On ViewBelow Grand
November 18 – December 11, 2021
Below Grand is a gallery in the Lower East Side with a twist. This space is a closet-sized gallery nested into the storefront of Fortune Line Trading Corporation, a Chinese owned restaurant supply store. We are charmed by the concept, which is quintessentially New York in its spirit and scarcity of space, but also by the pairing of six works by artists Myeongsoo Kim and Cy Morgan and curated by Wangui Maina and Mo Kong. Below Grand has also inaugurated a second space, this time deeper inside the store, thus expanding the potential of showing emerging artists and blending in with the ambiance of Chinese retailers at work.
Of Cy Morgan’s three sculptures, two are site specific: Wauder Cauder Shaurdur or (and Now We’ve Sprung a Leak) (2021) and Of Fishes and Wishes (2021). The former is hanging from the slanted ceiling of the gallery, and we look up at the live edge wooden panel, where the whole object is floating like an iceberg on top of four fish hooks at the end of thin copper wires. This object’s world is divided into the lower part where straight copper rods are arranged in a pyramidal shape, ordered and spaced out like wind chimes, while the upper rods are bent and oxidized and exist in a world full of movement and undulations. The latter smaller and enchantingly bizarre sculpture on the floor has us crouching down to look closer, where we find unity in two different visual worlds. A welded steel bar structure acts like a table and holds a plump and twisted cement package gracefully resting on bits of twine and a bright blue piece of paper as if foraged by a bird for a nest raised from the ground and protected from the curious orange medical glove and bent rod, both carefully placed underneath on the floor. This balance between sky and ground ties together the visual play at work in the curation of this challenging space with Morgan’s third sculpture, All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go (2021), at eye level standing erect from the floor and evoking the steel materials and tall narrow structures of our New York skyscrapers. The eye moves from the oxidized curvilinear copper rod blues of the hanging sculpture, to the blue paper on the floor sculpture, and finally to the blue dye absorbed by the foam cube resting on top of the standing sculpture. A fragile stick and copper wire fabrication crowns the vertical sculpture laid on top of a soft white beeswax and paraffin shape. Despite its diversity of urban material detritus, there is a human element in the hanging cutout steel shape moving as if a pendulum or the heartbeat of this piece. His works ask us not to discard these seemingly unimportant objects of urban life, and instead imbibes them with endearment. The current urgency to reuse, recycle and avoid overwhelming the Earth and climate with trash point to materials that remind us of castoff construction debris that have been given a second life or unearthed from behind the drywall of our homes, creating close ties with Arte Povera and shows us the poetry in these works is urban, raw, and geometric.
It is fitting that Morgan has been paired with Kim, who combines digital print photography and collage into two and three-dimensional work. The octagonal shaped photograph Untitled_Dried Fruit on the Sand Rock (2021) is surprising through its unusual shaped frame. The contrasting golden and purple colors, linear play of shadows, and magnified half-eaten fruit removes us from any sense of place and stops at the banal rejected moments of life, close to nature, which are full of magnificent colors blending into each other like a watercolor. As in Morgan’s work, we are compelled to look closely, while in Kim’s adjacent work Untitled_I Wish You Know I Was There (2021) we are confronted with the sky, imagining ourselves in outer space among the constellations with endless darkness and sense of time. Kim’s digital print is cut into rectangular and semicircle shapes, collaged together where we have a close up fragment of a pixelated and distorted vision, focusing on a flash of light, a speck in the infinity of space. The third piece Desolate Landscape-03 (2021) combines photography, collage, and wood where a stained black wooden cylinder pedestal holds a stacked arrangement of amorphous shapes resembling pebbles on which we can find cropped images of a stone’s surface and imagine the sound of water moving nearby.
Below Grand has embraced curation as a gesture. Morgan and Kim’s work honors the concept of this unique space and reaffirms that a work of art doesn’t need a big space to be compelling. We cannot wait until the next opening when a truck will park in front of the supply store offering drinks, as people will gather to check out the next innovative installation by emerging artists.