Absolute Roller-coaster: The Ryan Lee Gallery and Chelsea Gallery Hopping

Absolute Roller-coaster: The Ryan Lee Gallery and Chelsea Gallery Hopping

I imagine it is generally accepted notion that the majority of a work’s ‘value’ is gauged on how it evokes a reaction in the viewer. I take great pleasure in feeling a particular way when I view a work, whether that feeling is based in joy, shock, or a little mix of everything. But I’ve decided that this week’s trip into New York has made me emotionally react more than I ever have before.

And there was no continuity in the reactions. My state of mind darted from entertainment, to existential horror, to relaxation and then fear. I felt mentally exhausted by the time we all boarded the train to head back home. That being said, I very much enjoyed this outing, despite feeling so tired by the end of it.

Before any of the real chaos set in, we began our day by meeting with Jeremy Lee, director of the Ryan Lee Gallery. He received us in the front room of the gallery, which doubled as both lobby and exhibition space. Prior to our one-on-one interview with Jeremy, he took us around the front-room and talked us through the current May Stevens exhibit, ‘Rosa Luxemborg.” I found myself smitten with Stevens’ work almost immediately. There was something about how her compositions that recreated archival photographs and newspapers, could be so poignant. I found the way she made this spiritual communion with the historical figure of Luxemborg, by designating her a ‘spirit mother,’ absolutely fascinating. Stevens’ loose facture that still manages to produce an image so distinctly photorealistic was absolutely amazing to witness.

The interview with Jeremy was great. From the moment that the discussion started, one could tell that Jeremy was enthusiastically involved. He was so versed in his craft and in art as a whole, and his knowledge was infused with a refreshing sense of social and political awareness. He spoke with us about the gallery’s intention to create “generational dialogues,” and dialogues around gender, sexuality, race, and many others. Hearing Jeremy speak more than affirmed the Ryan Lee Gallery’s outspoken mission to possess a very global outlook. He also commented that he felt the RL gallery’s desire and efforts to adapt to generational differences are what has protected the gallery from the recent extinction of midsize galleries.

“We now have an articulated language in the modern day to discuss what was once an “other.” It is a learning process.” – Jeremy Lee

Jeremy also gave us generous advice for . He prefaced the advice with the phrase “Passion is precision,” which I haven’t been able to forget. He then claimed that this was true regardless of whether one was going into the art, curatorial, or editorial field. Stressing the importance of work experience and allowing oneself to listen to the zeitgeist of the age, Jeremy seemed like an occupational sage. He even asked us questions! Meeting with Jeremy kicked the day off positively, and I feel that we left the RL Gallery in high spirits.

The airy feelings were not to last long however. This isn’t to say that the next exhibition we saw was awful, or unimpactful. It was just a lot at once. Christian Marclay’s 48 War Movies and Screams is a tour-de-force that screamed in my face the moment I walked in the door. The halls of the Paula Goodman first floor gallery, where Marclay’s work is stationed, are lined with several large prints of animated characters frozen in a perpetual scream. These characters, who seemed to have been borrowed from Japanese manga books, haunt the viewer with expressions of pure anguish and terror. Several of the prints vibrate with offset outlines and distorted backgrounds of aggressive colors, as displayed in “Scream (Eye Popping)” (2017). There is no context to the images, yet the faint sound of commotion in the distance gives a slight indication of what the images might be screaming at.

The gallery culminated in a video-installation, which was very much worth the screams. “48 War Movies” consists of a theater space with a gigantic screen, that displays forty-eight war films grafted on top of each other. And it is as abrasive as it sounds. The view alone is terrifying. Shrapnel, explosions, smoke, and artillery assault the screen from every angle, in every section. The concentric rectangles on top of one another make it seem as though the screen is receding, creating this hallway of horrifying imagery. The audio is painful, as thousands of screams, the barrage of endless channels of gunfire, and explosions blare in one wall of horrific sound. Whereas the Scream prints made me uneasy, this installation terrified me. I felt as though I was thrown in the middle of a warzone, and the battle raged on. My chest felt tight, and the longer I sat there, my eyes unable to pull away from the screen, I felt like I was either going to vomit or cry. It’s truly a testament to Marclay’s skill, and ideas as an artist to prompt such a strong reaction in the viewer.

After finally leaving the Paula Goodman Gallery a bit shaken, we visited a selection of galleries including Mike Clouds’ “Tears in Abstraction.” The remainder of the trip consisted of coming down from the intensity of Marclay’s installation, and being comforted and alarmed once more by the various shows we saw. Nicholas Party’s show on pastels did well to help assuage my emotional state, and the Haas Brothers fairy tale exhibition of beaded marble creatures made me grin, so I cannot say the day ended on a bad note.

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