Tag Archives: Kenny Scharf

Black Mark in Chelsea

Most Thursdays I do a gallery crawl, but not today, in Melbourne the rain pouring down every hour. I regularly do a gallery crawl on a Thursdays, going around to as many different galleries as possible to get good sample of what is showing, a quest to discover something new. A few weeks ago I was in New York on a Thursday and the weather was cool and sunny. And there are a lot more galleries a few blocks in Chelsea than there are in all of Fitzroy, Collingwood, Richmond and the CBD combined.

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There was not much different in the exhibitions, the same range of art from the brash and kitsch, the bland and commercial, and the ordinary to the exceptional. And there were usual percentage of galleries closed for installations or other reasons.

I had already been out to the Dumbo district, I didn’t get out to the artist run galleries and other more alternative spaces in Brooklyn, as many weren’t open until the weekend. I liked what I saw in Dumbo, not just in the galleries there was quality art everywhere, in bookshops, on the streets and on hoarding around a building site. It had the best stencil art that I saw in NYC. I buy two second hand books: a biography of Gilbert and George and a book about Banksy. It is sweet district. Most of the galleries in the Dumbo district are in one building at 111 Front Street, it was like a warm up for what I was to see in Chelsea.

Super heroes exhibition in Dumbo, NYC

Super heroes exhibition in Dumbo, NYC

Every building in a few blocks of Chelsea is full of galleries, sometimes two or four floors of galleries. Street after street, from West 19th St. up 29th St., ten blocks of galleries. I picked up a map of the galleries by Art in America magazine but I didn’t need it, as the streets were full of them. 181 galleries were listed on the map. There really aren’t many other businesses on these streets but on 10th Avenue at the end of each block you wouldn’t know that it was a gallery district, it is all car repairs, taxi businesses and gas stations. Up above this is the strange overhead park, the High Line, built on a disused elevated train line. I would have stayed longer on the High Line but it was more crowded with pedestrians than the street below.

Chelsea’s street level galleries are big and brash, when they do installations at a Chelsea gallery there is a truck with a crane and plywood sheets laid down to protect the gallery’s polished concrete or wood floor. On one block there were limos lined up from one end of the block to the other on one street, waiting for some event to finish. The galleries on the floors are more varied in their style and content.

Not that the artwork was all that great, it was the usual mix of bland commercialism to good art, emerging and established artists. Some of it was so bad that I wonder how some of these galleries pay the rent but there was enough good work to keep me interested, and walking from gallery to gallery. I’m not expecting to have an epiphany every block and there are plenty of entertaining stickers and paste-ups along the way to enjoy.

Chelsea stickers

Chelsea stickers

The new Jeff Koons exhibition wouldn’t open until next week and the gallery with the Kenny Scharf exhibition was closed so I didn’t get to see any exhibitions by any famous artists. These are some of the artists who did catch my eye like Jennifer Balkan and John McCarthy at Eleanor Ettinger Gallery. Or James Gortner’s paintings at Lyons Wier Gallery are magnificent; Gortner recycling op-shop paintings that he uses as material for a collage painting to which he adds femme fatale heads. And Randall Stoltzfus’s paintings at Black Space are beautiful, like the love child of Monet and the Klimt.

Kenny Scharf, Chelsea, NYC

Kenny Scharf, Chelsea, NYC

The Chelsea galleries are mostly commercial, some more than artistic, but I did see Doosan Gallery a Korean, not for profit space. I considered this fortuitous, as I will soon be visiting Korea and I will be writing about the art I see there.


Paintspotting in America

Paintspotter, noun, definition: like a trainspotter but for people who look for street art and graffiti (a portmanteau word coined by Fletcher “Facter” Anderson, editor of Invurt).

Stencil Dumbo district NYC

Stencil Dumbo district NYC

I’ve recently returned from travelling in Canada, New York and Boston. When I visit other cities I am a stranger trying to get to know the place, finding the hidden places where street artists and graffiti writers like to work is even more challenging. I try to find a street art tour or a local who knows the scene but often this is not possible. I probably am not seeing the best locations for street art in these cities. Street art is such an insider’s game and that makes it difficult for a tourist to play. In this respect sticker art is the travelling paintspotter’s friend because it gives you a sample of local street art conveniently located on the backs of signs.

Railway graffiti Canada

Railway graffiti Canada

The way to see lots of graffiti is to travel by train. It is not a good way to photograph graffiti but it is a good way to see a lot (respect to all the Bridgeport writers). I did to train trips from Ottawa and Montréal and from NYC to Boston. The best graffiti that I saw in Canada was in Montréal’s plateau district; there were also a couple of impressive walls in London Ontario.

Wall, London, Ontario, Canada

Wall, London, Ontario, Canada

Street art in Montreal

Street art in Montreal

Of the notorious or famous artist whose work I saw Revok up high up in Montréal, Neckface high up in NYC’s Bowery, Shepard Fairey in the Bowery and a piece by Kenny Scharf in Chelsea – Scharf had an exhibition in a gallery just across the road but it was shut so I could only see it through the large windows.

Shepard Fairy Bowery NYC

Shepard Fairy Bowery NYC

Kenny Scharf, Chelsea, NYC

Kenny Scharf, Chelsea, NYC

Another way to find graffiti is to track down the art galleries and there will often be some street art and graffiti in the area. This rule proved true for NYC’s Dumbo district where I saw some of the best street art that I saw in NYC. I didn’t any further into Brooklyn but there was so so many things other that I wanted to see and do in NYC.

Graffiti Wall of Fame, Harlem, NYC

Graffiti Wall of Fame, Harlem, NYC

In Lonely Planet I read about the “Graffiti Hall of Fame”, a wall in NYC but when I got there it was small and capped. The other side of the wall was in better condition but less accessible. So there was I standing on the corner of this street in Harlem asking people passing by if they knew of any other good graffiti locations – New York is a very friendly city but nobody knew of any good walls.

Reverse side of the Graffiti wall of fame, Harlem, NYC

Reverse side of the Graffiti wall of fame, Harlem, NYC

I was just lucky in Boston on the way to the Barry McGee exhibition (see my post) I left the T station and right in front of me is this great wall by Os Gêmeos.

Os Gêmeos, Boston

Os Gêmeos, Boston


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