COVID has canceled countless exhibitions, projects, events. But in a subtler grade of cruelty, for shows that have gone ahead there has been stunted attendance and muted fanfare in what are nonetheless turning points in artists’ careers. Jennifer Riley has recently opened a solo exhibition (which I curated) at the 1GAP Gallery in the Richard Meier-designed condo building that in healthier days hosts the afterparties for The Review Panel. The lobbies, common rooms and elevator landings are filled with her lush, voluptuous abstraction. The centerpiece of her show is a mural, BBS1GG, Schmetterlinghaus, 2021, an audacious painted wall with richly colored steel and wood protrusions, utilizing what has become a signature element in Riley’s work, the steel “skeletons” from which engine parts have been plasma cut. Named for the “Butterfly House” at Vienna Zoo, this is a departure for this otherwise resolutely abstract artist. With its skyscrapers, sun and fluttering butterflies, Riley was determined to appeal to the condo’s children while also speaking to all of us who have been cooped up for months during the pandemic. The butterfly, like her repurposed industrial materials, is a potent symbol of transformation.
While the show is open strictly by appointment with the artist or the curator, there is ray of hope for the curious and intrepid: The blinds and the lights will be kept up at night, giving pedestrians a private view of the mural from the street. It’s a stunning work: go see for yourself! DAVID COHEN
Through April 20, 1 Grand Army Plaza, between St John’s Place and Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn (opposite Brooklyn Public Library).