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Selecting the best of New York City’s arts scene

As we’ve seen from previous posts, there are a tremendous number of ways to create, explain, and respond to artworks. People with different life experiences, working in a variety of mediums, and from countries all over the world communicating ideas and interests to those around them: for New York City, it’s just another day in the art world (or on the subway). But occasionally it’s a good idea for us to focus on a couple of ideas and compare them to each other. This time we’ve chosen to look at a pair of radically different approaches to art: one deeply personal, the other just as strongly impersonal.

At Galerie Lelong & Co., Ana Mendieta’s La tierra habla (The Earth Speaks) reflects the joy of returning home to Cuba as well as the sorrow of her involuntary separation. Using the landscape as her canvas, she created several pieces referencing local gods and spirits, nature as a maternal force, and her emotions on being reunited with them. It’s a profoundly moving show on the psychological cost of exile and return.

By contrast, our second gallery choice features the abstract art branch known as Concrete, a form shaped over several decades and influencing artists around the world. It’s a particularly challenging style, where the artwork can only be about line, plane and color: no emotion, no figural representation, no subjectivity. There is often mathematical component to the works as well, because the angles and sizes of shapes become important to the entire composition. It’s best known in Latin America but also has a devoted following in Italy and the Scandinavian countries. There’s even a museum dedicated to it in Switzerland. Here in NYC, we don’t have enough of this art, although we certainly have a lot of the later abstraction styles influenced by it, such as Kinetic, Op-Art, and Minimalism. Fortunately, Scandinavia House is filling the gap this fall with their exhibition Cutting Edges: Nordic Concrete Art from the Erling Neby Collection, featuring artists from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The range of work is outstanding, each artist providing a different approach within strict compositional guidelines and producing imaginative solutions on canvas or in sculpture.