You don’t have to live in a Chelsea apartment to enjoy the Chelsea gallery district; with its more than 400 art galleries packed into a half-mile stretch, this is one of the world’s great concentrations of contemporary art, featuring fantastically rich, museum-quality spaces (Gagosian) as well as plenty of scrappy, street-art-ish spots (Jonathan Levine).
It’s all here, and it’s all free. One of my favorite NYC things to do is just to show up in Chelsea, choose a block or three in the 20s between 10th and 11th Avenues, and wander in and out of galleries, sometimes with a specific show in mind to get to eventually; sometimes not. I go a couple of times a month, and always find at least a two or three exhibitions that make me happy, or teach me something new.
Anyway, last week I semi-stumbled-across two excellent photography shows on West 22nd in the Chelsea gallery district, both of which, coincidentally, have an quintessentially New York feel to them, though coming at this beautiful city from two totally different angles.
The first, at Sikkema Jenkins, is Mitch Epstein’s magisterial portraits of some of New York City’s “Great Trees,” as officially designated by the Parks Department or, after being “discovered” by Epstein during his many-boroughed explorations, by the photographer himself. These are spectacular creatures, certainly New York City’s oldest living residents, captured by Epstein in all seasons.
Veteran New York City wanderers are likely to recognize more than a few of these beauties–most obviously the Weeping Birch, covered with carvings by long-ago lovers, who lives in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden; and the stately English Elm who has presided over the north west corner of Washington Square Park since its opening in 1871–but to see them all in one place, in these lovely, large-scale prints, is a real treat.
Now through April 14.
A few doors down from Sikkema Jenkins, at the 22nd Street Pace Gallery, is another New York City street-photography show, Paul Graham’s The Present. The concept of Graham’s work here is simple: the photographer stood on some of the by-the-way LEAST lovely locations in Manhattan (in front of a Duane Reade in Times Square; near a discount men’s store on 34th Street) and took rapid-fire shots on the unsurprisingly mundane goings-on.
After culling through what must have an unbelievable amount of nothing much, The Present is the brilliantly curated result: diptyches and triptyches of marvelously composed shots that show us one second in the life of a New York City street, and then a second or two after that. It’s as if Graham is saying that there can be no one, definitive shot, not even of the city’s dreariest precincts. I loved this exhibition.
Now through April 21.
And if you happen to miss these shows, never fear… the Chelsea gallery district always has something worth viewing in it’s numerous galleries. So any day is a good day to check out this unique area in NYC.
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