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Art in Chelsea

by Charlie Finch
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The Steven Kasher Gallery has just opened an exceptional exhibition of punk memorabilia from the Andrew Devine collection (mostly stored in a Queens bedroom for decades) -- a show so extraordinary that Mr. Kasher informed me that curators from the Museum of Modern Art visited the gallery last Wednesday to perhaps buy the whole caboodle.

When you marvel at posters of the Cramps or the Gang of Four, don’t forget to stop in the back of Kasher’s luxurious space to see the yummy rock-star pix from the same era by photojournalist Laura Levine. Hanging out at Thursday’s opening, getting in from the heat, were NBC News chief and ex-Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker, veteran downtown shutterbug Marcia Resnick and collector Jay Butterman, who snapped up Levine’s scrumptious nude take of a young Björk, splashing in the glade.

Levine has lived in Woodstock making folk art for many years, but one look at these 30-year-old pictures reveals an innocence and naiveté missing from most hard rock images. A wavy-haired Michael Hutchence poses semi-nude with a feminine lilt. James Brown at the piano appears as drug free as a midwestern ‘50s teenager. Richard Hell, always the semi-ghoul, mugs with a skull -- also sweetly, however.

The must-have picture is the back of Sinead O’Connor’s bald head, with her fingers sinuously entwined around the nape of her neck. Ms. Levine was mobbed at the opening, which, on a night when the mercury topped 105 degrees, spilled down the block.

At Daniel Reich Gallery was something called "Fucknails," a bizarre and coolly satisfying aroma-paint therapy installation, which could have used AA Bronson’s special healing touch. And at I-20 gallery was a truly insane skateboard fetish show done in conjunction with a skateboard store at Chelsea Piers, in which all sorts of colorful tchotchkes are on sale. Boarders are encouraged to skim along the boulevard outside.

So, there’s your summer fun, on one Chelsea block. I am curling back up in front of the AC, reading God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

“Laura Levine: Musicians” and "Rude and Reckless: Punk/Post-Punk Graphics, 1976-82," July 21-Aug. 19, 2011, Steven Kasher Gallery, 521 West 23rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.

CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).