The Bowery gallery area is still sparsely populated with galleries so that it’s not mentally and physically overwhelming, as Chelsea can be. The art venues sit jarringly in contrast to the still-present Bowery Mission residents and restaurant supply wholesalers, and Whole Foods, Pulino’s and DBGB Kitchen lord conspicuously over the corners of Houston. So the tipping point can’t be far, but at the moment, it’s still exciting and somewhat untrodden.
Salon 94 now has two spaces: one at 243 Bowery, and another (Salon 94 Freemans) on the gritty yet Parisian-like Freemans Alley. Both are exhibiting the work of Katy Grannan (through April 30), a two-part show called The Happy Ever After. Boulevard, at the Freemans space, is a haunting series of color portraits of people on the streets of San Francisco and LA, all taken in front of a white stucco wall strafed with that white California light. While we know nothing of the subjects (all the titles are “Anonymous”), we get the sense that many are outliers who have recreated themselves in a specific, idealized image, and that all have a strong sense of self, despite their unconformity. Despite perhaps being societal castoffs, they live enviably within a liberated sense of their remade selves. These portraits sit within sleek new galleries amid folks not wholly unlike Grannan’s subjects, but for want of some self-actualization and grooming. Salon 94 Bowery, with its elegant grand staircase descending to the basement, is screening Grannan’s video, The Believers, a kind of intimate animated version of the portraits, shifting between documentary and spy camera.
Thierry Goldberg Projects (5 Rivington), is a small storefront space of the sort that evokes the old East Village. Adaptation, paintings by Ben Grasso, are on view through May 15. They depict standard-issue Colonial-style houses exploding or fraying, or perhaps the reverse, coming together. The geometry and perspective are accurate, but Grasso uses a loose, confident brush stroke that allows the compositions to breathe. This sort of imagery inhabits the space past consciousness — dreams or nightmares containing terrifying subliminal symbolism. They contrast with Malcolm Morley’s mostly-new paintings at Sperone Westwater, in a show titled Rules of Engagement, realistically rendered pseudo-war propaganda style portraits of pilots, planes and DIY paper airplane kits that hang somewhat uncomfortably in the Foster sliver building.