The best gallery scene in town is at the brand new Collette Blanchard Gallery at 26 Clinton Street in Manhattan. As Ms. Blanchard told me last Friday night, "I’m from West Virginia and I’ve worked for other galleries for 15 years. Now I want to do it right."
Collette’s gallery has an ample exhibition space, a cozy split-level garden and an intimate downstairs lounge in the back, so her openings are three parties at once. After-parties take place around the corner on Rivington at a spectacular Art Deco dive called St. Jerome’s, whose DJ specializes in rock and soul music of the ‘60s and ‘80s. But what makes the Blanchard Gallery extra special is its second show, "The Brand New Heavies," the debut curation of Lehmann Maupin art star Mickalene Thomas, avatrix of the rhinestones, deep pools of color and everything black and beautiful.
The three "heavies" Ms. Thomas has selected resemble supermodels and make art like Isaac Hayes. Lauren Kelley’s video, Get Bones from 88 Jones, is, hands down, the funniest work I have seen this century. It concerns a rather prim, intellectual and gorgeous librarian, and the rather terrifying vulture, who may or may not be a handsome blood, who interrupts her daily rounds with books and schoolchildren, in an orgy of blood and feathers. The whole thing is done with Barbie dolls and claymation, as terror and humor intermingle.
Jessica Ann Peavy’s two-channel video, A Conversation Piece, features two adorable beigettes chatting and giggling back and forth about various sensual delights, of which food is the featured topics. The conversation veers from the joys of everyday consumption to the point of obsession and back. Ms. Thomas gets seriouser with the photographs of the brilliant Deana Lawson, whose subject is elegant African-American women and the cool beauty they project. The detached dignity of her subjects is right out of a 1950s copy of Vogue, minus the white.
Props to Mickalene Thomas for her spare curation, her selective eye in choosing only a few special works by three talented young artists and her jaunty celebration of the Afrofeminine. As for Collette Blanchard, long may she wave!
"The Brand New Heavies," Jan. 23-Mar. 8, 2009, curated by Mickalene Thomas at Collette Blanchard Gallery, 26 Clinton Street, New York, N.Y. 10002
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).