Spring Gallery Guide: Lower East Side

The arc of the Lower East Side gallery scene bends toward youth. It is probably home to the greatest number of starting-out dealers showing the works of emerging artists in New York. This gives the art scene in this neighborhood and the ones developing around it — in NoHo, East Village South, Chinatown or Little Italy — a certain lightness of being. We’re often looking at first, not necessarily mature or final, artistic statements. It helps that the area lacks the dwarfing juggernaut of big-name, property-proud galleries and blue-chip artists that give Chelsea or the Upper East Side their weight. Most of the shows reviewed here emphasize youth in various forms.


The new work in Arcmanoro Niles’s third solo show in New York in three years and his second at Rachel Uffner comes with the vulnerable overall title “My Heart is Like Paper: Let the Old Ways Die.” The works depict members of a family, including the artist at home, usually lost in thought, even sad as suggested by titles like “Longing for Change (“I’ve Given up on Being Well),” or “Does a Broken Home Become a Broken Family.” The paintings are dark in mood, which Mr. Niles’s distinctive palette elevates with a dark, glorifying radiance that evokes a modern Byzantium. The brown skin of his figures often hints at gold, and their hair is rendered in dense coats of hot pink glitter, suggesting halos. The paintings have an unexpected gravity and grandeur that is almost religious. “My Heart is Like Paper” shows the artist alone in a gold-and-pink bathroom, wearing an orange undershirt. He is a man who has come to a turning point, a momentous choice. I’m not sure what the ghostly sex scenes outlined in red, or the gremlin-like stuffed dolls wielding knives, add, but they add something. Through April 28 at 170 Suffolk Street; 212-274-0064, racheluffnergallery.com.

Aria Dean, who graduated from Oberlin College in 2015, is having her second show in New York. Her works weave the gallery space into a web of intersecting, sometimes contradictory languages and perspectives, as suggested by the show’s title “(meta)models or how I got my groove back.” (Not to mention the double remove of “meta” and “models.”) A video monitor in the middle of the gallery shows a camera dancing around a pedestal made of mirrored, or two-way glass, familiar to viewers of police procedurals. This pedestal sits on a New York sidewalk, providing chaotic, fragmented views of houses, cars and pavement. It’s a “non-site” — recalling Robert Smithson’s 1970s use of mirrors in small, temporary earthworks — except urban, in danger of being broken, a pedestal awaiting an artwork. We hear what appear to be three young men, identified as D.J.’s (it’s actually a single actor), move effortlessly between street talk and a kind of Beckettian theory-talk — riddling observations about a nothing that can be something but is ultimately a void, a form of invisibility. (The dialogue borrows from, among others, the writings of Heidegger, Robert Morris and Fred Moten.) Around the screen, on the floor or attached to the wall, four vaguely figurative shapes cut from the mirrored glass add to the disorientation. They are blank nothings but they also suggest leaping ghosts, Saturday morning cartoons (Casper) and the silhouettes of the bodies of murder victims, outlined in chalk on the street. Through May 5 at 249 East Houston Street; 646-850-7486, chapter-ny.com.


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