Art History

‘Neighbors Walk By, Double Look And Smile’: What Happened When Top Artists Infiltrated Community Gardens In Manhattan’s East Village | Pro Club Bd

Art blooms all summer in New York’s East Village — and now in eight of its 42 community gardens.

Anonymous Gallery has teamed up with curator Lola Kramer to present 7 Gardens, a scattered exhibition of East Village artists featured in community gardens throughout the creative district. The outdoor exhibition opened on July 14 alongside a traditional presentation of all eight artists in the gallery.

Participating artists, all based in New York, include Ivana Bašić, Urs Fischer, Robert Gober, Terence Koh, Bunny Rogers, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Kandis Williams and Marianne Vitale.

Inspired by New York’s declining green spaces and the community garden movement that was taking shape in the 1970s, Kramer told Artnet News that she “envisioned 7 Gardens as a moment where art exists outside of the formal and conventional structure of the white cube and works against it.” by proposing a more flexible, less dying alternative.”

“These spaces serve as little oases for the public to venture into for a moment of solitude,” she continued. “It’s an opportunity for art to happen in our community.”

Anonymous Gallery founder Joseph Ian Henrikson said he reopened his New York space “in the midst of the pandemic, the arrival of my first child and the loss of my sister (who loved spending time in her garden)”.

“It all forced me to rethink public space, the city itself, and how I want to participate in the art world,” Henrikson said. He had quietly nurtured the conceptual seeds of 7 Gardens for years, compiling lists of community gardens in small batches.

Work by American sculptor Robert Gober, on display in the Peach Tree Garden.

“Witnessing New York City’s collective response to tragedy has inspired my dedication to a project that I can personally dedicate to my sister, but that also honors these phenomenally unique places in the city that have been my home for almost half of my life – and will be my home for my children when they grow up,” said Henrikson.

He began this February by asking gallery staff to get in touch with community gardens. As they began to get answers, Henrikson approached Kramer to help put the show together. Together, they managed to secure even more websites than they originally intended. The title “7 Gardens” was more like a goalpost.

“We like to think of it as part of our journey to tropism and organic growth,” Kramer said.

Henrikson said he felt the gardens chose them. “Green Oasis, for example, is one of the few gardens with an active beehive and an unused 10-foot platform,” he said. “Terence Koh immediately came to mind as someone who created structures and shrines dedicated to bees.”

Koh’s ongoing project at Green Oasis will culminate with community contributions and a “stained glass light shelter, friendly to the people, bees and butterflies that inhabit the space,” according to son Henrikson.

Kramer curated artists whose work would be particularly resonant with the project’s unorthodox context and respect for the neighborhood’s heritage. Tiravanija, for example, has had the same apartment on East 7th Street since 1982, and it features throughout his work.

“I knew Bob Gober’s history with the neighborhood, his studio on East 10th Street, and exhibitions like the one he did with Christopher Wool at the 303 Gallery in 1998,” Kramer said. “I understood that gardening is an important part of his daily life. I imagined how powerful it would be to experience his work in this context, especially given its porous relationship to the world outside of the studio and its channeling of this vernacular across media.”

Bench by Bunny Rogers in Orchard Alley.

What she enjoyed most was working with Urs Fischer’s studio in his chalk and cheese Installation. “Neighbors walked by, did a double take and smiled,” Kramer said. This installation was featured on Instagram by What Is New York, which has 1.3 million followers. Henrikson called it “a real ‘we did it’ moment.”

Local activist and Orchard Alley founder Ayo Harrington invited Bunny Rogers to make her floral version of the Chrystie Forsyth bench permanent. Rogers will be giving a poetry reading on July 27 at 7:30 p.m

There’s still plenty of summer in store. “7 Gardens” and promises more program, such as workshops, artist talks, performances and screenings. Keep an eye on the exhibit map as it updates and check out the central exhibit at 136 Baxter Street, which also serves as the information center for your East Village adventures.

Participating gardens include the Fireman’s Memorial Garden, 6BC Botanical Garden, Peach Tree Garden, La Plaza Cultural Garden, Green Oasis Community Garden and Kenkeleba House Garden.

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