“The Urban Situation” at the Ernest Rubenstein Gallery of The Educational Alliance offers a variety of takes on urban living from purely abstract to representational paintings. The show was curated by John Baber of Lesley Heller Workspace. “I wanted the show to depict not just New York City, but any city in the world. And I picked work that could be understood by everyone as well as work by a diverse group of artists from different ethnic backgrounds,” said Baber. Walter O’Neill, the director of the art school at the Educational Alliance told me that he picked the urban theme because his goal was to create a show that would be of interest to the public and also represent the type of classes offered at the school, such as landscape painting.
The Educational Alliance was started in 1895 to provide arts enrichment to young immigrants and neighborhood adolescents and adults. Among the artists who studied or taught there include Louise Nevelson, Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. The organization offers early childhood education, after school activities, sports and fitness, and much more.
Although the show focused on a single topic, the works were diverse in style and substance. One of the pure abstract paintings included Jonathan Allmaier’s “The Banquet of the Starved Size.” Allmaier studied visual art and philosophy at Brown University for his undergrad and it shows. His work is made up of systematic relationships that seem to be coded by color and forms that attempt to explain the workings of the universe. Another abstract work by Leah Dixon, “Blown in Half II,” seems to be trying to settle down in a world of insanity. Dixon’s work focuses on the destruction and construction that is brought on by the media. And Jungmin Park’s “The Crowd Square” offers a twisted city that is turning on itself.
Some of the more representational works included Peter Teraberry’s “Commuter,” who is trying to make sense of her book of complicated swirls; Karin Batten’s “White Silence,” a quiet look down south at Central Park and a tribute to the twin towers; and Joan Reutershan’s “48th and Madison,” a mundane but beautiful look at a New York City street corner. Two paintings look at the intricate workings of the busy city. Marie Koo’s “Here Hare Not Here” is a detailed illustrated look at an environment that could be Hong Kong and Andrew Rieder’s “Scape” is a collage of graffiti and representational work that shows the complexities of the urban existence.
“The Urban Situation” is on view until February 24 at the Educational Alliance. An online catalog with all the artists’ work and their statements was also created for the show.