Lehman College Art Gallery

Edification value  
Entertainment value  
Should you go?  
Time spent 69 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Jesse Chun’s Landscape series.  What look like stylized, slightly monochrome landscape prints and turn out to be extremely enlarged images from passport pages. They are beautiful, meaningful, and you can play “what country is that?” with them.

Lehman College occupies a lovely campus (built as the Bronx campus of Hunter College in 1931) in the far northern reaches of the Bronx, a couple of stops south of the terminus of the number 4 train.  Like most colleges, its architecture is a mix of classical and modern, the former mostly beautiful, the latter mostly notsomuch.

Lehman College’s Fine Arts Building (modern) is home to a small museum space, divided into two galleries.  On the day I visited, one of them was filled with propaganda posters from the first and second World Wars.  It was also in the midst of having its floor painted, and therefore while I could peek in, I couldn’t enter without tracking paint all over the creation, which the painting contractors politely asked me not to do.

Space number two was the larger, arranged around a central column supporting the roof of the building, which sloped down from all sides to the column, in a modern show of form following function, of the sort that makes me think, “yes, it does, but you could’ve done it differently and gotten both better function and better form.”

That said, the space is at least interesting, and features windows high on the exterior walls that flood the room with light and views of the campus.

I didn’t quite know what to expect from a community college in the far reaches of the Bronx.  Lehman’s other current show, “Alien Nations,” surprised and delighted me. I’m used to contemporary art being hit or miss — everyone’s tastes are different, and mine are notably quirky, so in any show of young, contemporary artists I expect to see at most one or two pieces I really like, and rather more that I really don’t.  This show fired on all cylinders.  

Meg Hitchcock’s Red Lotus Mantra, 2016. Letters cut from Bible, threads from Tibetan prayer flags, pages torn from Bible

My museum buddy for this trip said, “Every piece spoke to me in a different way,” and I agree. The works included covered a broad array of media and techniques, but no piece felt like they added it to check a checkbox. It seems to me that many artists feel like political art has to be unsubtle and ugly to make a point.  The artists selected for this show prove the lie of that assumption: all made their points eloquently and subtly, and they weren’t afraid to be beautiful to boot.  Finally, this project is not supposed to be about me shopping for art, there were two or three specific artists here whom I will for-sure be following, and whose work I could easily envision owning.  Long story short, I really liked this show. Kudos to the curators of this show, Bartholomew F. Bland and Yuneikys Villalonga for, if nothing else, having taste that is a lot like mine.

Lisa Alonzo, Repetition/Waste, 2016 (detail)

Alien Nations is only here until May, though, so like other places, writing about the show doesn’t necessarily help you decide if you should visit or not. But I’d encourage a visit just the same.  The curators and staff programming this space have a really good collective eye, and generalizing from my experience there, a thoughtful approach.  And not just about selecting artists or works: the installation of the pieces speaks highly as well. Four planes from Richard Deon’s Quick Response Squadron were hung taking advantage of the jaunty angles of the roof-column junctions.

Richard Deon, The Quick Response Squadron: A Public Curiosity

I have no way of knowing if any future exhibition at Lehman is going to be as enjoyable to me as this one was.  But I do know that I’m going to keep an eye on their website, and have great interest in visiting again.

For Reference:

Address 250 Bedford Park Blvd West, the Bronx
Website lehmangallery.org
Cost Free

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