Midtown Manhattan Gallery Tour

Manhattan galleries have been sucked from their Upper East Side niches into the immense maw of Chelsea, with its impersonal streets, very occasional eateries, and definitely deplorable transit service. Still the diehards remain, peppering the 57th street area with the artistic offspring of earlier times and the occasional interesting newcomer who might be lost elsewhere in the lower regions.

A casual stroll around midtown on Saturday allows the perennial art stalker to revisit the work of some well-known artists, such as Joan Brown, Gene Davis and Beatrice Mandelman, all working creatively in the 1970s, work that looks just as avant-garde in 2013.

Mandelman was a Taos Modernist, associated with the artists colony of New Mexico since the 1940s. She studied in Paris with Leger, later forming artistic relationships with both East Coast and Bay Area artists. She worked through much of the 1990s and her paintings can be found in the collections of museums both east, west and states in between.  The current exhibition is at the David Findlay Jr. Gallery.

I’ve always thought  Gene Davis to be one of the most overlooked artists of his generation, that of optical and stripe painters, and it was a pleasure to find work of his from the 70s at the D. Wigmore Gallery on Fifth Avenue, where he shares space with Tadasky, another stripe painter whose colors and forms are far more assertive, but less effective than those of Davis. A member of the Washington Color School, which included Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, Thomas Downing, Paul Reed and Howard Mehring, Davis was credited with being the first artist (1958) to use masking tape to achieve clean lines. Davis died in 1985; Tadasky survives.

Ms. Wigmore has revived the career of any number of Op and Stripe artists from mid-century America, and in the surroundings of her gallery the result is highly convincing.

Joan Snyder has been exhibiting her art since 1966 and received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1974, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 1983 and a MacArthur Fellowship in 2007.  This is her first exhibition at the Gering & Lopez  Gallery.

Wanted to mention two artists at Davidson Contemporary: The extraordinary cocktail umbrella construction of Lauren Wax (the work may not be for the ages, but the conception is marvelous), and the paper constructions of Jane South who builds entire mini-machines out of delicately cut and painted paper, as well as smaller mini-constructions in a box. Both artists build with a delicacy that contains power thinking.

The photographs of Nicholas Nixon at Pace/MacGill Gallery, evoked visions of “Amour,” with its close-ups of aged mouths and wintered eyes. Somehow Nixon even made his photos of infants grotesque, and his flowers lonely and depressed. Having said that, I thought them exceptionally appealing.

If cold weather keeps you closer to home and out of the blustery winds of Chelsea, don’t despair. There is plenty to observe in the warm galleries of midtown Manhattan.

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