This is Art Wolfe's "Human Canvas: Clay Study #1," now showing at the newly opened Rotella Gallery. Credit: Provided
If you've seen Woody Allen's “Manhattan," you may remember the art gallery scene when Allen meets Diane Keaton for the first time. The two share quips on personal art preferences, with Allen preferring black-and-white street photography, with Keaton deriding his simpleton taste. This scene is a satire of art world elitism, but it’s a false preconception. Gallery openings are a fun, free social activity offering a rendezvous with friends to drink wine, eat snacks, chit-chat, make brunch plans and sometimes, but not necessarily, talk about art.
Oct. 16 marked the grand opening of Robert Rotella’s second gallery, with his flagship location in Las Vegas. This 468 W. Broadway venue makes itself at home in SoHo’s posh neighborhood by embracing the quality design and chic ambiance of nearby boutiques and cocktail bars. The 7,000-square-foot gallery is two levels, with a central spiral staircase leading to a polished basement floor. Warm accents adorn the interior, which includes wooden floors, intimate buyers quarters with plush suede loveseats and oak columns restored from the space's origins as a stable.
Replete with a VIP guest list, paparazzi, swag bags and security with high-tech gadgets, the event included catered delicatessens and bite-sized snacks like shrimp cocktail and frittata and a full open bar complete with two signature cocktails, each named after each exhibiting artist.
Robert Rotella and Art Wolfe photographs are currently on view. Both photographers' aim is to transfigure nature, similar to the likes of Ansel Adams. Rotella’s artistic project is observing and then documenting landscapes. He targets micro photographs of overly saturated flowers and expansive panoramas. Wolfe comes from a photojournalist style through his documentation of ecological subjects. As I spoke with him, Wolfe explained his art as a way to “show commonality of all humans” and present mankind’s “resilience of spirit." His current series, “Human Canvas,” diverges from his previous style by embracing a larger artistic license. Wolfe’s process involves painting nude models, dictating staged tableaus and then photographing the outcome. The result is a theatrical trompe l’oeil that abstracts bodies in a playful design.
The art on view is decorative and will easily adorn an apartment’s foyer. The priority lies in the aesthetic appeal, though one may lose interest over the repetition of trompe l’oeil designs and photographs of flowers.
Rotella and Wolfe will not be exhibiting alongside art market darling Jean-Michel Basquiat anytime soon (Jay-Z raps about his Basquiat in his song “Picasso Baby,” if that is an indication of his celebrated status). But, this does not detract from their mastery of the photographic medium. There is really only one difference between an Art Star exhibition like Jeff Koons and the artists Rotella and Wolfe; Koons asks questions and discusses socio-political-economic factors; Rotella Gallery's patrons don’t care to talk about politics because they are busy gossiping about each other.
Rotella Gallery will suit those who enjoy the theatrical drama of portrait photography, such as editorial fashion spreads of famed photographers Anne Leibovitz or Irving Penn. If Rotella Gallery has another event, have your people call their people, because if you can get on this VIP list, the gallery will make it worth your time.