Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Boys of Bushwick

by baad lamb

To be perfectly honest, what caught my eye and brought me out to Norte Maar Gallery last Sunday were the two "historical works" mentioned in the smaller print of the publicity: Paul Cadmus, and especially, Pavel Tchelichev. To many, the reason for my excitement over these two artists needs no explanation, but if you are not familiar with them, I gotta lotta 'splainin' ta do, so I'm saving that for a different post. Meanwhile, you have one week left to see this intriguing show, focusing on the male form as muse, and I encourage you to speed on over to Bushwick to see it.

Norte Maar is a New York/London collaborative arts project that serves as a catalyst for many creative disciplines, encouraging cross-pollination among the visual, literary and performing arts. Here in NYC, the apartment gallery of the charming Jason Andrew is where you will find this show (for reluctant Manhattanites, it is just steps from the Jefferson Ave. L train stop.) He was on site and enthusiastically greeted and engaged me upon arrival. On my inquiry, Jason explained the multi-layered meanings of the gallery name, referring to an extension of this collaborative arts project in Rouses Point, at the northern tip of Lake Champlain, to the Latin root for sea (mare), and of course, one of Picasso's muses, Dora Maar.


The title "Boys of Bushwick" most literally refers to the fluid sketches by Richard Haines, very well known originally for fashion design at big name brands, but more recently as highly sought-after front-row-runway fashion sketch artist. Lucky for us, here he focuses his attention and his talent on the scruffy-stylish boys that pass down the street in the titular nabe he now resides in, as well as some boys where the setting was presumably more intimate (or I've been walking down all the wrong Bushwick streets).


Sharing the space and the boy theme at Norte Maar are four gouache and pencil works by Dan Halm, and mixed media collages by Ellen Letcher:

Dan's paintings have an etherial, dream-like melancholy. His barely-there pencil lines of male forms emerge or recede from the mist of memory according to the will of his deftly applied color washes covering them.  He describes his work as being about "beauty that does not exist in myself or my world", and explores whether true perfection, though continually longed for, can ever actually exist. The contrast with Mr. Haines' expressive, never resting pencils nearly overflowing with celebratory beauty and movement couldn't be starker.

Ellen Letcher's collages bridge the gap between these two worlds. Through torn magazine photos, paint and scrawled words or images, she depicts snippets of young male forms arranged with an urban urgency and immediacy; boys moving through their chaotic graffiti landscapes with people to do and things to see. Unlike the leisurely strolling, eagerly willing subjects of Richard Haines or the mist-ical men mournfully desired by Dan Halm, these beauties may be obtainable, but you'll have to run to catch up with them.

In addition to being a talented artist (occasional artwork, and further insight into her process and influences may be had by viewing some old Flickr photos here), Ms. Letcher is a partner with artist Kevin Regan in the I-can-see-Bushwick-from-my-house gallery Famous Accountants (just over the Bushwick line in Ridgewood, Queens). I first stumbled into their basement lair for the Genesis P. Orridge Tag Sale last year, where I was X-treme-ly happy to get "Gen's Favorite" T-shirt (worn here in appropriate context).

Norte Maar, 83 Wyckoff Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn, Apt. 1B. When you go, note that the gallery is open only on weekends from 1 to 6, or by appointment.

Also: find some additional photos (taken by my husband) of Richard Haines here, from his show at John Bartlett in June '09.

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