The frantic pace and manic energy of New York City life seem to slacken when urbanites abandon their concrete enclaves for wide-open spaces and greener pastures. The exodus of so many New Yorkers can make Chelsea feel less intense for three glorious months. Art galleries respond to this seasonal shift by mounting that ubiquitous thing known as the summer group show. While some galleries invite guest curators to organize quirky or ambitious shows others return to their roots offering exhibitions that highlight their best artists and artworks.
Summer shows are designed to match the mood of the season: relaxed, indulgent, wistful, and fun. “Compilation” at Jack Shainman successfully embodies that summer feeling without pandering to it. The exhibition features a number of well-regarded artists and readily recognizable works, but it is not only El Anatsui’s wall-sized bottle cap tapestries or Nick Cave’s sound suits that merit a visit. “Compilation” deserves more than a quick stroll because the real gems are not the blockbuster pieces.
Radcliffe Bailey, Untitled, 2012, gouache, collage, glitter, and ink on sheet music, 12 1/8 x 9 inches; Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.
Radcliffe Bailey’s beautiful mixed media collages present evocative investigations of history, memory, experience, culture, and imagination. Pages of sheet music are nearly obscured by swirling washes of color, creating regal scenes on which images of classical African sculptures are layered. Leslie Wayne creates a visceral experience of painting with her signature, small-scale works. Like many painters of her generation, Wayne seeks to push the bounds of abstraction in her paintings by incorporating elements of sculpture. Thick, dynamic layers of paint are applied and layered on canvas then shaped and molded entirely anew. The chunky cream colored pigment of Paint/Rag #20 (2013) is flecked with bits of lavender, orange, and custard; its draped and pleated form recalling the precision of its name. Susana Solano has created drawings, collages, and other works on paper throughout her career, although she is best known as a sculptor. Here she presents two unassuming collages (both Untitled) that echo the influence of Minimalism, which is the undergird of her human-scaled sculptures.
Susana Solano, Untitled, 2007, collage, 9 3/8 x 9 1/2 inches; Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.
While it may often seem that New York City’s summer gallery exhibitions cater to a mainstream audience with a smattering of familiar objects and name-artists, I am always pleasantly surprised when these shows manage to offer something new or remind me of why those artists and those works are worth a look anyway. “Compilation” does both. It’s a thoughtful exhibition that is flexible enough to be enjoyed by art world aficionados and laymen alike.
(Image on top: Leslie Wayne, Paint/Rag #20, 2013, oil on panel , 11 x 13 inches; Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery)