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by Charlie Finch
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A bunch of pals of mine walked me around the Lower East Side on an astonishingly bright sunny day last week (visibility was 10 miles according to WPIX meteorologist Mr. G), as we looked for pop-up spaces for a possible curatorial project. The galleries on the L.E.S. so effortlessly blend in with their coffee house and boutique surroundings that it always amazes me that anyone finds them.

The spaces remind me of the stores on Magazine Street that I visited in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: uncluttered, staffed by a lone attractive and brave woman, dimly lit with one visitor at a time. Half Gallery often has no one sitting in it at all, so art philanthropist Diane Brown and her staff buzz you in from their separate back office, in this case, for a spectacular exhibition of green, translucent Dustin Yellin box sculptures, each of which looks like Fritz Lang's film "Metropolis" petrified in a transluscent plastic cube. The show of the year so far, in my view.

Frosch & Portmann was closed until noon, but my pal the brilliant Oregon collagist Eva Lake, whose work I have long cherished, especially her "Anonymous Woman" series, opens a solo show there on Apr. 19, at 6 pm sharp, featuring three new bodies of work. Don't miss it, she offers refined complexity of vision mixed with mystic patterns of a feminist persuasion.

The ebullient Lesley Heller always bubbles at her desk at the Lesley Heller Workspace. Her Nick Ghiz exhibition of twee pastel birds and sampler-style home environments was not to my taste, but Lesley did guide me to a new Debbie Brown painting in the back of a pile of gleaming wrecked autos, somewhat of a departure for that bee busy Bushwicker.

Blackston Gallery is by far the most elegant L.E.S. space. It has exhibited the brilliant Pia Dehne more than once, and its proprietor, Rhiannon Kubicka, whom I met for the first time, reminded me of '30s movie star Irene Dunne. In other words, all class and nothing but. The show of double-exposed, black-and-white photos by Glynnis McDaris was kind of a mix of Sol LeWitt and Clifford Ross, a rare dud for this terrific space.

Finally, Munch Gallery features a tribute to longtime Night magazine editor Anton Perich, my upstate neighbor, complete with free copies of the new issue of his oversized interview special (you can also get Dustin Yellin's new and very similar Intercourse magazine at Half Gallery, also free.)

Back in the ‘80s, you could always find a free magazine, a friendly face and maybe even some good art in the East Village scene, antic serenity in the white cube, not a stack of cash in the lap of a frosty megadealer as in Chelsea today. The Lower East Side maintains that civilized approach in fine form. 

Dustin Yellin, “Investigations of a Dog,” Mar. 20-Apr. 22, 2012, at Half Gallery, 208 Forsyth Street, New York, N.Y. 10002.

Eva Lake, “Judd Women Targets,” Apr. 19-June 3, 2012, at Frosch & Portmann, 53 Stanton Street, New York, N.Y. 10002.

Nick Ghiz, Mar. 14- Apr. 15, 2012, Lesley Heller Workspace, 54 Orchard Street, New York, N.Y. 10002

Glynnis McDaris, “In Time and with Water,” Mar. 1-Apr. 22, 2012, Blackston Gallery, 29C Ludlow Street, New York, N.Y. 10002.

“NIGHT,” Neke Carson, Erik Foss, David Hochbaum, Jacob Fuglsang Mikkelsen, Anton Perich, Mar. 17-Apr. 14, 2012, at Munch Gallery, 245 Broome Street at Ludlow Street, New York, N.Y. 10002.

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