Saturday in Chelsea for Young Art Enthusiasts

Enthusiastic kids and thought-provoking art made a Saturday, September 20th, 2014 field trip to Chelsea a great success!  Nine Rye Middle School students toured four galleries.  The day started with the most challenging exhibit in the line-up and ended with an uplifting show by a Rye Middle School alumnus.

At the Nick Cave exhibit at Jack Shainman Gallery on 20th street, racist utilitarian objects that were made throughout American history were reborn in new sculptures.  The work challenged viewers to consider history, values and culture. Associate Director, Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels, pressed students to voice thoughts about the series.  She then ushered the group to a 7th floor space where students saw pieces from Cave’s Soundsuit series.  The Soundsuit Series started as a reaction to the Rodney King beating and subsequent LA riots in 1991.  Cave, an Alvin Ailey dancer, as well as one of the most highly acclaimed 21st century contemporary artists, used the stunning sculptures to shield identity, while safely enabling a wearer to move expressively.
When we walked into Mary Boone Gallery to see Jacob Hashimoto’s first large scale installation in the United States, one seventh grade student assessed, “Even his plain white squares are way better than ours!”  “Ours,” referring to the installation that the 6th and 7th graders created for the Rye Middle School entrance hallway, in September 2013.  I reminded the student that the RMS artwork was an impressive popsicle stick and hanger tribute to the master.
Many of the kids became Kwang Young Chun fans after seeing his work at Hasted Kraeutler Gallery.  Mr. Chun prints well wishes on handmade mulberry paper.  He wraps thousands of tiny styrofoam forms with the paper and then ties each wrapped piece with mulberry string.  Finally, he assembles all the pieces in relief collages that sometimes look like moon craters.  The small components jut out, sending positive karma to viewers.
Gallery visits ended at Rush Arts, where students saw shows by Allison Janae Hamilton and by Michael De Feo.  De Feo, a Rye Middle School and Rye High School graduate, spoke about his career as an artist and told the kids about his first pangs of desire to make art in the tech room in Rye Middle School.  In the exhibit, paintings of flowers juxtaposed on maps spoke of loss, renewal and expansive vision.
Rush Arts Philanthropic Organization supports arts exposure in city schools where programs are typically underfunded or cut.  The foundation also gives opportunities to emerging artists.  While at Rush Arts, a 6th grader suggested to the other kids that they have a bake sale to buy one of De Feo’s silkscreens for Rye Middle School.  The other kids loved the idea. Buying the Rye Middle School alumnus’ artwork became the kids’ focus for the 2014-2015 school year.