East Side Story

Left: Outside Rachel Uffner Gallery. Right: Artists Jutta Koether and Thomas Eggerer. (All photos: Jude Broughan)

“RESTLESS, THEY FINALLY pull out to honeycomb the streets for an hour of endless tight right turns: falafel joint, jazz joint, gyro joint, corner. Schoolyard, creperie, realtor, corner. Tenement, tenement, tenement museum, corner.” To the lists of premises with which Richard Price opens his Lower East Side–set novel Lush Life, itself the subject of a recent group of exhibitions in the very neighborhood it describes, the author might perhaps have added “gallery.” Now, a scant two years after the book appeared, what may then have read like an afterthought now feels essential. After an overstuffed Thursday and Friday in Chelsea and a day’s respite on Saturday (someone else could cover Fifty-seventh Street), Sunday evening’s downtown openings beckoned through the drizzle, promising a more manageable but still varied agenda (one list cited a lucky twenty-one options) and a choice of relatively democratic afterparties (I’d taken note of four).

First up was a brunch at Rental’s new gallery, the neutrally named Untitled, at 30 Orchard Street. The storefront space is an intimidating double-height box—easily the area’s largest and sleekest to date—and is occupied on its debut with new works by David Adamo, Heather Cook, Brendan Fowler, Rashid Johnson, and Phil Wagner. Arriving with half an hour or so of the all-afternoon event still to run, I found the gallery almost deserted. A stack of sodden umbrellas by the door, however, told a different story, and an upstairs room turned out to be heaving with usual suspects—critics Sarah Douglas and Paul Laster, artist Orly Genger, and NADA director Heather Hubbs among them—scarfing bagels and lox from Russ & Daughters.

Left: New Museum curators Lauren Cornell and Laura Hoptman. Right: Artist T. M. Davy.

Come 5 PM, it was time to head to the early wave of openings. To judge from the virginal guest book, my companion and I were LMAK Projects’ first visitors of the night; cue an uninterrupted view of Silvia Russel’s unpretentious portrait drawings and a chat with director Bart Keijsers Koning about the relative merits of various Brooklyn ’hoods. Next up were the Rivington Street joints. Sue Scott Gallery, showing new abstractions by Kirsi Mikkola, was, like her Eldridge Street near neighbors, only beginning to pull the punters, but her nearer counterparts were already buzzing by the time we arrived. Admittedly, it didn’t take more than a dozen people to fill Thierry Goldberg Projects, as Claudia Joskowicz’s meditative video installation significantly reduced the usable space. But at Eleven Rivington, it was T. M. Davy’s night, as viewers clustered around his half dozen or so modest but likeable canvases. Round the corner at Salon 94 Freemans, Gerald Davis’s unsettling scatological drawings made for a less convivial atmosphere, an intervention from one suitably creepy fanboy hastening our exit.

Ducking into vegan organic bakery Babycakes (gotta love the LES culinary scene) on Broome Street for a sustaining cuppa before the 6 PM round, we clocked New Museum senior curator Laura Hoptman and adjunct curator Lauren Cornell on line for brownies. Their tip for the evening’s must-see? Viktor Kopp’s delicious-looking paintings of chocolate bars at Bureau on Henry Street, naturally. We took a dutiful gander, but not before stopping into DCKT Contemporary for a look at Cordy Ryman’s colorful assemblages, and Laurel Gitlen to see an intriguing juxtaposition of works by Bianca Beck and Josh Brand with others by “Anonymous Americans” (not, as I’d assumed, a hot new collective from Bushwick, but the genuinely unknown makers of some curious inlaid pots). After a brief powwow with Gitlen and artist Scott Calhoun, it was time to pluck some fruit over on the neighborhood’s main gallery drag, Orchard Street.

Left: NADA director Heather Hubbs. Right: Dealer Laurel Gitlen with White Columns deputy director Amie Scally.

Lisa Cooley was flush with the success of her show of smart new paintings by Alex Olson, but, clocking New York Times scribe Roberta Smith as she wove past, I thought it prudent not to detain the gallerist for long. Nicelle Beauchene, at her own gallery, looked similarly chuffed with the response to Louise Despont’s multipart pencil drawings. And the mood at Rachel Uffner, which was filled by a group of Pam Lins’s bright painting-sculpture hybrids, was upbeat too. Even Orchard Street stalwarts Miguel Abreu Gallery and the recently relocated Scaramouche, both trying to play it cool with, respectively, Scott Lyall’s ultrapale monochromes and Dmitry Gutov’s Marxist sloganeering, couldn’t stop the music. Abreu in particular was a locus of attention, with artist Rachel Harrison and beau Eric Banks joining artists Jutta Koether, Thomas Eggerer, and Sean Raspet—among many others—to toast the new season.

Stepping outside to discuss which, if any, of the postopening events might supplement the anticipated bubbly and PBR with, you know, food (those bagels seemed a very long time ago), we exchanged waves and shouts with critic and reality-show host Jerry Saltz as he hastened past, no doubt in the direction of dinner. The most sensible option seemed to be Andrea Blum’s party for Uffner and Lins, staged at her SoHo loft. Sure enough, we left the enviable pad well fed, and with sufficient energy to try a joint bash for Eleven Rivington and Salon 94 Freemans. This was back on the Bowery, at an apartment whose owner was never identified. Indeed, it had the provisional feel of a newly built—albeit unusually posh—student dorm. As musical duo the Woofgang hunched over laptops in the corner, we chatted to Klaus von Nichtssagend co-owner Sam Wilson, whose gallery, formerly a Williamsburg staple, is en route to the area after a pit-stop pop-up in Chelsea. Final drop-in of the night, a tempting offer from Bureau’s Gabrielle Giattino of some top tunes selected by DJ JazMasterDre, was a six-gallery extravaganza at the Wooly on Barclay Street, where artist Lisa Kirk pounced on us gleefully the moment we walked in the door, and Lisa Cooley was already on the dance floor. Price’s “Quality of Life Task Force” wasn’t about to get a complaint from these two.

Left: Artist Viktor Kopp with dealer Gabrielle Giattino. Right: Dealer Lisa Cooley.