Hang with the Downtown Kids

Elena Soboleva
Jun 2, 2014 11:58PM

Summer heat in New York, for me, brings with it a nostalgia for the ’90s era and downtown scene captured in Larry Clark’s 1995 cult classic Kids. Today, a new generation of artists embody the rampant energy and original cool of that decade, and fortunately, many of them are showing in New York this summer. Here are my picks for staying on this side of the Williamsburg Bridge and finding the new pack on the block. Enjoy the trip.

Start at City Hall Park ...,

A. Danh Vo, We The People, Public Art Fund | City Hall Park (& Brooklyn Bridge Park)

Iconoclasm forges new generations. Danh Vo manages to create a life-size replica of the Statue of Liberty, in roughly 250 individual pieces, using the same fabrication techniques and copper material as the original. Disembodied and fragmented, the work maintains sculptural gravitas and invites viewers to contemplate freedom in all its forms. The pieces are strewn in cities across the world, and a quarter of it can be found in New York at City Hall Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

From there, head northeast on Broadway toward Warren St; continue to 381 Broadway.

B. Todd Eberle at The National Exemplar | 381 Broadway

Not for the art tourists. The current show of Todd Eberle, a New York photographic legend, is a tender ode to his partner Richard. While the gallery is a stripped-down office space on the second floor, with a drop ceiling and fluorescent lighting, the curatorial vision is startlingly poignant. Earlier this spring, the original Kids star Leo Fitzpatrick had a solo show of poem paintings here. Word Up.

Next, turn right onto White St; head northwest on White St toward Franklin Pl; turn left onto Church St; continue to 275 Church St.

C. Dream House & MELA Foundation | 275 Church St.

Need an art break? Enter this respite of hallucinogenic light atmosphere in the historic Tribeca neighborhood. The former Dia space, opened in the 1960s, has had several revivals and was re-envisioned by composer La Monte Young and artist Marian Zazeela. For the summer season, they switch regular hours to a concert series, which is transcendent experience, but check times and tickets ahead.

Head northeast on Church St toward White St; turn left onto Canal St; turn right onto Wooster St; turn right onto Grand St; continue to 76 Grand St.

D. AVAF (Assume Vivid Astro Focus) at Suzanne Geiss | 76 Grand St.

After you unwind in a dream trance, sharpen your senses at this show at Suzanne Geiss. She is a ‘Kid’ of the Deitch days whose program of stellar artists is maintaining SoHo’s art status. AVAF is a collective that draws on “sexual, geographic, macroeconomic, social and political” connections, which Guy Trebay of the New York Times described as “site-specific installations that invoke the down and dirty days of the ’70s New York nightclubs.”

Head northwest on Grand St toward Wooster St; turn left onto Wooster St; continue to 18 Wooster St.

E. “St. Petersburg Paradox” at Swiss Institute | 18 Wooster St.

This show had me at its title, which is named after my home city. It describes a paradox of game theory irrationality and risk aversion. The exhibition features works from Douglas Gordon, Marcel Duchamp, Tabor Robak, and a 1983 video gem You The Better by Ericka Beckman. The crowning piece, though, is an array of upturned marble chess boards and precariously balanced eggs, by Sarah Ortmeyer, that litter the main space.

Head southwest on Wooster St toward Canal St; turn right onto Canal St; slight right to stay on Canal St; turn right onto Greenwich St; continue to 630 Greenwich St.

F. Hanna Liden at Maccarone | 630 Greenwich St.

The Swedish artist’s macabre ambivalence oozes street cool. As Interview magazine describes, Liden “quickly made a name for herself as a young pioneer of urban alienation and romance.” Closely connected with the original Bowery School of Nate Lowman, Dan Colen, Agathe Snow, and the late Dash Snow, she draws on urban leitmotifs to present photographs that portray the “city street and life in it” for her latest show.

Now, head to Chelsea. Grab a cab uptown to 531 West 24th St. or take the C or E Train to 23rd St.; get off at the intersection of 23rd St. and 8th Ave.; walk northwest on 23rd St. to 10th Ave.; turn right on 10th Ave.; turn left on 24th St.; continue to 531 West 24th St.

G. Larry Clark, “they thought i were but i aren’t anymore…” at Luhring Augustine | 531 West 24th St.

To continue the descent into the gritty bygone era, head to Luhring Augustine in Chelsea to see works by none other than Larry Clark himself. Titled, “they thought i were but i aren’t anymore…”  the show spans five decades and mines the detritus of adolescent life, manifested through collages, paintings, and sculpture. Like his films, the focus of the exhibition is “kids on the brink of becoming men and women, recording the myriad of beautiful, fucked up, charming, clumsy, dirty things involved in this transition.”

Now, head to the Upper East Side; take a cab to 980 Madison Ave or make your way to the 6 train. Take the 6 uptown to 77th St. Exit near intersection of East 77th St and Lexington Ave; start out going west on East 77th St towards Park Ave; turn left onto Madison Ave; continue to 980 Madison Ave.

H. Journal Gallery at Venus over Manhattan | 980 Madison Ave.

When you get on the 6 train to see the latest 20-something process painter wunderkind on 77th Street, you know the times they are a-changin’. Downtown kids flock to the Upper East Side in the restless pursuit to escape and upend.

The art is worth the trek and of particular note is the retrospective of the first decade of the Journal Gallery at Adam Lindemann’s Venus Over Manhattan. Started by Michael Nevin as a snowboard zine with his partner Julia Dippelhofer, The Journal is a Brooklyn touchstone for talent. A list of 21 past and current artists span the decade and include Jeff Elrod, Sam Moyer, Dan Rees, Joe Bradley, Chris Succo, and Kika Karadi.

From there, head northeast on Madison Ave toward East 77th St; continue to 1045 Madison Ave.

I. Luke Diiorio, “Never Stop Improving” at Robert Blumenthal Gallery | 1045 Madison Ave #3A

With gallerists such as Bill Powers, Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, and Joseph Nahmad looking north, the art world takes note. The latest to join the ranks is Robert Blumenthal, whose program injects an IV of Gowanus to Upper East Siders with a newfound appetite for young emerging talent. In his show, Luke Diiorio applies the self-defeating and false aspirationalism of DIY to the labor of sculpture and photo art-making processes. The materials, objects, and installations are all inseparable and incomplete—inevitably demonstrating the fallibility of creating art and the generation of artists who are caught in this self-reflexive trap.

To get to your final stop, head southeast on Madison Ave toward East 79th St; turn left on East 79th St, toward Park Ave; turn right onto Park Ave; continue to 103 East 75th St, located at the corner of 75th and Park.

J. Harmony Korine at Gagosian Uptown | 821 Park Ave

How else to finish the Kids tour than to pay homage to the the creator of the mythos. The legendary director Harmony Korine presents “Shooters,” a solo exhibition of squeegee and masking tape paintings (made with Salvation Army finds, like house paint and steak knives) at Gagosian Uptown that shows the depths of his exploration in contemporary film noir as painting. The man directed Spring Breakers. He can do no wrong.

P.S.: Get out of the city: Dan Colen at The Brant Foundation |  941 North St., Greenwich, CT

Once you’re sick of New York, get out of town to see Dan Colen’s paintings and installation tribute to Dash Snow at the Brant Foundation in Greenwich, Connecticut. The show “drags something from the city out into a new context” as Colen describes, and spans the last two decades of his career, focusing on the artist’s concern for “taking the ego out of painting.” It’s by appointment only, so plan ahead.

Explore more of City Guide: New York. 

Elena Soboleva