Friday afternoon Jae and I went for a long walk, taking advantage of the relatively mild weather. We crossed the Manhattan Bridge and wandered north through Chinatown, discovering some of the many wonders along Eldridge Street.
We caught glimpses through filmy windows of women chopping vegetables and playing Mahjong, marveled at huge spiny fruits in nets hanging above the cornucopia of produce at a corner market, and stumbled upon the delicious and very recession friendly Vanessa's Dumplings where we downed four pork and scallion dumplings, freshly made on the spot, for a mere dollar.
And then we came upon LMAKprojects, a neat little gallery that happened to be featuring work by New York-born and Asheville-based artist Nava Lubelski. We went inside for a closer look.
I first noticed Lubelski's work in the Museum of Arts and Design's show Pricked, which included her piece "Clumsy," a yellow tablecloth with a big wine stain around which she had embroidered in red. It was one of the most subtle yet memorable pieces in the show, and I was thrilled to see more of her work.
For this show, titled Recombination, Lubelski has created a number of wall pieces that at first look like splashed paint on canvas, but on closer inspection reveal themselves to be works of embroidery. Artfully tattered and vibrantly colored, many of the canvases feature gaping holes criss-crossed with stitches in a way that suggests spiders webs or Native American dream catchers, or maybe badly darned socks.
The network of forms -- yawning circles, dense pools, tenuous ligaments -- also suggests cellular structures, like highly magnified images of brain cells or nerve systems. In fact, according to the press release, the artist "was inspired by the idea of Recombinant DNA, in which DNA molecules from different sources are joined to create new genetic material."
Lubelski is a good colorist, and the washes (or stains) of color she applies to the canvases work beautifully against the rich colors of the embroidery floss. The colors and forms are pleasing enough, but it is the texture and mystery brought by the embroidery that really makes these works appealing to this viewer.
In addition to the wall pieces, there are three "gloves" crocheted out of thread, found trimmings, pins, and hair. (The checklist describes these as casts of the artist's left hand in the shape of a glove.) They are displayed on the wall, tacked up with upholstery pins, with simple frames drawn in smudged pencil around them. Very lovely.
All the works are active, with a lot of push/pull and tension/resolve going on. They also have a general aesthetic prettiness, which I just simply like. They naturally remind one of Louise Bourgeois -- with all that red and thread and references to the body, the comparison is inevitable, and perhaps also apt.
More so, they remind me of Lee Bontecou's sculpture, with its gasping voids and wire stitches, works that seem to be both decaying and evolving at the same time. Lubelski's pieces don't have the sense of violence of either of these two elder female artists, though she shows promise of bolder things to come.
Since the New Museum relocated to the Bowery last year, this area of town (the Lower East Side) has been filling with new galleries. On the map I picked up there are 34 galleries listed. Here's a map you can download with even more. Zounds!
So, go check out the Nava Lubelski show at LMAKprojects (local directions). And then go down the street for dumplings to fortify your afternoon of gallery hopping. Double happiness!
"Recombination: Nava Lubelski" in on view thru February 14, 2009 at LMAKprojects at 139 Eldridge St., NYC.