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Exhibitions reopen, amidst storage lessons learned from Sandy
STEPHEN MUELLER: PAINTINGS & WATERCOLORS
Through December 26
At Lennon, Weinberg
514 W. 25th St. (btw 10th & 11th Aves.)
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10am-6pm
or visit lennonweinberg.com
JILL WEINBERG ADAMS (co-owner):
We took a couple of days to prepare for the hurricane, by moving art out of harm’s way. Inevitably, there were some things that couldn’t be addressed ahead of time.
Although our art losses were minimal, our badly flooded basement resulted in the loss of archives, tools and the accumulated resources of the 25-year history of the gallery. We have had amazing support from our gallery artists and our friends. Our fine arts insurance company has been very supportive, and we feel that we are past the worst of it.
Although we had little to no water flooding from the street into the ground floor gallery, once the power was turned off, our basement — which is kept dry by means of powerful pumps — began to slowly fill with water. By 1pm Tuesday [October 30], when I arrived at the gallery, the [Stephen Mueller] show was perfect and I was so happy to see it…but my heart sank when I shined the flashlight downstairs and saw we had several feet of water in the basement. I was unable to secure the services of a generator and pump and by the time I returned on Wednesday, there were an additional eight inches of water. Fortunately, pumping started Wednesday afternoon. Working with the owner of the building, we were able to secure contractors with equipment and began to pump out the water on Wednesday afternoon. It took a full two days to get the water down to the concrete, to the floor.
By Friday afternoon, we had enough access to begin to evaluate the three feet of waterlogged archives, catalogs, tools, furnishings and unfortunately located various artworks that had either been overlooked or were inaccessible during our hurried preparations in advance of the storm. As of Sunday night [November 4], we are drying out. We are in considerable disarray but are ready to reinstall [the Mueller exhibition, which had been moved to the second floor as a post-Sandy precaution] and reopen.
Stephen Mueller (1947-2011) was an artist of unique sensibility and poetic vision. After abandoning gestural abstraction in the late 1980s, he turned to color wholeheartedly. By the early 1990s, his shapes became flattened, assuming an iconic presence — while his palette began to vibrate with bright yellows, pinks, turquoise and oranges.
His last paintings and watercolors were hybrids, acting as fertile meeting grounds for cross-cultural references and citations. Islamic art, Indian miniatures, Mexican ceramics, Tantra painting, the color theory of Philipp Otto Runge, the spiritual aura found in German Romanticism, music, textile design, and Eastern philosophy shaped his aesthetic and intellectual vocabulary. This will be the artist’s first posthumous solo exhibition.
MARGARET MORRISON: CHILD’S PLAY
Through Dec. 22
Artist’s Reception: Sat., Dec. 1, 6-8pm
At Woodward Gallery
133 Eldridge St. (below Delancey St.)
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 11am-6pm & Sun., 12-5pm & by appointment
or call 212-966-3411
KRISTINE WOODWARD (co-owner):
Hurricane Sandy knocked out Woodward Gallery’s electricity and water. Since our security system runs on power, we were physically unable to get into our space from Monday, October 29 through Sunday, November 4, to even check for damage.
Thankfully, Woodward was built like a vault. Our building has a sub-basement, which would have had to fill up completely with water before it started to affect the Gallery levels. We endured the flooding without much incident. Our major fall exhibition was postponed a week and the opening reception was rescheduled [for December 1]. All Margaret Morrison’s collectors, flying in from all over the country, had to cancel their visits. We reopened to the public with the Morrison exhibition on November 10. Hope to see you!
ELISABETH SANN (associate director)
It’s really our basement that got flooded. The building installed a new elevator recently…and I guess it wasn’t sealed properly — so the water came in through the elevator shaft.
We have quite a bit of storage down there. We did [prior to Sandy] raise artwork about a foot off the ground, but we weren’t ready for three feet of water. The shipment for El Anatsui’s show [“El Anatsui: They Finally Broke the Pot of Wisdom,” originally scheduled to open November 28] arrived [post-Sandy] while we were trying to move the damaged work out of the gallery, so we were lucky with that. Its new run date is December 14 through January 19. The show that was on view before the storm hit [“Hank Willis Thomas: What Goes Without Saying”], has been extended through December 8.
We were lucky that the damage was contained to the basement. Most of the photos that were lost are by living artists so can fortunately be reprinted. Of the irreplaceable artworks, many are secondary market items bought at auction, mostly works on paper. Jack and Claude [the gallery co-owners] are big collectors.
Our exhibition space [which sustained no water damage] is on the ground level. We’re lucky to be raised three and a half feet above street level…but because the basement was flooded, we needed to use the gallery’s dry spaces to triage the works that were damaged.
Myself and a few other Manhattan-based colleagues were first to arrive, on Tuesday [October 31], and went to work trying to bail things out of the water. We were taking dry artwork to our storage space in upstate New York. The wet work is going to a conservator in the Bronx.
We’re very lucky to have had a lot of support from friends. How is it [the West Chelsea gallery area] as a whole? It’s hard to say, because I was just knee deep in our own issues. I think we’ll all make a recovery. It seems like a lot of galleries are landing on their feet.
[Chelsea Now asked Sann if they’d stay in the area and, if so, how they’d plan for future events of such magnitude.]
There aren’t many neighborhoods left in Manhattan with this kind of space. Galleries are going to have to be a little smarter about storage, though — and take a bit more heed when they hear weather warnings. We never had flooding like that…ever. I think we just need to be more careful and rethink the way we operate.
Morrison’s work imagines life from a child’s point of view. Playfully, it describes a world that is populated by magical creatures — including giant robots, enormous pull toys and life-size dolls. Morrison’s paintings are part consciously naive and part ominous, allowing the thought that in an overall saturated wonderland, scary things might hide in the shadows.
This newest body of work is comprised of several larger-than-life oil paintings. Characterized by an intensely vivid palette, they present most unusual Surreal scenarios, one including Fisher Price wooden figurines ascending a ladder to a rolling Trojan Horse, for example.
Interviews by Scott Stiffler Reviews by Stephanie Buhmann