We are based here, so isn’t it about time we pay some homage to our beloved neighborhood? Today the Angel Orensanz Foundation blog is going to talk about the history of the Lower East Side and (obviously) give you a little inside scoop of the arts in the area – you might know, we are a neighborhood full of art galleries.
In its early development the L.E.S. was know as Little Germany, due to the many German immigrants that populated the area, but they weren’t the only ones: the Irish came, so did the Poles, the Italians and many others. At the time the nighrborhood was characterized by tenements and pushcart, as well as the soul of Orchard Street. The street is now a trendy street full of restaurants and boutiques, but it was once the tone of the busiest commercial districts in the world. But, the neighborhood is best known for its ties with Jewish culture. In fact, the Angel Orensanz Foundation used to be a synagogue in its early years, the first NYC synagogue and the fourth oldest synagogue in the States, actually. Now, the Foundation is an art center, with a big gallery that hosts exhibitions by emerging and established artists.
In the start of the 21st century, things started to change, the Lower East Side went under a process of gentrification and it become one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Manhattan. It has also become a hub for the arts, housing numerous contemporary art galleries.
Today, we present some of those galleries that have exhibitions you shouldn’t miss. Make sure to keep up with the blog and soon enough you will know all the galleries of the Lower East Side.
Toomer labzda, is a contemporary art gallery founded on 2011, dedicated to show emerging artists, such as Tamara Gayer, who presents The Inside, her take on the Eldridge Street Synagogue. The american artist created a site-specific kaleidoscopic installation to show this 125-years-old landmark in her own way. The window piece is a ode to the public sanctuary.
Another gallery in the L.E.S. with a well curated exhibition is the Pocket Utopia on Henry Street, with “Lyrical Color”, a group exhibition featuring the work of Rico Gatson, Sam Gilliam, Brece Honeycutt, Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson, Jane Kent, Meg Lipke, Maggie Michael, Dan Steinhilber, and David Storey. In the center of the exhibition is Gilliam, who is known as one of America’s foremost color field painters, around him, there’s restraint, equanimity and balance. There is the blackness of both Rico Gatson’s and Dan Steinhilber’s sculptural abstractions, there’s Jane Kent’s overlapping musical scores, fanned Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson’s paintings upon silk threads, and finally Meg Lipke’s joining of herself and her India-inked and fabric dyed drawings.
There are only three days left until the biggest event of the year, The Olympic Games! Are you excited for it? What sport do you enjoy the most? Unfortunately art is not in the Olympics anymore, but that is no reason for Angel Orensanz not to participate in London 2012, of course in his own unique way.
His ritualistic sphere that has traveled all over the world with him now stops in London, more specifically at The Hundred Years Gallery for his take on this year’s games. The renowned Spanish artist cares about issues like cultural difference and identity and works with that in his art.
His first exhibition with the sphere was in Venice, where he did “Burning Universe”, in which he walked the 8.5-feet in diameter transparent plastic sphere thought streets, as well as in a Gondola. In the same year, Angel Orensanz was invited to expose in Tokyo, where he installed his ball and performed in front of the Senso-ji temple, which was destroyed by American bombs on the World War 2 and reconstructed by the Japanese after the war. Florence was the next destination of the sphere, this time by invitation from the Biennale. The sphere has rolled the world, Berlin, New York, Madrid, Barcelona, and now London.
Aristotle once said “perfect things move in circles” and Angel has truly taken that to heart, using his sphere in different ways for his art. He sees it as a symbol of perfection, of the fullness of being, and of totality, and he plays with the various interpretations of its meanings by making it represent many things in his performances: sometimes throwing it playfully into the sky, sometimes leaving it on the floor, sometimes painting it sometimes leaving it transparent, sometimes, even sealing himself inside it and transporting himself into the art.
The opening of his exhibition in the London gallery will happen the same day as the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, and such as the sphere the Olympics have traveled the world. Also, if you see a sphere from the front, it looks like a circle, or better, a ring, which reminds us of the Olympic symbol, the interlocking rings, that “represent the five parts of the world which now are won over to Olympism and willing to accept healthy competition”, the creator of the symbol Baron Pierre de Coubertin affirms.
Healthy competition, cultural difference, cultural identity, it can all be tied to Angel, so it is no wonder he is there with a site-specific exhibition celebrating the Olympics.
The Olympics started centuries ago, in Greece, as a way to bring all the cities together and showcase the abilities of their athletes, the principles are still the same, but the Olympics have now traveled the world and added more sports. Between 1912 and 1952, it even added the arts to it. But the idea was dropped because artists were considered to be professionals, while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs. Angel Orensanz certainly is a professional, and he wants to be part of the biggest event of the year.
He is presenting the worldly travelled piece “Cosmology”, his transparent (but always painted accordingly to the situation) giant sphere in a site-specific performance on the day of the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics of 2012, informally known as London 2012. The performance will occur on the Hundred Years Gallery, in London.
The sphere is the signature of the internationally known Spanish artist. And can be seen in a lot of his performances, in fact, performances that are often related to world events ( no wonder he wants to be part of the Olympic games, the biggest happening of the year). Since the 90´s he has been involved with the political and cultural happenings around the world, in a series of exhibitions that are both a part of himself and a reflection of universal emotions. Most of this works manage to include his sphere, a half-transparent, man-sized, partially painted ball that Angel Orensanz pushes, pulls, suspends, raises, lowers o simply appears with at various venues around a little larger sphere known as globe.
If you live in the Lower East Side, where our foundation is located, you probably passed by this street exhibition by Tom Sanford that pays homage to the individuals that made L.E.S. great. Yes, we are talking about The Saints of The Lower East Side.
The Harlem-based artist, who paints colorful compositions of cultural figures, portrayed prominent downtowners like Allen Ginsberg, famous crime-scene photojournalist Weegee and also recent heroes of the neighborhood, like Nuyoracan Poets Cafe co-founder Miguel Piñero.
The panel with the seven L.E.S. heroes is installed on East 4th street between Bowery and 2nd Ave, 14 feet above the ground.
“I made them with the understanding that they’re on the street,”
“Some elderly lady walked by and said, ‘Ginsberg looked much better than that,’”
- Tom Sadford
All the painted heroes of the neighborhood where Angel Orensanz decided to build his foundation, are bearing personal symbols that show a trace of their work or personality. Weegee, for example, holds a cigar and a camera. The Saints of The Lower East Side will be up until September 5th, so make sure you pass by it and also enjoy all that the Lower East Side has to offer.
Here are some past performances we’ve had the pleasure of seeing come to the Foundation over the years:
The Grateful Dead
Philip Glass’ Dracula by Michael Riesman
The Bar-Olk Project
Flamenco Dancer Rafael Amargo
- Taking Back Sunday Live From Orensanz (drivenfaroff.com)