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BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN | As Chelsea’s art district continues to change, seeing more high-end condo buildings pop up along the High Line, one cannot help but wonder how long (and how many) galleries will be able to afford the steadily increasing rents. Still, though several larger outfits have continued to move elsewhere, including to the Lower East Side and Soho, others continue to set up shop.
One of the newer buildings to shape Chelsea’s western landscape is 500 W. 21st St., at 10th Ave. Though the building was completed in May 2015 as a luxury building (only 32 residences in the large complex), it took a while for galleries to move in and add some spark to its ground floor. Only one space remains to be filled, its window lettering announcing that Wilensky Gallery will be “Coming Soon.”
In addition to Galleria Ca’ d’Oro, Sato Sakura Gallery, Praxis, and YSP Gallery, two well-established Midtown galleries have now settled in. Both Nohra Haime Gallery and Washburn Gallery, which had been located in the 57th St. section for decades, are up and running, presenting their program Downtown with their usual sophistication. All galleries in the building are open to the public Tues.–Sat., 10am–6pm.
Through March 3, Washburn Gallery is presenting “The Nines” — a new exhibition of the modernist abstract painter Ray Parker. Born in 1922 in South Dakota, Parker became associated with some of the leading Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s, including Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Influenced by jazz music and with a keen admiration for Matisse, he soon developed a unique compositional language, in which cloudlike forms in rich muted colors form a stark contrast to white or off-white backgrounds.
Washburn has been showing Parker, who died in 1990, for decades and yet, perhaps by introducing Parker’s work to a Downtown audience, they might finally succeed in raising wider appreciation for one of the very fine Color Field painters of the 1950 through 1970s.
Meanwhile, Nohra Haime Gallery will open “Wilderness: Words are where what I catch is me,” a new solo exhibition of Brooklyn-based artist Lesley Dill (reception for the artist Tues., Feb. 13, 6–8pm; “Wilderness” runs Feb. 14–March 17). Exploring the power of words, especially in regard to their psychological impact, Dill creates delicate sculptures and drawings.
In her work, paper, wire, horsehair, photography, foil, and bronze mingle with references to music, as well as the poetry and writings of Emily Dickinson, Salvador Espriu, Tom Sleigh, Franz Kafka, and Rainer Maria Rilke, among others. It is obvious that aesthetically and in spirit, Dill follows in the footsteps of the late Nancy Spero (1926–2009), a friend of Dill’s whose scroll paintings with text and classical goddesses are much revered.
Interestingly, the elaborate website for 500 W. 21st St. (500w21.com) stresses that “West Chelsea is also avant-garde art in landmarked buildings,” using it as an enticing pitch for the neighborhood. Though the galleries on its ground floor are as little avant-garde or cutting edge as the building is a landmarked one, there’s certainly a positive note to end on: thankfully there will be art displayed on these expansive premises instead of more ATMs.