Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Judy Rifka. Amstel Gallery. The Yard

Located on 32nd street between 6th ave and Hell, the Yard is a labyrinth of small cubicles, conference rooms and small office spaces that are rented out to young entrepreneurs, professionals and hipsters looking for low rent spaces to pitch, meet and push their work and ideas.
It’s also here that Gregory de la Haba runs and curates his Amstel Gallery, which might be named for the beer. It’s also here that you can view the work of Judy Rifka in an retro like show of her art from the 70’s to the present and it is a marvelous array of paintings, drawings and collages that fill all the spaces, some surprisingly so.
The yard is located in one of the most densely populated collaged neighborhoods in the city, which has gotten even more dense and collaged since I lived around there for 31 years, and its a welcome respite to go into the gallery after all the clutter and chaos of the streets just outside its 2nd floor doors.
The space itself is a crazy quilt of ramps, corridors, stairs going nowhere, cubicles, small rooms and unforgiving walls and halls all of which make it not the best place to show art. Challenging is a word that comes to mind immediately, but happily Rifka’s work which is strong and beguiling meet the challenge with a wink and a sharp smack to the face.
The work charmed and impressed me immediately especially the early stuff that I wasn’t familiar with and I was so pleased to see it. Most of the work is abstract and some are minimal, like the plywood pieces with a simple but quirky abstract shape placed in the center of the board and painted in reds and greys but the majority of the works are more complex in the images and materials used.
Surprisingly Rifka’s and my path never crossed back in the early 70’s and 80’s maybe because by then I was on my way of becoming a serious recluse. But wait in the famous group photo of the artists in the opening show at P.S. 1 Rooms show back in 76 there is Judy in the first row, and there I am in the 2nd row not far from her and standing right behind Bruce Nauman, so close i could have patted him on his head, and how did he get away without me introducing myself? A lost chance.
So in a way our paths did cross, but it wasn’t until Facebook that we became “friends” and I started to follow her new work landing in the middle of her bright, colorful and beautiful abstract collages that were all over the place, (there are some of them also in the show) and finally meeting her at one of her open studios in Gowanus a once run down industrial Brooklyn neighborhood that is on the mend and heading towards boring gentrification. This is a great chance for those not familiar with her art, somewhat familiar or very familiar with it to grab this opportunity to view a very rich and compelling exhibition.


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