In Schmatta at Rachel Uffner Gallery, Talia Levitt places a magnifying glass to each the grit and the shared experiences that outline New York Metropolis. Via layered, generally kaleidoscopic work, the artist houses in on the on a regular basis individuals, animals, materials tradition, and concrete infrastructure which are emblematic of town, however not usually celebrated. Her portray methodology entails making use of acrylic with piping baggage, stencils, and freehand to create a trompe l’oeil impact and the impression of fake embroidery. Minuscule particular person stitches of paint emphasize the works’ patchwork look.
Levitt references textiles all through the present, first within the exhibition title, Schmatta, taken from the Yiddish phrase for rag. The time period turned widespread within the early nineteenth century, as Jewish immigrants from Japanese Europe arrived within the US and commenced working within the garment business. Levitt’s household has been in New York’s textile enterprise for generations, intertwining town’s historical past with the artist’s personal. She invokes this connection in her imagery, portray clothes on clotheslines, a sight widespread in some neighborhoods right now and sometimes related to the shut quarters of Decrease East Facet tenements, the place many immigrants lived.
Drawing inspiration from these histories, Levitt’s complicated, layered work require attentive viewing from up shut and afar and resemble palimpsests, not in contrast to town itself. In “Drawing on the Practice – Day/Night time” (all works 2023), for instance, a composition that initially seems to be a patchwork quilt reveals roses, birds, and palms upon nearer inspection. Interspersed are nods to artwork historical past, together with lifeless flies and skulls related to memento mori and books, flowers, and writing implements from Dutch vanitas work. A checkered border surrounds these patchwork vignettes, and a frieze of cogs and wheels spans the underside of the work, as if supporting the quilt from beneath. Small, three-dimensional bones and tooth adorn the floor on this backside portion, maybe alluding to the individuals and animals of New York’s previous.
Seen from afar, one other scene is seen. As the attention traces a shiny blue line, a drawing of a subway automotive inside unfolds. Figures fill the prepare, some tiredly sitting with their heads resting on their arms, others standing and leaning towards the door. Extra veiled and overt references to city infrastructure are obvious in different works, such because the subway automotive and station hidden in “Drawing on the R” — one other picture inside a picture — and the sewer cowl featured prominently in “NYC Memento Mori.” Discarded sweet wrappers and bottle caps additionally seem within the latter, alongside an empty espresso cup and face masks. Useless pigeons are interspersed amongst this stuff, comprising a picture of contemporary city decay and an on a regular basis scene within the metropolis.
Levitt’s curiosity within the macabre and mundane elements of life in New York reveals her deep reference to town. Emblematic of that is “Metropolis Chicken,” a portray of a big lifeless pigeon. Elevating the picture of the deceased animal to a topic worthy of a portrait, the reverential work pays homage to town’s collective pet. Levitt’s will not be a vacationer’s view of New York, however reasonably one which displays each her household’s historical past and her actual, lived experiences.
Talia Levitt: Schmatta continues at Rachel Uffner Gallery (170 Suffolk Road, Decrease East Facet, Manhattan) by means of June 17. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.