Uptown Triennial artists working above 99th Street

Cybil Charlier stands amidst her Pantehon series where she melds Catholic saints with popular personas—here Mary (Erzulie Dantor) with artist Freida Kahlo.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

When the Wallach Art Gallery hosted its opening reception earlier this month, one felt they were walking through the remnants of a construction zone to get there. Located almost at the West Side Highway, bright orange hazard netting, greeted visitors while crossing West 125th Street to the plaza at the Columbia University’s Manhattanville new Lenfest Center for the Arts where the gallery is located (relocated from its Upper West Side campus.)

Once there, this spacious sixth-floor gallery showcasing 25 artists in the show entitled “Uptown” perfectly fits its mission to exhibit art. Infused with light, a wall of windows overlooks the city looking south. The New York Times calls this building the “fraternal twin” of the Whitney Museum of Arts— similarly located near the Hudson River (five express subway stops downtown), also designed by architect Renzo Piano,

The artists of this show, many of Latin American, Caribbean or African Diaspora heritage, live or work above Manhattan’s 99th Street, are exhibiting paintings, sculptures, photographs and video.

Show curator and Wallach Gallery director Deborah Cullen with Michael Kelly William’s assembledge ‘Revelation Improvisation.”
Photo by Tequila Minsky

“This is a great initiative for artists who have been working uptown for years,” said artist Rejin Reys, adding, “It’s fabulous that their contribution to the art world as well as the neighborhood is being recognized.”

Haitian heritage Cybil Charlier’s work has deep connections to Haitian culture and her work in this show is no exception. In one niche in this space, Charlier shows five digital prints from her series of 26. Entitled Pantheon, she is “developing a personalized, syncretic pantheon of deities that merges traditional Vodou imagery with popular cultural personas,” reads the gallery description.

Her friend Reys further elaborates on how this artist brings Haiti and Harlem together, “Cybil has melded African Diaspora figures with Catholic saints in a similar way that the saints and Vodou come together. It’s a Diasporic approach to the spirits.”

At the reception, two art world icons, exhiibting photographer Renee Cox (left) and curator Souleo.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

The Uptown Triennial runs from June 2 – Aug. 20; the gallery opens after noon, Wednesdays through Sundays. Additionally, Uptown is collaborating with other organizations and venues for a summer filled with art, uptown.

Artist Reys is also exhibiting along with Charlier in an Uptown collaboration, El Museo del Barrio’s exhibition “uptown: nastywomen / bad hombres.” Several prints from Pepe Coronado’s 118th St. print collective were chosen for this show.

Eleven other museums, galleries and spaces from the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center to The Studio Museum to Hunter East Harlem Gallery of Hunter College are participating. For more detailed information: www.columbia.edu/cu/wallach.

Tequila Minsky

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