After my brother died, suddenly and far too young, in 1999, I tried to assuage my grief by walking every afternoon from the East Village to Pier 25. This was a wonderful place, supervised by a tall German artist. It had volleyball, outdoor ping-pong, a hamburger stand, and the creaky old ship "The Yankee" docked nearby.
I would walk out onto the cracked dock, where a few old-timers lived on boats, sunbathe among the Canadian geese and watch cormorants dive with agile grace for fish. It was a little bit of nature amidst the concrete and the clay, and it was destroyed on September 11, the falling debris making it unusable.
My old pal Deborah Brown has captured the feeling of Pier 25 and so much of natural New York from Wave Hill to the Rockaways in a new series of paintings, opening at Lesley Heller Gallery uptown on Mar. 28, 2008. These paintings arrive none too soon, as tacky glass high-rises obliterate much of the sparse nature of familiar New York. Now the cranes tend to topple rather than spread their wings and fly.
Brown’s painting Gowanus, for example, profiles a cormorant against the sunset drenched canal of that name. San Remo shows a solitary hawk skimming one of the West Side’s classic sandstone buildings. Tram depicts one majestic pigeon embarking via skytrain for Roosevelt Island.
Brown has always been a minimal portraitist of the single animal; her compassion far outstrips that of Mother Nature. But our new New York situation draws a new message from her cozy, familiar tropes: New York resident, that pigeon is you!
Deborah Brown, Mar. 28-Apr. 26, 2008, at Lesley Heller Gallery, 16 East 77th Street, New York, N.Y. 10075
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).