Discovering Art from the Walls of Harlem to the Walls of Wall Street.

Turns out Harlem is closer to Wall Street than I thought! 
How great that during a walking tour in Harlem, I was exposed to some inspired new artists, that then led me to meet a highly creative and innovative patron of the arts, who's company's headquarters are based at 14 Wall Street.

All of these discoveries made during HAWT 2013 - Harlem Art Walking Tour (HAWT), billed as a community-focused event designed to attract art lovers and collectors throughout the New York City and Tri-State area.

HAWT was spearheaded by the enthusiastic Lawrence Rodriguez from Casa Frela Gallery, located at 7 West 119th Street, where he graciously hosted event participants.  The walking tour offered access to historic and architecturally interesting homes, where owners were warm and inviting, as well as many of the 100+ participating artists.

A kick-off party was held for Portland, ME based retail chain, Artists & Craftsman Supply, which opened in Harlem last summer.  I sometimes hear people describe Harlem as an "urban desert", however, after experiencing a cornucopia of art and food, including a delicious lunch at Boulevard Bistro (239 Lenox Ave.), coffee at Lenox Coffee (60 W. 129th St.), and then an afternoon snack at Papaya Seed Frozen Yogurt Cafe (171 Lenox Ave.), I couldn't disagree more.  I am looking forward to trying out the Chocolat Restaurant Lounge (2217-23 Frederick Douglas Blvd.) when I return during the        Harlem Food Festival

I scurried around Harlem in an attempt to meet as many artists as possible and ended at the home of Tirkhonova & Wintner Fine Art.  After walking up the set of tilted, rickety stairs leading to the townhouse, I was greeted by the show's curator, Yulia Tirkhonova.

With Derek Fordjour at HAWT.

What impressed me most about Yulia's curation was the interplay of large and diverse works of art, including those by an established gallery-represented artist, Yashua Klos (Tilton Gallery- NYC) as well as "free agent" emerging artists, Duhirwe Rushemeza and Derek Fordjour.

"Point Guard" acrylic, oil,
polyurethane and wood stain on
wood panel. 2013.

According to Derek, his images draw upon a variety of sources, including sports imagery to expose ideas of vulnerability, and as he sees it, the similarities between artists and athletes. He uses the imagery of athletes to remind us of their strong drive to compete and the fear of failure, while always appearing physically fit and highly capable.

I was drawn to the team dynamic and his use of rich, cheerful colors, which reminded me of a circus or carnival.  In stark contrast, the athlete's seemingly plastic, molded smiles remain unchanged, regardless of the outcome of the sporting event.  When I asked about his color inspiration, Derek told me that they came from a trip he took to Ghana - 

"...where It all came together for me. I was also motivated by memories and growing up in America which included board games, candy wrappers, carnivals, and circus toys."

With Duhirwe Rushemeza at HAWT.

Emerging artist, Duhirwe Rushemenza is a   native Rwandan and current Harlemite.  She describes her innovative approach as "urban excavation" - collecting materials such as steel and used books from around the city then applying to them a range of chemical treatments to create various marks and textures.

It was clear to me that Duhirwe's work was something that a collector who appreciate raw materials would respond to.  In my mind, Joseph Mizzi seemed the perfect choice to buy her work. Little did I know, he already had!

I later asked Duhirwe who collects her work. The concrete pieces seemed a bit cumbersome and heavy to be put on a wall.  She told me, "there is a really nice guy who works at a construction company who buys my work because he gets it" - I laughed! 

Duhirwe showed this past summer at PS 1 MOMA and MoCADA in Brooklyn, with her work contributing to their "Pattern Recognition" exhibit.

Joseph Mizzi with Duhirwe's Concrete Art.
Next stop - 14 Wall Street to visit the collector who turned out to be Joseph Mizzi, president of Sciame
a sophisticated and innovative construction management, building, and consulting firm.

Derek Fordjour, my other Harlem discovery told me that his art is currently on exhibit throughout the Sciame office. I was extremely excited to make this connection without even knowing that Joseph was the catalyst behind this unique effort.

I am grateful to the artists of HAWT who led me downtown to view an innovative use of corporate office space, turned into a quasi art gallery - or as I like to call it, an "art experience". 

This can only happen when a true visionary makes a commitment to the arts.  More about Joseph Mizzi, "the visionary", to come.

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Anonymous said...

Love reading about Harlem. Very well written. Keep up the good work and interesting pieces!

Unknown said...

The more I learn about Joe Mizzi the more I am impressed by his commitment to both the arts and to humanity.

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