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Highlights from the Chelsea Galleries – Part 1

September 21, 2010

September 9 was a major opening night for the galleries in Chelsea. We think of it as the kickoff to the 2010-2011 season. Way too many galleries to visit in one evening and an incredible number of people making the scene. So we’ll be reviewing hitting the galleries in stages and commenting on the best.

Most interesting newcomer: Bold Hype Gallery.

Maybe I shouldn’t call it a newcomer but, as I haven’t run into them before, they’re new to me. Bold Hype specializes in introducing new and emerging artists. This show, with a few pieces from a fairly large number of artists, focused on surrealism. Best of them: Harko Muller, Nathan Spoor and Alix Soubiran. Look forward to seeing what else this gallery brings to us.

Studio / Gallery featuring work by Leigh L. Wen.

Wen very intelligently leased a gallery space which she uses as her studio. Excellent light for painting and a superbly designed (courtesy of the former gallery tenant) show place. I’m super-impressed with Wen’s work. The painting she showed were quite large and mostly mountain scenes, although her gallery card is water movement. Haven’t figured out her technique yet – she’s either putting thread on canvas and painting over it, then pulling the threads off before the paint has set or scraping the paint off using a very fine stylus before it’s set. Either way, the paintings are spectacular. Having looked at her website, this is not her only technique, so we’re waiting anxiously for more.

Favorite galleries: Sputnik Gallery has a solo show by Irina Davis entitled Nice Girls running through October 23.

Davis is providing updated Vargas girls and they are absolutely enchanting. She has lovingly photographed young lovelies and then dressed them in watercolor clothes and highlights. We won’t claim this is deep, intense art but it’s great fun, very well done and founded on core beliefs about the social modernization of Russian women in the new Russia. Davis is extremely talented with something to say.

Favorite galleries: Montserrat Contemporary Art Gallery has an interesting salon. Highlights are works by Caroline Degroiselle, Aneguenek, Rossella Mocerino and holdovers from the recent show by Dorothy Culpepper.

Degroiselle is based in New Caledonia and is officially classified as a post-impressionist painter. Her work includes landscapes, sea scenes, and still life. She paints using knives, brushes and her fingers. The works themselves tend to be colorful but her singular characteristic is an understanding of the sun, not surprising for someone from the South Seas. The sun permeates her paintings. Those being exhibited are two sailing scenes.

Aneguenek is showing two strong abstracts. Regrettably, we weren’t able to obtain much in the way of background information for this French artist.

Rossella Mocerino is an Italian artist, based in New York. She uses themes from the Carnival in Venice to explore deeper emotional issues. Her work tends to the monochromatic, but those monochromes may be blue, violet or red, not just grays/blacks. She is showing two pieces.

Favorite galleries: Axelle Fine Art has been showing work from four of their artists: Patrick Pietropoli, Hollis Dunlap, Philippe Jacquet and Brian Keith Stevens. This is most interesting as it contrasts style, content and feeling. Must say I’m not able to pick a favorite.

Pietropoli’s paintings are elusive. His tonality and the sometimes sketchy graphic of his paintings forces one to become absorbed into his scene. The painting could be one of his cityscapes or an intimate semi-nude; the effect is still to draw you closer into his vision.

Hollis Dunlap is opposite to Pietropoli. His brushwork is bold and intense, as is use of color to create texture and shadow. Dunlap forces one to step back to find intent. His work is intense and powerful but it not intimate, even when the subject is a normally intimate domestic scene.

Philippe Jacquet has mastered the inclusion of poignancy and humor in his work. He paints with such style and delicacy and has a masterly understanding of color and brush stroke. He creates worlds for us that we haven’t imagined and want to be part of.

Brian Keith Stevens, as with all of Axelle’s painters, is a superb technician. The work was amusing but powerfully executed. Perhaps because they were principally roosters, I wasn’t transported. Still, looking at his work on Axelle’s website, I’m curious what else he has to say.

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