Buhmann on Art: Kate Shepherd at 56 Henry

BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN | For her latest exhibit — “Bagels and Locks” — Kate Shepherd lures us into the realm of New York City’s construction sites. In fact, some visitors might easily engage in the illusion of having stumbled upon one, scaffolding and all. Shepherd, who though best known for her almost minimal but lusciously slick-surfaced enamel paintings has a long practice of material exploration, succeeds in shining a spotlight on the delights of the rough and tumble — partially by bringing it indoors.

Here, boarded up street facades serve as memorials for the notion of impermanence in a city where constant development tears at the infrastructure. In New York, gentrification is hardly a new phenomenon and yet, the increasing speed of it makes it difficult to follow. Whereas the process of seeing a neighborhood transformed from rags to riches seemed to take at least a decade, it now tends to unfold in less than a handful of years.

Shepherd’s outlook is not nostalgic but rather factual, finding relevant visual appeal in Hunter green plywood, for example, that aims to keep pedestrians from trespassing onto yet another construction site slotted for new condominiums. At 56 Henry, one of the walls is painted in muddied-up beige with a diamond shaped peephole cut into it. Covered by a Plexiglas, the latter serves as a stylized invitation for street side voyeurism. Another wall is made of large, rough-hewn boards affixed with a set of doors that rest mildly askew, chained together and padlocked.

What Shepherd draws attention to can be experienced on an outdoor city walk any day and yet, by bringing these elements into an indoor setting, she has created an unusual sanctuary; a place for contemplation. In that, “Bagels and Locks” manifests as an homage to constant flux. In this setting, we get to recognize that it is not only the city which is changing, but also everything and everyone who is navigating its intricate web. To stand still for a moment and to absorb it in this distilled and simplified form enables us to realize what construction fragments really are: remnants of a particular slice of time.

Through Nov. 19 at 56 Henry (56 Henry St., btw. Market & Catherine Sts.). Visible from the street 24 hours a day. Gallery doors are open to the public Thurs.-Sun., 12-6pm and by appointment. Call 646-858-0800, email [email protected], or visit 56henry.nyc.

Installation view, Kate Shepherd’s “Bagels and Locks.” Photo courtesy the artist and 56 Henry.

Installation view, Kate Shepherd’s “Bagels and Locks.” Photo courtesy the artist and 56 Henry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *