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Published October 21, 2022

Off the Beaten Path: 6 Shows to See in Downtown Manhattan

By Annabel Keenan

Annabel Keenan is a New York-based writer specializing in contemporary art and sustainability. Her work has appeared in The Art Newspaper, Cultured Magazine, Brooklyn Rail, and Hyperallergic, among others.

While Chelsea and Tribeca tend to garner attention for blockbuster shows by blue chip artists, the Lower East Side has consistently hosted some of the most refreshing exhibitions by emerging and mid-career artists. With lower rents and smaller spaces, downtown galleries embrace experimental shows and curatorial projects that offer some of the best opportunities to discover new talent.

Simon Foxall, Amoureuse and The Baptistry, 2022. Courtesy of Alchemy Gallery and the artist.

Simon Foxall: Self Portrait as a Thumb in a Storm, Alchemy Gallery, October 20 to November 12

Self Portrait as a Thumb in a Storm is Simon Foxall’s first ever US solo show. Born in Saudi Arabia, the artist grew up in the UK and now lives in Italy. His figurative work explores queer and pop culture, featuring iconography like cowboys and drag queens, as well as nods to fetish-wear popularized by artists including Tom of Finland. While familiar references appear throughout Foxall’s work, he adds his unique, grotesque style with touches like asymmetrical and oversized facial features and distorted, sometimes amputated, body parts.

Underlying Foxall’s work is his interest in using humor as a tool to understand and accept the absurdity of life. In The Baptistry (2022), sexualized, muscular figures wearing glittery thongs dance and smile despite blood dripping from fresh wounds, including one caused by an arrow. Possibly a nod to cupid or to Saint Sebastian, the image points to the blurred lines between love and pain.

Alchemy Gallery is one of the newest spaces to open in the Lower East Side, launching in May of 2022 next to the longtime stronghold of James Fuentes. With over 25 years in the field as art advisors, Jess de la Hunty and Sean Thomas founded Alchemy with an eye towards supporting artists they felt were underrepresented in New York.

Julia Haft-Candell, Studio View, 2022. Courtesy of CANDICE MADEY, New York. Photograph by Mason Kuehler.

Julia Haft-Candell: A Soft Grid, CANDICE MADEY, October 27 to December 10

For A Soft Grid, her second solo show with CANDICE MADEY, Haft-Candell has created new works on paper, sculptures, and paintings that are semi-anthropomorphic, sometimes resembling interlocking arms. As the exhibition title suggests, grids appear throughout the show. Though associated with Modernism and rigidity, Haft-Candell’s grids are far from stiff. They weave, curve, and embrace irregularity.

Located just off the bustle of the Bowery, CANDICE MADEY opened in September of 2020. The gallery was founded by Candice Madey, who previously owned and ran the gallery On Stellar Rays from 2008 to 2017 before pivoting to an appointment-only model under the new name Stellar Projects. Upon opening CANDICE MADEY, she closed Stellar Projects, continuing some of the consulting projects as part of the new gallery’s program.

Kathyrn Mecca, Into the Fold, installation images. Courtesy of the artist and Massey Klein Gallery.

Kathryn Mecca: Into the Fold, Massey Klein, October 14 to November 19

For Into the Fold, her first solo show with Massey Klein, Kathryn Mecca expands upon her interest in curated, luxurious images of the human figure. Zoomed in on small areas of the body–an elegant shoulder, a nonchalant slouch–Mecca strips the context from her works, allowing the viewer to fill in each well-manicured figure’s story. Painted with crisp, angular lines that resemble geometric shapes, her works appear abstract upon first glance.

Mecca’s stylish figures exude indifference and opulence, each wearing clothes made of rich, silky materials with coolness and ease. A nod to the perfect, tailored images that proliferate social media and advertisements, Mecca’s subjects are both aspirational and superficial. While the viewer might be drawn to the casual luxury of the images, just as a follower might envy the effortless luxury of a blogger’s “candid” photo, the images are artificially perfect and offer just a quick glimpse of someone’s life.

