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Stories from our Travelers

Emerging Art in New York

by Carolyn Clark Beedle

[From Spring 2010]Sand and beaches, fragrances and Paris, art and New York…these are indelible relationships. As a venue for the visual, tactile and aural experience, New York is a global art center. One could argue the city itself is art, collaboratively designed by residents over two centuries and constantly beckoning new talent. Crowds of pedestrians swirl, retail windows entice, restaurant interiors allure and inimitable architecture stimulates the senses. Traditional, ethnic, museum and gallery, public, photographic, mixed media, performance, installation and contemporary art beg to be encountered in New York.

Working artists and ambitious students flood the five boroughs; they fill design offices, studios and art spaces, ceaseless in their endeavor to make art. Private and public schools, museums and workshops offer classes for every level and medium. On a recent trip to New York, I visited the School for the Visual Arts (SVA) to meet Master's students in the Fine Arts program. SVA offers rigorous and practice-based undergraduate, graduate and continuing education arts programs in fourteen different areas of study. Graduate programs are taught by top professionals in their disciplines whose aim is to help students further advance careers as working artists with a primary interest in making art…a significant scene of import.

Exposure to ardent students from across the globe, passionately committed to visual communications in their vernacular of now, is energizing. Ideals are obvious, messages are evolving and inspiration is eclectic. The politics of sex and gender, the influence of war and advertising and the context of diverse communities all play parts. The micro society built by academia forces development of thought sharing and protective clans. The competitive nature of that same society fuels focused and voluminous output.

Think; students of art working down island from the abundant offerings at the Museum of Modern Art, the overwhelming spectacle of the Whitney Biennial, the encyclopedic Metropolitan Museum, and the Guggenheim. Think; students of art working in a city with museums devoted to New Art: new ideas, art and design, sex, textiles, fashion, science and history, and more galleries than any other city representing major and minor known artists and thousands of emerging aspirants. This context either strokes the flames of inspiration and genius or presents the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back.

Moving through the warren-like halls of SVA graduate student studios, I discovered more flames than straw. The work runs a gamut from piles of plastic alligators and shards of glass fashioned into interior design elements, quilted manifestos on illusions of female perfection and pornography, realist and abstract paintings, drawings, colors to shock and soothe, magical woven textiles and metal all enveloped in the fragrant cloud of oil paint and varnish. I had intense abbreviated discussions with the artists about creative motivation, intended messages and theoretical goals.

Leo Tecosky crafts glass infused with tagging and light to elicit a response. He knows glass, he lives color; these pieces not so silently scream. Susan Begy carves guns from salt blocks to distribute about public places…suggesting what for how long…dissolution? Begy explains that "an implication of quantum mechanics is that, to some degree we create our reality”…she has more questions. Joey Varas combines photography, drawing and space to challenge comfort and accepted beliefs. A U.S. veteran with waist-long dreadlocks, Joey actively wonders. Miyeon Lee uses painting tools to develop her arsenal of abstraction. The artists hail from Michigan, New York and New Mexico, Korea, Israel, Japan and China. They experiment, they evolve, they argue, they critique. They support one another, they irritate one another; the environment is challenging. Tears and blood are shed.

The strongest impression left is energy. This energy is contained and directed. Questions are ubiquitous; answers emerge. And what of the definition of emerge: to become manifest, become known, to rise from, to come into being through evolution. Like the city that supports them, I trust these artists will.

Over a few late winter days I settled into a lovely apartment in Gramercy Park. From there, I wandered the Chelsea galleries, strategically planned some museum adventures, saw friends, tripped over fantastic cuisine from around the world and was engulfed by art. A brave walk against a driving snow delivered me to lunch with a seasoned art consultant at Penelope Cafe. It’s a bakery, bistro and bar, serving comfort food to attractive young people dressed predominantly in black. Rumor has it the wait for weekend brunch is hours. Over killer coffee and perfectly delicious omelets, we pondered the state of the art market with its challenges and opportunities.

Another evening started at Hasted Hunt Kraeutler Gallery in Chelsea with gallerist Bill Hunt, and ended with dinner at Trestle on Tenth, one of thousands of stellar New York neighborhood eateries. The Swiss-style brasserie, warm atmosphere and taste tempting fare provided the perfect ambiance for catching up with friends.

Imagine an evening stroll across town from the SVA studio warehouse, past the iconic Flat Iron Building to a 19th-century New York square. Gramercy Park conjures images from novels by Edith Wharton and E.M. Forster, overlaid with contemporary luxury; the Gramercy Park Hotel has recently morphed from worn chintz residential Madame to a sleek Ian Schrager boutique hotel, avant garde merging with the past. Deciding where to dine with every imaginable restaurant option is difficult, but around the corner Tamarind lured serendipitously. The menu draws on India's varied regions for a culinary voyage, including dishes from Punjab, Hyderabad, Goa, Madras, Lucknow, and Calcutta. Sitting at the comfortable bar, we were thrilled by every suggestion from the pleasant barmen and entertained by the international staff and patrons.

As I packed my bag to leave New York, I was struck by the continuity of time. In this city of nine million people, social communities are born and develop, magnetic attraction draws creative people and their benefactors, and new art in all forms will continue to emerge.

Artist credits (images courtesy of the artists): Above, top to bottom:
Susan Begy, solicitation1, 2010, carved salt block, 6"x12"x2" (from the series dissolution).
Leo Tecofsky, Anser + 1
Joey Varas, Just Another Cornfield, silkscreen and latex on wall, 6'x23'.

Guide to Galleries, Artists and Dining:
School of Visual Arts, 209 E. 23rd St., 212.592.2000
Guggenheim New York, 1071 Fifth Ave. (at 89th St.)
Hasted Hunt Kraeutler Gallery, 537 W. 24th St., 212.627.0006
Susan Begy, Artist
Leo Tecosky, Artist

Penelope, 159 Lexington Ave., 212.481.3800
Tamarind, 41-43 E. 22nd St., 212.674.7400
Trestle on Tenth, 242 Tenth Ave., 212.645.5659

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