Who was Stephane Mandelbaum? A closeted gay man? The child of Holocaust survivors? A liar? A thief? A brilliant artist you’ve never heard of? All of the above and perhaps more.
The Drawing Center is presenting the first-ever show of Mandelbaum’s work in the US, and it is a show that left me gob-smacked. The combination of Mandelbaum’s brilliant drawing, deeply personal vision, and the complexity of his backstory is a tale made for cinema. Born in 1961 to a family of paternal Polish Holocaust survivors and maternal Belgian Armenians, Mandelbaum grew up in the town of Namur, about an hour and a half from Brussels. His Father, Ari, was a well-known painter, and his mother, Pili, was an illustrator. There is no record of siblings. A gifted draftsman from a young age but dyslexic and eccentric, Mandelbaum moved from Namur to Brussels, where he seemed to devote his time to making drawings and engaging in what is termed “petty crime.” He married a woman from Zaire (now called The Democratic Republic of Congo) and lived between the worlds of Belgian Africans, the Belgian crime underworld, and his own artistic imagination.
(little) Pink Studio. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 32 x 40. 2023
Stepping into the bright and warmly lit Jack Hanley Gallery in Tribeca, I was struck by the brilliant swirl of color in Sophie Treppendahl’s exhibition of new work. The pieces seem ready to pop right off of the walls. The show exists in two connected parts, encompassing both floors of the gallery. Vibrant paintings of domestic scenes on the ground floor and small dioramas of similar domestic spaces in the downstairs gallery.
There’s a riot going on. That’s what I thought as I stood in front of Ye Qin Zhu’s large-scale installation piece at Dimin in Tribeca. The gallery space painted a matte black that seems to absorb all the light in the room, is dominated by one wall-mounted assemblage that is 27 feet long and five feet tall. There is a bench placed in front so that the viewer can take a few minutes to absorb the full volume of information and energy radiating from this piece.
The Kleinart James Center in Woodstock, New York, is currently presenting a very ambitious and interesting photography exhibition. Entitled Here Now: Contemporary Photographers of the Hudson Valley, the show presents 17 artists representing a portion of the many photographers working in this geography. Organized by curator Jane Hart, the show offers a wide range of aesthetic visions and techniques.
Sculptor Loren Eiferman has brought a veritable garden of strange to Ivy Brown Gallery this summer. Her meticulously fabricated wood sculptures create a fantastical garden of forms that are both biomorphic and often anthropomorphic at the same time.
I’ve been to more art fairs than I can count, but the ones that I’ve had fun at I could count on two hands. Many are too big, dealers are either stressed out or bored, mundane work or work that is inaccessible or silly. The last show that I went to before the pandemic was The Armory Show at the westside piers. It was a few days before the world shut down and the fair was eerily empty. I wandered alone through a fair that typically had been jam packed with beautiful art lovers. And then everything went quiet for about a year and a half.
A droll and aptly named group exhibition opened at Pierogi in Williamsburg in early April. Entitled Out of Character, the exhibition has been curated from local artists all working in and around the figure and focused on a humorous take on the human condition.
This past weekend marked the 30th anniversary of the Outsider Art Fair, which debuted in NYC in 1993 at The Puck Building. Now housed at The Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, it has come roaring back after a few quiet pandemic years.
Out of the sixty-four galleries exhibiting thirteen were representing non-profit organizations that work with developmentally challenged populations. For me these were the most exciting booths at the fair. The non-profits bring work that is consistently fresh and exciting. This year’s fair included organizations from Germany, Portland Oregon and Chicago that I had not seen in previous years. Several showed work among the most surprising and compelling at the Fair.
Fort Gansevoort Gallery in New York’s Meatpacking District has long been one of my favorite galleries. Housed in an old three-story building, they have been presenting some of the freshest and most original shows in the city. The current exhibition, Myrlande Constant: Drapo is one of their best. Constant is a Haitian artist who works in textiles, taking a traditional form called “drapo” and rocketing it into the realm of contemporary art. Drapo is based on a 19th century embroidery technique developed in France, called tambour. Fabric is stretched tautly over a wooden frame and embroidery, using sequins and beads done from the reverse side.
Marc Straus Gallery is currently presenting the paintings of Ulf Puder, a German artist whose landscape paintings are deeply evocative and strangely alluring. I was not familiar with the artist or his work, and I’ll admit, it took a beat to enter his Universe. But once in I began to see deeper into the complex issues he deals with in his paintings.