Queens Chronicle Review




New L.I.C. Gallery Pushes Envelope

 by Ric Jenny, arts@qchron.com




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(Ted Efremoff) A typewriterserves as the centerpiece in “Correspondence,” an installation that recreates a Stalin era Soviet apartment, now on view at P.S.11, a new gallery in Long Island City.




 PSII gallery is located in a space so tiny you’ll be proud to have found it. Mary Martin and Aziz Chittaee are the partners of this precious display case of a gallery, now just four months old.

       At four months, any gallery is barely embryonic, and it usually takes five years before collectors detect a sense of potential permanence. When a gallery has been selling art for five years, it becomes possible for it to start selling art. This conundrum is all too familiar to artists and writers who know they can get a show or be published as soon as they have gotten a show or been published.

       However, this frustrating barrier can also be the impetus for new ideas, as it is at PSII, located in the shadow of its namesake, an institution of modern art.

       PSII fits into the low cost, often artist supported cooperative gallery niche that stands in contrast to high cost multi branch galleries concerned with historical and monetary excellence. The latter might include Larry Gagosian, a prime innovator who maintains galleries with impressive addresses in Manhattan, London and Beverly Hills, while the former includes the artists’ groups and artist run galleries that have been multiplying in the greater Long Island City area in recent years. Nonprofit art spaces like Flux Factory and Local Project, to name just a few, are rebelling against critical and financial pressures that might limit an artist’s freedom of expression.

       One mechanism eventually feeds the other—perhaps these galleries will bring forth the future art Romeos and Painterinas who will someday line the pockets of those bold enough to take a chance and pay attention.

       The current installation at PSII, “Correspondence,” by Russian born Ted Efremoff, is first of all quite elegant in its implementation. Efremoff has transformed the gallery space into a small, darkened apartment during the Soviet regime. In a tiny stark room entered through black curtains, visitors hear the sounds of and see the projected image of a woman’s hands typing on an old typewriter.

       This image appears on the wall and on fresh white paper in the actual typewriter, which sits on a simple desk. On the desk with the typewriter, we see what appears to be a writer’s work papers and a book with no cover in the warm light of a desk lamp. To the left of the typewriter lies a letter that begs to be read.

The letter is written by a woman named Peg to a woman named Joyce and explains the plight of a writer practicing “samizdat,” the self publishing that started in post Stalin USSR when strict censorship kept writers from being published. Writers would secretly copy manuscripts in longhand or on typewriters for distribution one by one.
       To the left of this desk is a table onto which a video is projected of a woman’s hands making up a table as a bed. The claustrophobia is clear and present.

       This is the territory of Mikhail Bulgakov, a Russian writer who suffered the same fate as the people described in the letter to Joyce.Bulgakov’s book, “The Master and Margarita,” tells the fantastic story of the devil’s revenge exacted upon Stalin’s cultural bureaucrats who insured he would never be published during his lifetime. The novel—published after his death—now stands as a beacon of justice for artists.

       The installation at PSII is quite elegant and clear in its aesthetic astringency. It also represents political art that champions the repressed artists. For a moment, the woman who wrote the letter is free and published in this tiny gallery in Queens. It does not matter that she is no longer alive. This installation of political text driven art has a soul. How often do you see that?

       “Correspondence” will be on view through July 9. Gallery hours are noon 6 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, at PSII Gallery, 13 03a Jackson Ave., Long Island City. www.psiigallery.com.



 ©Queens Chronicle 2006