The Undercover Art Lover: Amazing Art On Covert Street


Ian Joseph's self portrait.

The undercover art lover is a bi-weekly column highlighting art in unexpected or out of the way places.

It doesn’t get any more undercover than this.

On the corner of Broadway and Covert Street (you can’t make this stuff up), on the third floor of an apartment building, sits the Take a Look See Fine Art Gallery. There is no sign, no mailbox, and although their website claims they have regular weekend hours, if you want to see the work you better call ahead.

When gallery owner Ian Joseph leads you up three floors of the residential building and opens the door to a modest but well utilized space, it’s clear that this is not your typical gallery experience.

For the last month, photographs and acrylic paintings by the artist Chris McCardell have occupied the main room of Take a Look See, and the work definitely has its strong points.

McCardell’s photos (particularly the set of reversed negatives) exhibit concise composition and a razor-sharp focus. However, this is not the primary reason for making the trek this far into Bushwick–Look See is located a block from the Halsey J–where few galleries dare to tread.

In fact, it is Joseph’s work that is the payoff. His photos are immediately arresting.

Two of the pieces that are currently up at the gallery are from a series entitled “Heaven And Hell” that was recently on display at Christie’s Auction House. They are both disturbing images of partially draped, evil-looking figures. According to the artist, this is the point of the series–that often, terrifying things are not as strange or horrible as they seem. The photos strike a fine balance as digitally manipulated works that still feel handmade.

In what is possibly Joseph’s strongest piece, a 28-inch-by-48-inch print on canvas called “It’s Me (Self Portrait),” a repeated image gives the look of one of Warhol’s lithographs, but with an added quality all its own. The muted colors and almost videogame-like image of the artist has a soothing, childlike quality.

Joseph’s paintings show considerable promise as well, particularly the abstract piece on display; an homage to abstract expressionist painter, Joan Mitchell.

Charmingly, Joseph wears his influences on his sleeve. There are postcards of works by Mitchell and Jean-Michel Basquiat hanging in the small room of the gallery that houses his work. Although this section of Take a Look See is barely large enough for five people to stand in comfortably, Joseph has plans to mount a solo show in the main room of the gallery. However, even this small collection is something to see.

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