Friday, February 9, 2007

Intriguing new gallery in soho

Recently, upon walking the streets of Soho one rainy Sunday afternoon, I noticed a strange sight-- an art gallery (to be specific, Greene Street's Le Jungle Gallery). Now mind you, many people might find this statement humorous-- "A Soho art gallery? Why, isn't that what Soho is known for?" Well, yes... and no. The past 10 years has seen New York transform itself into a shadow of its former self; one that is "dressing the part"-- a scenester, if you will, but with no real substance. A real devil that wears Prada. In fact, I believe the very opening of Broadway's Prada store was the initial ring of the deathknoll for legendary Soho, once the capital of the earth's art world.

(Photo at left of Gallery Director Johnny LeValley)

(Paintings at right by Brian Ermanski)

With the advent of the Giuiliani administration "cleaning up" the city in the '90s, then subsequently 9/11, and now Bloomy himself, what once made New York City New York Fucking City is rapidly disappearing in its once-famed areas-- Soho, The East Village, the Lower East Side.

We are gradually turning these areas one by one into a mecca of suburban shopping malls and condos mixed with the luxury amenities of "Manhattan."

The majority of NY galleries are now located in Chelsea, leaving Soho behind like a bastard stepchild.

The thing that first struck me about the Le Jungle Gallery was its throwback aura to the legendary days of Gordon Matta Clark's 112 Greene Street Gallery.

A strong scent of Warhol is in the air.

It is in many ways a homage and ever-evolving work-in-progress that focuses on the artwork and artists themselves rather than a certain "scene," or perhaps "style."

Its current show takes great leaps in its combination of insight into bright sensibilities, statements on disillusionment with the way things are and the way things ought to be, and a promising hope for the future.

Artist Petar Timotic, whose work has featured prominently with the NYC band Brazilian Girls, takes over the corner spot with a version of erotica rarely seen on today's band concert posters.

The body seems at ease in its directness, confronting the viewer with a strong confidence in her sexuality. The heels, the stockings, the breasts all heaving forward, yet face slightly hidden.

It reminds me slightly of the work of another "deviant", Matt Greene's recent exhibit at Deitch Projects.

Several Le Jungle works place a direct emphasis on tongue-in-cheek humor conveying a whimsical appreciation of the literal sense; for instance, Robert Appleton's piece of "drunken sailor" puppets have a Tim Burtonesque feel for the world around them-- in fact, they're isolated in the "Aquarium" area of the gallery with other "sea" imagery.

Ksenia Hovden's work also caught my attention. There is a definitive whimsical feel to it-- envoking visions of a candy filled nightscape, entering into a childlike dream world.

There are certainly elements of Chagall at work here, and this is a good thing.

Another great work of Ksenia's is one that's part of an ongoing series of collaborations with Johnny LeValley.

Ksenia's mother inspired the work at left, Johnny's at right.

Each is a loving tribute to the spirit of their mothers' individuality.

The sheer feminine elegance that the piece at left invokes embraces you with a loving grace, a soft touch. It reminds me of the universal "woman" symbol-- the pyramid structure. The pink against the black showing halves, or parts of a whole.

The mother figure on the right is a haunting throwback to the jazz age and Bourbon Street.

The image brings to mind someone so dedicated to their creativity that they are literally exhausting themselves in the pursuit of excellence; the hands and eyes showing an earnest commitment to the task at hand.

Moving on to Ellie Pyle's work, I'm reminded of the designs on many concert tour buses.

Pyle, a Yale MFA, has mastered the art of texture and motion- fine grains shimmer throughout her works; tiny decals of stars mix along with the sandy swirls.

There's a zen-like quality to this imagery. There needn't be over-description. Sometimes a work just "is."

Both of these are great examples of the beauty that is in simplicity.

The hues are deeply saturated; perhaps a moon in the night sky with the bus' pink stripe in motion reflected against the glass window.

Next is the work of Mike Sagato.

His work is classical in its style with a strong appreciation for form and balance.
A softness in light and texture envelopes the woman below.
Dressed in a white couture gown of former As Four designer Kai Kuhne, the figure reclines at rest with calmness and sheer beauty. It truly is a masterful work of realsim evoking comparisons of Damian Loeb's or Will Cotton's work. Every fold of fabric seems pleasingly touchable and within grasp.

It will be interesting to see the direction Le Jungle takes in the months and years ahead.

Will the gallery be able to establish a strong presence in Soho amidst the wine bars and clothing stores?

Will Soho rise again from the ashes of its Blahnik-strewn streets and slip on its Converse?

LeValley intends for Le Jungle to be a "traveling gallery," where it will pick up and go to cities across America-- including Miami and Los Angeles-- and then perhaps international as well.

Le Valley's own work is quite inspiring-- he seems to have a story to tell about each and every work-- there's an experience or moment that influenced him, whether it be directly, or to someone he knew or heard of. He has a plain-spoken hope for making a difference, or at least expressing himself in a way for people to take notice.

The above work was done after the recent shooting of Sean Bell-- a man shot 50 times by undercover NYPD officers. LeValley bluntly asks... "What if this was the officers' children?" with the chalk outline in the vibrant colors of lives cut short.

The blue paint splatters seem to represent an eerie echo of each shot taken and absorbed into the victims' bodies.

Artists in the current show include the following:

Ksenia Hovden
Brian Ermanski
Petar Timotic
Primitivo Cuevas
Pouchon Bogata
Ellie Pyle
Robert Appleton
Josh Hughes
Mike Sagato
Johnny LeVally

Le Jungle Gallery is located at 34 Greene Street between Canal and Grand in NYC.
The show will be up through Sunday, February 11th.
The next exhibit opens Thursday, Feburary 15th from 6-9pm.
For more info, email:


Anonymous said...

Well written, great gallery

Anonymous said...