Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008


"It’s official: I’m never going back to Chelsea." ] That’s what J-Dalt said after we finished touring the Lower East Side galleries. Of course, that very night she went to a performance in Chelsea, but never mind. I’ve decided to skip the Armory Show and related fairs this year because I’m bummed out about the hyper-inflated yet completely vacuous state of the blue chip art world but I’ve really been wanting/needing to see some great art. Figuring the local places would bring out their best for be well-washed masses in town for the various festivals, J-Dalt suggested that we check out the LES scene.

Boy, were we impressed!

Everything that has been written about how visitor- and art-friendly the neighborhood is exactly right. The galleries are easy to reach and it is interesting to walk from one to the next. In fact, there’s probably more inspiration outside the galleries as there is within. It is, after all, one of the most interesting neighborhoods in the world. The same can hardly be said of Chelsea.

The galleries themselves were terrific too. I found the art extremely interesting and relevant for the times we live in. It’s generally very sincere, conceptually interesting, and well executed. We visited nearly a dozen galleries and none disappointed. You’re not going to love everything, but I appreciated everything I saw. The galleries themselves were professionally managed with good facilities and professional and friendly(!) staff. The scale of both the galleries (cause) and the work (effect) were intimate. We both found the scene to be like Williamsburg back in the day—only with slightly better art and universally professional.

Standouts included Jen Bekman, Thierry Goldberg, Salon 94, Eleven Rivington, Fruit & Flower Deli, Sunday, Fusion Arts Museum and, of course, 31Grand. We also stopped by the New-squared Museum. Not so bolly-ho about that, but that’s subject for another post/rant.

Two of a Kind

Later that night I ran into Schmertzy and the Ankinator at the NurtureArt opening. They took me back to the LES for a Norwegian party. We walked in to a very civilized room with about a dozen statuesque blondes sitting around a coffee table full of cupcakes, cookies, and brownies. One of them apologized for there being so many Scandanavians. I tried to find a way to cope with the situation.

It was very fun. We ate chocolate, danced, and the hours went by very quickly. The oddest thing was this. The only person not of Northern-European extraction (including citymouse) was a pair of African American twins who dressed exactly alike. They were dating the two Norwegian women who lived in the apartment. One of the ladies started dating one of the brothers and found out that her friend was coming from Norway. She told her friend on the phone, "Don’t worry, I have everything lined up for you: a job, an apartment, even a boyfriend!"

The two guys together comprised one single being and they did everything together—like the party version of synchronized swimming. They went to get a beer in unison, the sulked on the couch side-by-side, they looked through the music together, and they simultaneously bust out their video handhelds for some mid-party gaming. Not sure if they took a leak together...

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