearly affected the artist. This duality of past wars reflected in Mehretu’s acrylic and ink paintings combined with an urban optimism, merge somewhere in each painting reflecting a ‘grey’ world of the artist’s reflections, vision and overall message which include notions of co-existence, modernity and destruction.

Mehretu had a residency at the Amercian Academy in Berlin in 2007 which is portrayed in “Grey Area” particularly in the painting, “Believer’s Palace”.  The painting reflects Berlin’s dichotomy of war versus a city of immense urban growth. “Grey Area” runs from May 14th – October 6, 2010. While you visit the Guggenheim make sure you check out their other current exhibit, “Haunted” and our video profile of the exhibit here. The Guggenheim: 1071 5th Avenue & E 89th Street.

Believer's Palace, 2008-09 Ink and acrylic on canvas by Julie Mehretu

Believer's Palace, 2008-09 Ink and acrylic on canvas by Julie Mehretu

Moving all the way downtown to Wooster Street in Soho I highly recommend Shepard Fairey’s current exhibit, “May Day” which goes until May 29th so hurry fast as this will be Deitch Projects final exhibit. “May Day” reflects Fairey’s multiple meanings of the title,  which originally meant a celebration of spring and the rebirth that it represents. May Day is also present in many countries as International Worker’s Day, a day of political demonstrations and celebrations coordinated by unions and socialist groups. “Mayday” is also the distress signal used by pilots, police and firefighters in times of emergency.

Shepard Fairey "May Day" Exhibit

Shepard Fairey "May Day" Exhibit

Just like his famous image that catapulted Fairey in 2008 for his “HOPE” portrait of Barack Obama, “May Day” uses portraiture to celebrate some of the artists, musicians and political activists he most admires. Says Fairey, “These people I’m portraying were all revolutionary, in one sense or another. They started out on a the margins of culture and ended up changing the mainstream. When we celebrate big steps that were made in the past, it reminds us that big steps can be made in the future.”

IMG_4045

Keith Haring by Shepard Fairey for "May Day" Exhibit

Basquiat by Shepard Fairey for "May Day" Exhibit

Basquiat by Shepard Fairey for "May Day" Exhibit

Just like in Julie Mehretu’s “Grey Area”, Fairey’s “May Day” requires a deeper look into each piece. On the surface many of these paintings celebrate Fairey’s icons but, look closer and you’ll also see reflections on  political, environmental, economic and cultural unrest.  “By now we thought we would be in post-Bush utopia, but we’re still having to call attention to problems,” Fairey states….”…if we put our ideas out there, then maybe we can make a change like the people in the portraits have done.”

“May Day” runs until May 29th at Deitch Projects. Deitch Projects: 18 Wooster Street

11500 Gallery Owner, Alexandre Bueno de Moraes and Photographer Bruno Cals

11500 Gallery Owner, Alexandre Bueno de Moraes and Photographer Bruno Cals

To round out my day I headed to the new photographic exhibit at 1500 Gallery by Photographer, Bruno Cals entitled “Horizons”. Each of the large scale photographs captures Cals’  unique perspective on horizons. Shot in Japan, Argentina, New York and his own country Brazil, many of the images are of buildings as seen through Cals’ lens creating a beautiful horizon in an otherwise urban landscape. After talking to Cals, he shared with me that growing up in Rio it was easy to open your door and find beauty however, he has managed to find and create the same beauty upon living and visiting cities like New York and Sao Paulo.

Palermo by Bruno Cals at 1500 Gallery NY

Palermo by Bruno Cals at 1500 Gallery NY

Avenida Paulista by Bruno Cals at 1500 Gallery NY

Avenida Paulista by Bruno Cals at 1500 Gallery NY

The idea of two-dimensionality is reflected in many of Cals photographs allowing the viewer to take in the work from a fresh perspective and hopefully look beyond what is directly in your eyeline but, rather into limitless possibilities. “Horizons” runs through July 31st, 2010 at 1500 Gallery.

Check out our video profile of 1500 Gallery here! 1500 Gallery: 511 West 25th Street #607