Massey Klein opened its doors in the Lower East Side in 2018 and quickly made a name for itself as a beloved space for collectors and artists alike. The gallery champions mid-career and emerging artists and has given many their first solo shows.

Laura Sallade, Any Versus All, installation images. Courtesy of the artist and Massey Klein Gallery.

Laura Sallade: Any Versus All, Massey Klein, October 14 to November 19

Also on view at Massey Klein is Any Versus All, a solo show of new mixed media works by Laura Sallade. With a background in sculpture, Sallade pushes the boundaries of her two-dimensional surfaces. She embraces abstraction both in the appearance of colors and forms, as well as in the overall shapes of her pieces, which at times recall the work of artists like Gerhard Richter and Pat Steir.

Using a range of materials including silver, glass, and resin, Sallade has learned to explore the capabilities and interactions of chemicals like silver nitrate. Sallade adds, removes, and layers materials in an almost performative way to highlight the limits of each one and the ways they interact as a whole. The semi-reflective surfaces of the resulting works appear more like wall sculptures that command attention and draw the viewer in.

Yura Adams, Rosy Bill, 2022. Courtesy of Olympia.

Yura Adams: Warm, Dark and Roaring, Olympia, October 27 to December 17

Artist Yura Adams takes inspiration from the natural environment in Western Massachusetts where she lives and works, in particular the neighboring rivers. Known for mixed-media, abstract works, she weaves in imagery with subtle hints to the flora and fauna that surround her home. Clouds, ponds, flowers, and birds emerge from layers of various materials including acrylic, tyvek, mylar, and fabric.

Her latest solo show, Warm, Dark and Roaring is on view at Olympia, a small but mighty space in the Lower East Side just on the border of Chinatown. The exhibition includes new experimental paintings and installations that continue Adams’ interest in phenomena seen in nature. This interest comes through in the compositions themselves, as well as the titles, such as Rosy Bill (above), a reference to an imagined bird the artist created after seeing black-billed and yellow-billed cuckoos. A seemingly abstract arrangement of geometric shapes, the identity of the bird is revealed by the title.

The founder of Olympia, Ali Rossi, created the gallery in 2015 as a way to dismantle the cis-male art industry. For the first few years, it operated as a nomadic curatorial project, but the lower rent and free time during the pandemic provided an opportune moment to find a permanent home on Orchard Street in November of 2020. Fostering and uplifting creativity, Olympia consistently stages thought-provoking shows, many of which are curated by fellow artists.

Oliver Clegg, Come come, show me the smile!, 2019. Courtesy of Shoot the Lobster and the artist

Step Count, Shoot the Lobster, October 29 to December 3

For its latest group show, Shoot the Lobster has tapped the talents of ten emerging and mid-career artists. Titled Step Count, the show features works by Oliver Clegg, Brittany King, Chris Martin, Louis Osmosis, Mimi Park, Alison Peery, Will Sheldon, Esther Sibiude, Hannah Taurins, and Dean Violante. Reilly Davidson, director of Shoot the Lobster, will collect each work for Step Count on foot and bring it to the gallery. She is recording this process, and the gallery will screen the video through the run of the show.

Known for his conceptual, nostalgic works that allude to the past and things that have been lost, Clegg’s painting in the show, Come come, show me the smile! (above), features a lively portrait of Lumière, the candlestick from Beauty and the Beast. Also included is a somewhat ominous painting by Sheldon that features a torso wearing a belt with a large, metal skull. Known for his dark representations of figures and creatures associated with fantasy, Sheldon is also a highly skilled tattoo artist.

Shoot the Lobster was created in 2012 as an edgy project space in the backroom of Martos Gallery and has since moved to various locations, landing in its current space in the Lower East Side in the spring of 2022. The gallery also opened a Los Angeles outpost in 2014. Over the years, Shoot the Lobster has hosted several site-specific installations, pop-ups, exhibitions, and performances, often embracing experimentation and collaboration and partnering with various galleries, musicians, artists, and venues.

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