Sunday, January 17, 2016

Troeller at Coup; Doll Show at Byrdie's


Christo and Jeanne-Claude with Former Chelsea Hotel Manager Stanley Bard
The poet Dylan Thomas died there after downing 18 shots of Old Grand-Dad, but that only burnished its near-mythic status. A legendary oasis of the creative class, the Chelsea Hotel's grand dilapidation and accommodating manager sheltered legions of bohemians, from William S. Burroughs, Patti Smith and Syd Vicious to mainstream figures like composer Virgil Thompson and playwright Arthur Miller, who spent weeks, months or lifetimes there. In 2011, new owners closed large portions of it for renovations. Some longterm tenants remain, but much has changed. Photographer and former tenant Linda Troeller's photographs of the Chelsea in its heyday reveal some unexpected views like the Victorian grandeur of the late Virgil Thompson's apartment, below, that postmodern artist Philip Taaffe and his family now occupy, but kept as Thompson left it. But seedy elegance becomes environmental artist Christo, above, with his late partner Jeanne-Claude and the hotel's legendary former manager, Stanley Bard. Many of the other images reflect Troeller's signature voyeuristic quality of scenes glimpsed in passing.

Composer Virgil Thompson's Old Chelsea Hotel Apartment, Now Artist Philip Taaffe's
 The Chelsea always struck me as a kind of giant doll house where the famous-but-not-rich lived in low budget comfort, so the doll show at Byrdie's seemed like plausible counterpoint. But the opening  provided a surprising look at little known subculture: underground doll makers. Like the rail-riders known as "travelers," the artists and their friends who packed the opening often evoked characters from vintage fiction. While the works on view are a mixed bag, most are fun, and some--like winged skeletons welded from vintage machine parts by Andre LaSalle --are impressive. Other works with a sculptural bent include Benkin's doll house assemblage among others ranging in style from modernism to the macabre. More classic dolls include some exotic madonnas, above left, by Jessica Ruby Radcliffe--works evocative of Marie Laveau's New Orleans when it was the occult capital of America. ~Bookhardt / The Chelsea Years: Photographs of the Chelsea Hotel by Linda Troeller, Through Jan. 30, Coup d' oeil Art Consortium, 2033 Magazine St., 722-0876; Doll Show: Group Exhibition of Work by Fourteen Artists, Through March 8, Byrdie's Gallery, 2422 St. Claude Ave., 656-6794.