The City:  New York, L.A., Paris, and Beyond


Opening Reception Thursday, April, 19 from 6 - 8 pm

Guy Pène du Bois,  Looking North from 20 W. 10th , ca. 1940s

Guy Pène du Bois, Looking North from 20 W. 10th, ca. 1940s


511 Gallery is pleased to present The City:  New York, L.A., Paris, and Beyond, an exhibition of 15 photographs, paintings, and works on paper from the early twentieth-century up to the present that examines the relationships of artists to the modern city.

Works in the exhibition include depictions of New York City, Paris, and Los Angeles, as well as Prague, London, New Orleans, Moscow, Chicago, Cologne, and a fictional city of an artist’s imagination. The exhibition explores the varied ways in which artists interact with urban centers: how they move through and between cities, how they apply meaning to the city, and how it affects their art-making. The works include artists’ impressions of cities that are their native homes, adopted homes, ancestral homes, and places that are entirely new to them.


In some cases, an artist is known for his or her connection to a specific city: Josef Sudek lived in Prague for most of his life, he was called as the “Poet of Prague” and was most known for his photographs of the city and its surrounding landscape. He remained in Prague and continued to make work throughout Nazi occupation during World War II and Soviet occupation of Prague Spring in 1968. Sudek’s black and white photograph Prague (1933) is an almost melancholic ode to a beloved city by an artist who knows he will never leave it. Similarly, Mari Lyons lived most of her life in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and much of her work, such as Broadway with Bike (2014), focuses on the specific neighborhood. By contrast, many artists such as Ilse Bing fled their native cities to find temporary refuge in another city. During World War II, Bing left her native Frankfurt, Germany and moved to Paris, where she lived for 10 years before again fleeing Nazi occupation to find a safe haven in the United States. Bing’s moving Last Bastille Day - View From My Window (1941), is a photograph taken then night before leaving Paris; the image evinces displacement.

Lucy Levene,  L.A. Stories (Untitled 05) , 2010

Lucy Levene, L.A. Stories (Untitled 05), 2010

One artist who found a nearly life-long home far from his native country was Bumpei Usui, a Japanese-American who when first emigrating to the United States, settled in California for two years, but, with the help of Yasuo Kuniyoshi, made his way to New York in 1921 and lived there until he died at 96, in 1994. His paintings, such as Bronx, New York (1924),  depict the changing landscape of New York City and the social realities of the city in the twentieth-century. Other artists consider multiple cities to be “home”: Guy Pène du Bois was born in New York, but through his French-Creole ancestry he felt a strong connection to both France (where he lived with his family from 1924 - 1930) and New Orleans (a city he visited often), thus all three cities appear frequently in his paintings. Looking North From 20 W. 10th (ca. 1940s), Bar New Orleans (1946), and Rue des Ecoles (ca. 1905-’06) represent the artist’s easy adoption of these major cities.

Contemporary photographer Lucy Levene’s series, L.A. Stories, is an example of an artist depicting a strange city, purely as a visitor. The series documents a period in which the London native lived in Los Angeles during a residency in the film industry. The images, such as Untitled 05 (2010), present the city as being continually re-constructed and re-fictionalized through its place in the film industry, a perspective which is only available to a city’s tourists. Lastly, there is the fictional city: here Atlanta-based painter David Gaither’s Icarus Redux depicts the mythological Greek figure above a city surrounded by water and shown entirely as a geometric abstraction.

The City:  New York, L.A., Paris, and Beyond will be on view from April 19, 2018 to June 1, 2018, with an opening reception on Thursday, April 19 from 6 to 8 pm. 

For further information, please contact Abigail McLeod, Gallery Manager, at 212.255.2885