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Shin Gallery charms and surprises with a motley collection
Chris Burden’s “Warship,” 1981, mixed media assemblage. Photo: Chris Burden Estate and Artists Right Society (ARS), NY; Shin Gallery.

by John Vincler

NEW YORK, NY.- You may wonder whether you’ve found a curiosities shop upon entering Shin Gallery’s 10th anniversary exhibition. The show charts the gallery’s history in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and its namesake collector’s wild but slyly judicious tendencies, with nearly 100 items filling three rooms.

The show, fittingly titled “Amalgamation,” creates groupings at times brilliantly intuitive, including a drawing of a reclining onanistic female figure by Egon Schiele paired with a monoprint on a pillow by Tracey Emin (who exhibited her own disheveled bed in 1999 at the Tate in London). Elsewhere, the connections are delightfully weird, as in Henry Moore’s sketch of huddled biomorphic fragments, “Ideas for Wood Sculpture” (1932), sandwiched between James Castle’s childlike composition of a figure in front of a house and French master François Boucher’s “Death of Meleager” (circa 1720), in black chalk, ink and wash on cream paper. A baby-bird drawing by Bill Traylor (1939) in pencil on cardboard appears to be fleeing the scene, as the drawings that occupy the first room are hung mostly frame to frame, putting masters beside outsiders.

As I walked through this first room, I began to notice marginal examples of big names mixed with an eclectic range of lesser knowns. Even when this is so, as in Jackson Pollock’s untitled of gestural ink on pink paper (1951), paired with a 1958 painting by the London Zoo chimpanzee Congo, it’s the combination that unlocks both mischief and insight.

The second room continues this particular conversation with a painted three-seat latrine bench, which may document Pollock’s only collaboration with Willem de Kooning in 1954, here attributed only to de Kooning. His widow, Elaine, acknowledged that it was made as a joke, painted in advance of a croquet party in East Hampton.

On my first visit, I found, in this second room, Hong Gyu Shin, who founded the gallery when he was 23 years old and still a college student. The space here is arranged as a simulation of his own cluttered apartment bedroom, although, as he told me, much tidier.

Sculptures dominate amid the piles of old Artforum magazines, catalogs and monographs. A vitrine at the center of the room holds Chris Burden’s “Warship” (1981). This is flanked by Hans Bellmer’s “La Poupée” (1935), a painted aluminum sculpture of a doubly sexed torso; Lygia Clark’s stainless steel “Linear Bug” (1960), which looks like an oversized children’s folding puzzle; and an 1857 stoneware jug by enslaved African American potter David Drake, just back from a Theaster Gates exhibition in London. Shin later pointed to the Man Ray chess set (1946), arranged midgame, remarking you could think of it as a collaboration between himself, Ray and artist Richard Tuttle who sat for a game during a recent visit.

Entering the third room, the viewer is enveloped by a cacophony of paintings, hung floor to ceiling, salon style. On my first visit, it was almost too much to take in. Only on my second visit did I have what seemed like two competing thoughts. On one hand, I wondered whether I had ever been in a room with so many ugly or aggressive paintings. On the other, this was the most exciting room of paintings I had seen in at least a year.

It was like inhaling smelling salts. From weird figurative works and portraits (by Joshua Johnson and Thomas Eakins, among others) to a “painting” of autumn leaves frozen in encaustic wax by Alan Sonfist. Two works of a putrid chartreuse scream from the walls, both by Beauford Delaney, smartly hung apart. There are great works here, too, including a 1964 series of untitled monotypes by Brazilian artist Mira Schendel. Directly beneath is Korean painter Hyon Gyon’s “Fire in My Brain” (2015), a revelation in acrylic, oil, charcoal and melted fabric. Fire in my brain, indeed, and it was just what I needed.

'Amalgamation: Celebrating 10 Years of Shin Gallery'

Through May 21 at Shin Gallery, 322 Grand St., Manhattan; 212-375-1735;

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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