With a shared eye for the unusual and spectacular, Kelsey Bennett and Heather Morgan dive deeply to unearth the pearls of the city. As though escorting you on a road trip to discover the oddities of our metropolis, Bennett and Morgan shine light on artists, musicians, and events which need to be seen.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Uranian Phalanstery

It is not often you see art for which age has done so much. Entering the Uranian Phalanstery and First New York Gnostic Lyceum Temple, an art collective on East 4th and Avenue D, we see not just the work of its creators, but the effects of time. The art on display includes found treasure (mummified cat anyone?), sculptural assemblages, paintings and all manner of strange objects. These bear the signs of the half century that artists Richard Oviet Tyler and Dorothea Tyler inhabited the house. Folded and frayed, figures made creepily mute by the wearing off of their faces. Everywhere the eye rests are ornate carvings and figures in the spirit of the "temple".

These works are housed within walls that have never been repainted, the floors layered in musty and faded oriental carpeting. There is an tantalizing hint of madness here in the cracked gazes and yellowed paper, flaking ceilings and gorgeous parlor furniture. But proprietress Dorothea is lucid as a dream talking of the wonders of collecting and making art independent of the desire for fame and the white walls of the gallery. She is sweetly grand, dangling a sparkling champagne flute in the dim light of the Temple where she is holding court at her going away party for artists, curious visitors and neighborhood misfits, as she has done since 1957. The value of the property, a tax lien she cannot afford, means Dorothea has to move on and take her work way uptown, tragically leaving much of its ambience, a lifetime's worth, behind in in the walls and creaky stairwell.

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