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The Arts Voyager, 4-27: Return to Innocence
Bonnie Lucas at Esopus

Bonnie Lucas, Girl with Umbrella, 2010, collage, 9 1/8" x 8 1/2." ©Bonnie Lucas.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2011 Paul Ben-Itzak

NEW YORK -- One of the pleasures of returning to New York after 10 years in France is that if the Chelsea gallery scene has become conflated -- an explosion of galleries has only meant more chaff to sort through to find the rare wheat -- the death of the Soho gallery scene that was the other distinctive feature of the late '90s has been countered by a flowering of gallery niches in new pockets of the city, notably the Lower East Side but also elsewhere in Gotham. So it was that a few weeks ago I found myself back in my old neighborhood, Greenwich Village, on one of its signature streets, W. 3rd, entering a nondescript building that seemed more likely to house doctors' offices than art galleries, and wandering into the Esopus Space (at 64 W. 3rd, #210) for an exhibition that, as far as the subject of the works (childhood) and medium (collage) go, might well have been created by a child at the prompting of a probing psychologist, but in fact had a far more sophisticated intelligence and developed aesthetic behind it.

That aesthetic belongs to Bonnie Lucas, who has been at it for 35 years but here finds her work exhibited in New York for the first time in a decade, in selections from two series of collages, one from the 1990s and one from this past year, the whole signifying an entrancing body of work which ranges from intimately scaled paintings to painstakingly constructed mixed-media assemblages. If the artistic matter Lucas draws from is often kitsch, including images from magazines, paintings, and even drawings by her students, the psychological matter is not, viscerally evoking the raw emotions, pleasures, and yes fears of childhood, often provoked by images which to an adult might seem innocent enough but in the mind and worldview of a child can sometimes become the material of nightmares. Despite the dark matter, though, what one retains about Lucas's perspective is not just her ability to probe and portray the child's psyche, but an uncanny ability to discard the sophistry we acquire as adults and, in her expression anyway, return to innocence. Some proof of this is reproduced here, courtesy of the Esopus Space. For more, take a voyage back in time (in more senses than one; New York University may soon be gobbling up more of the architectural history of this neighborhood) by visiting the exhibition, which you can do through May 10, or clicking here and then downloading the exhibition checklist.

Bonnie Lucas, Gone Fishing, 2010, collage, 16 7/8" x 11 3/4." ©Bonnie Lucas.

Bonnie Lucas, Vase of Flowers, 2010, collage, 13 3/4" x 13." ©Bonnie Lucas.

Bonnie Lucas, Girl with Rabbit, 1994-95, collage, 11" x 14." ©Bonnie Lucas.

Bonnie Lucas, Two Girls, 1994-95, collage, 11" x 14." ©Bonnie Lucas.

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