Several weeks ago I wandered into Gallery Nine5 in SoHo. The exhibit, “Wild,” was closing the next day, but I still want to showcase this colorful show. “Wild” transformed Gallery Nine5 into an art garden grown from flowers, leaves, paint, and glitter. The magical plants clinging to walls and tables confronted the issue of green space in urban environments. How can the two coexist? What is the role of nature in the concrete jungle? How does the residue of city-life impact nature?
Ivan Stojakovic’s “NYC- Five Boroughs” was my favorite work in the exhibit.
As a slightly elitist native New Yorker interested in both art and sociology, representations of the city resonate with me on a personal level. “NYC- Five Boroughs” utilizes both to make commentary on the state of society as a whole. Stojakovic created a map of the five boroughs using succulent plants, honeycomb, and mixed media. The silver circles resemble strips of metal or painted cardboard, indicating urban materials amongst a natural landscape. Interestingly enough, the silver circles are clustered mostly on the parts of the map representing Manhattan and Brooklyn. This materials creeps into Queens as well. It makes me wonder if this is a commentary on the gentrification of New York City. It does not seem accidental that the most expensive places to live in the city are highlighted with a different color and material.
These neighborhoods are highly structured with tight rows of circles, while the rest of the map is allowed to flourish with greenery and hints of aquatic blue.
From a different angle, “NYC- Five Boroughs” could be an illustration of how green spaces are being pushed to the perimeter of city life. The giant burst of green trees in “Queens” is a reminder of the deciduous forest that used to cover the five boroughs. Here, white, green, blue and silver coexist. There is space for all of these colors and materials on the map. Stojakovic seems to be asking if this balance is sustainable.
At the bare, unpolitical minimum, “NYC- Five Boroughs” is a love letter to New York, and a reminder of its beauty.
* * *
These two following works peek around the corners of the walls of this exhibit. “Untitled, Small Red with Blue Fringe” and “Installation, Botanica Series” by Lina Puerta remind me of succession, the biological process of plants slowly growing in lifeless environments, until larger and larger plants can be supported.
Succession is often noted in sidewalk cracks where grass is just starting to peek through. If not controlled, these blades of grass give way to larger blades until weeds can be supported by the environment. Sooner or later, the pavement has been broken up and small shrubs sprout up. On brick walls, the same thing can happen. These works resemble sprawling ivy patches on old, worn-down buildings. I wonder what Puerta is getting at with these evocative images. I like to think that she is reminding the world that green spaces can be created in unlikely places. There is no reason that urban spaces need to be completely stuffy and artificial. A little greenery can go a long way in cheering the spirit and livening the soul.
* * *
“Bliss,” by Jessica Lichtenstein is an acrylic print carved into large bubble letters.
The colorful nymphs that frolic within the boundaries of the letters evoke the sensuality and carefreeness of nature. They blend into the brightly hued petals, becoming as natural a part of the environment as the blades of grass themselves. Staring at “Bliss” is a sensory experience. One can almost smell the flowers. I was overcome with a desire to lie down in a meadow with these nature creatures and take in the beauty of the world.
It is worth noting that the nature sprites are depicted in a an anime style. Their exaggerated features and pastel locks are unique to this genre. What could Lichtenstein have been hoping to say with this pointed choice? I do not read a political vibe from “Bliss,” but feel free to disagree. I get the sense that Lichtenstein simply felt anime-inspired nymphs would lend sexuality, innocence, and a sense of bliss to her fairytale scene.
“Bliss” blends elements of many genres into a cohesive whole. The large bubble letters and deeply saturated hues seem pop-influenced, while the figures themselves are derived from anime. Meanwhile, the detail of the flowers is reminiscent of still life. The result feels decidedly current.
* * *
Lina Puerta, who sculpted the wall pieces I described above, also created “Untitled, Tree and Frame.” This striking work is the epitome of mixed media. It combines concrete, polyurethane foam, reed mesh, wire, paint, fabric, lace, feather, faux fur, artificial moss, chains, swarvoski crystals, and beads.
Take a closer look at the intricate way in which these materials have been woven together.
“Untitled, Tree and Frame” feels both simple and complex, reserved and vibrant. It is a duality that mirrors its message; on one hand, the combination of nature (plants and moss) and urban life (beads and fabric) creates a beautiful whole. On the other hand, man’s footprint is intrenching its way so deeply into nature that one can hardly distinguish one from the other. Viewing “Untitled” is an experience of oscillating between these two views. One is enthralled by the beauty of the work and the harmony of its parts while simultaneously chilled by how interchangeable the natural and manmade materials appear.
I find the shape of the entire piece very interesting as well. The way one lone branch distends upwards from the mass while bits of chain and reed drip down is visually arresting. The eye is drawn all around the work. The branch can be read in a number of ways. It could be the lone weed that managed to grow from the chemically polluted soil; it’s outstretched arm is a cry for help. It could also be a statement of adamance- “You cannot get rid of me that easily,” it taunts. Meanwhile, the dripping pieces remind me of tears. The earth seems to be crying.
Regardless of the interpretation, “Untitled, Tree and Frame” is a fascinating example of a multifaceted piece of artwork, that serves to inspire through both symbol and spatial construction alone.
* * *
I find it easier to digest artwork when I really focus in on a few pieces. I hope you enjoyed this selection of my favorite works from “Wild.” If you like what you saw, make sure to check out the exhibit catalogue here. The sensory experience is well worth a scroll!
xoxo, Chloe ❤