Falling on a muggy evening of torrential downpour that forced only the most resolute to stay indoors, the vibe during Wednesday night’s Lower East Side Art Night hosted by LES Partnership fluctuated between disappointed gallery owners and jovial cliques of committed viewers. Despite the weather inducing poor turnout, there were some excellent exhibitions on view — most of which will continue throughout the remainder of the month — running the gamut from garden-hose sculptures to Hockney-esque paintings, swimming pools and all.
Beginning the evening at Pierogi, Elliott Green’s seductive landscapes offered alternative escapist worlds, while the title of the exhibition “Under the Map Room” suggests something more sinister at play given its nod to FDR’s nickname for his “situation room” during WWII. With a rich palette dominated by shades of blue, sliding swirls of color seem to undulate and shift into unstable horizons the longer you look.
A few blocks away on Allen Street, the paintings of Rebecca Ness at 1969 Gallery take viewers down a different aesthetic road, where blunt realism is embedded into images of contemporary life — from Trumpian newspaper headlines to subway riders, a dressing room, or an embrace. Awkwardly figurative, like portraits of the self-absorbed, her paintings aptly describe our daily encounters with personal or cultural narcissism.
Tommy Kha’s photographs at LMAK Gallery were another standout, where a series of “kiss” self-portraits document the various gestures of intimacy, as the artist invited lovers (past and present), friends and strangers to participate in the 10-year project. Careful to never kiss back, each image feels forced as the participants impose his or herself physically on the artist. Another series documents the sterile hotel bedrooms Kha shares with a similar range of companions, capturing everything from barely creased sheets to still-sleeping companions.
Rounding out the evening was the unexpected materiality of the sculptures of Johnston Foster at Freight + Volume, where his material list — vinyl flooring, electrical wire, plunger, yoga mat, hot glue, dish soap pads, misc. plastics — reads like a scavenger hunt of 21 century waste. For anyone who didn’t make it out, tour some of our other favorite spots and works in the photo essay below.
LES Art Night took place at various locations on Manhattan’s Lower East Side on October 16. Numerous exhibitions from the 2nd annual event will continue throughout the end of the month (see individual gallery websites for more information).