Friday, November 05, 2010

In Unfamiliar Places

I am such a big fan of Yoshitomo Nara (I even have the iPhone app) and glad to see his adolescent girls on Park Avenue as an lead-in to Nobody's Fool, the exhibition of his work on the second and third floors of the Asia Society. I've always loved Nara's drawing hand, and I remember the first time I saw some of the drawings a year or so ago - the sensitivity with which the eyes were rendered was completely unexpected. Clearly the time he spent in Germany influenced the way he uses graphite, and his early paintings too have a very Germanic way with narrative.

That narrative space has given way to simpler backgrounds for his dogs and children. In recent years, Nara has been working in collaboration with YNG to create shacks as sites for exhibitions of the figures he produces. Many of these "rooms" and spaces were built specifically for the Asia Society show. There's a distinct connection to medieval iconography in the isolation of the suffering or disaffected child, whether that figure is sited in a two-dimensional field of paint or in a room constructed of recycled materials.

Further wanderings yesterday took me down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass for First Thursday. I'd read two stories on Hyperallergic, one about underground art in Vegas, and the other in New York -  art created by and about people who live below the streets. This is a subject of the moment - there is also an exhibition of photographs at 111 Front Street about street people. The new Kunsthalle Galapagos on Main Street in Dumbo has the feeling of being underground, in spite of the fact that it's on the top floor of Galapagos Art Space, a former horse stable. At the Dumbo Arts Center, you can enter a labyrinth of thousands of locally sourced cardboard boxes. I reflected on the fact that this might be housing for less fortunate members of society and though I never thought I would get lost in it, I did at least lose my sense of direction, wondered whether I could slip through some of the narrower passages, and in the end came out where I went in much sooner than expected. Pigeonhole is on exhibit through November 14th.

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