Fighting saber-toothed tigers, strange woodland creatures, giant Japanese robots and more greeted us on our latest hop through the 57th Street galleries last Saturday. Just trekking up to the area’s off-street-level galleries in hushed, low-traffic buildings felt like an adventure, enhanced by sometimes otherworldy shows.
No one delivers drama in an art gallery quite like Williamsburg-based artist E.V. Day, who was inspired by a residency in San Antonio (where she had plenty of studio space) to suspend the skeletons of two female saber-toothed tigers locked in a catfight of epic proportions in Mary Boone’s low-ceilinged gallery. Held taut by hundreds of lines of monofilament, the dueling creatures lacked muscle and flesh yet still impressed. Silver-leafed claws and teeth added a decorative and feminine touch, an essential characteristic for Day, who explains that fighting females attract an audience.
Already awed by nature, we proceeded to discover outlandishly eccentric ceramic sculptures by Catskills-based artist Kathy Ruttenberg at Stephan Stux’s new uptown location. Inspired by trips to the North and South Pole, as well as her wooded mountain environment, Ruttenberg’s mermaids – one with a whale as a pet – and tree-hugging, high heeled forest dwellers transported us into a richly imagined world in which flora, fauna and human life have merged.
Downstairs at Marian Goodman, we took the vision of nature to an expanded scale, experiencing globe-trotting artist Gabriel Orozco’s latest mediation on how art and life come full circle. Boomerangs hand-crafted by the artist and still partly attached to the wood from which they were fashioned introduced the idea of a journey that ends where it starts. A cell phone case with stickers, a painting of the planet from space, and an ashtray in the form of a globe with a tiny replica of Sputnik all brought the idea of orbits to mind; in the back gallery elegant and ephemeral new paintings made with a compass featured a never ending pattern of circular forms that eclipsed other circular forms.
Across the street, we encountered another notion of a connect world in constant motion at Benrubi’s Gallery’s selection of work from Matthew Pillsbury’s new Tokyo series. Trees loaded with gorgeous cherry blossoms, dazzling light shows at the Robot Restaurant and the disorienting multi-faceted mirrored entrance to Tokyu Plaza shopping mall presented the city as non-stop spectacle. By contrast, the Tokyo stock exchange seemed eerily quiet – its operations overtaken by computers.
The presence or absence of technology was at the core of the artwork we saw at our last stop – a group exhibition of photographs ‘made, not taken’ at Marianne Boesky’s quirky 64th Street townhouse gallery. On three narrow floors, eighteen artists shunned or embraced Photoshop, labored in the darkroom and took their photo-making processes outdoors. Results included Mariah Robertson’s impressively long image on a scroll of photo paper created with dripped chemicals and multiple exposures, constructions using industrial materials by abstract photography ‘foremother’ Barbara Kasten, and Arthur Ou’s shimmery paintings made from silver halide mixed with dirt for texture. Witnessing so many processes and artistic visions were the perfect way to inspire the creative juices as we ended our gallery jaunt.