about his recurring images as though they were people living in a funky section of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. “Bad Jet,” for example, represents anxiety, aggressiveness, loneliness. “He’s ornery but successful, always on the run.” “Corvette” is contrary, “I paint him anywhere, restaurant doors, gallery windown....” “Sailboat X” suggests “a crossing in the night.”
R.V. takes his art seriously, not solemnly. When Kevin Larmee hung his series of swimming pool paintings, R.V. sketched in a few submarines. Larmee anticipates worse; nature is his nemesis. “When I put these things outdoors, something changes about them ,” he says of his acrylic-on-paper paintings. “Part of it is enhanced by the outdoor environment – natural lighting and all that – and once the paper adheres to the wall it takes on a new texture.” Wetting down the paintings with paste, and the effect of the sun, bleaches out color, and acid rain eats the paper. “I like the way it looks, sort of like a fresco,” he says.
People trying to steal Larmee’s paintings generally tear them, but some artists want people to take their work home. Lawren Hancher paints pieces of wood wth symbols she sees in her dreams. In the dark hours of early morning she slips them into architectural niches, rests them on windowsills, or leans them against fire hydrants.
STREET V. PUBLIC
Since 1979, when he created Floating Sculpture for Central Park, Jim Nickel has been „preoccupied” with outdoor art. “It’s the chance to do something that’s non-elitist, not for the art crowd, not for the aesthetically literate,” says the forty-one-year old artist who is earning an M.F.A. at the School of Arts.
While he aims for the same audience as street artists, Nickel works through official channels “You’re always going to hear criticism, “he says of public art organizations, many of them founded as alternatives to galleries. “Now you hear talk of alternatives to the alternatives.”
Artists often complain about the bureaucracy, “art by committee” mentality, and bourgeois predilections of government – and corporate-supported art programs. For Nickel, “The organization is a certifying mechanism,” handling publicity, providing mailing lists, publishing catalogues. “In that sense, it’s like a gallery, but you’re using the great outdoors as your wall space.”
Nevertheless Nickel sometimes pays his own way. His Monumental Chair, created for Brooklyn’s Gowanus Memorial Artyard competition in 1982, cost him $500. And public art, like its street alter ego, is susceptible to vandalism. Nickel assumed his Floating Sculpture – six timbers notched together like Lincoln logs – would be safe in the middle of the 103rd street pond in the Central Park; but kids who had watched him anchor the sculpture later waded out and pulled it back to shore. The next day Nickel told the boys what he was doing and why they should leave the logs alone. “See,” one said to his friend, “I told you it was art.”
Through the plate-glass window, it looks like another Soho gallery; track lighting, splashy abstracts. It’s the shadowy south wall, hidden in the lee of cast-iron columns, that startles the jaded connoisseur; law books. 101 Wooster may look like a gallery, and it is, on weekends, but most of the time it’s the law office of Dolgenos, Bergen, and Newman
“It’s a statement,” says Jeffrey Newman ‘67C, ‘71L. “It’s trying to practice law in a more humanistic setting. It’s trying to avoid compartmentalizing our professional lives from our private lives. It’s trying to avoid a hierarchical setting among partners and staff.”
Newman and his partners used to practice law on Park Avenue, where they felt dwarfed my midtown sky-scrapers; they decided to scale down to where buildings are lifesize and neighbors know the shopkeeper’s name. “Soho worked because it’s a community,” says Newman. And, they had the space, who not fit some art between torts and contracts? “Art is the currency of the community, so this is how we contribute.”
A glass partition separates the offices from the gallery; privacy is ensured by a “flying wall” that drops from the ceiling and adds extra display space. The shows change monthly, featuring young, unkown artists. “There have been some sales,” says Newman, “but the main thing is to give them a first show and help them gain some recognition.”