“This Mess” at Pelavin Gallery

"Untitled (High Line)" by Scott Pasfield, courtesy Pelavin Gallery

I quite enjoyed Pelavin Gallery‘s new group show, “This Mess We’re In: Reflections on the Metropolis”—especially the Molotov cocktail, and even the rat flower—so I emailed a few questions over to Todd Masters, Pelavin’s new director and co-owner. Pelavin is at 13 Jay; “This Mess” will be up through Sept. 3.

The press release hints that the show will be dark—mentioning vice, corruption, and barbarism in a Lord Byron quote—and there is certainly some provocative imagery (a “rat flower,” a Molotov cocktail…). Were you worried about there being a disconnect between the subject matter and the bourgeois-ification of Tribeca, or was that disconnect part of the appeal?
The referenced Lord Byron quote, and curation of our exhibit, represent not only a critique of human downfalls but, also, a simultaneous celebration of human significances. Our artists use such subject matters as “dirty” as rats to portray something as pure as a floral, subject matter as barbaric as a Molotov cocktail to portray a shimmering morning sunrise. This “human tale,” which Byron elaborates on, is a story we all connect with—it’s a mess we’re all in.

Certain works, such as Amy Park’s, don’t really have that dystopian air, at least to my eye. How do you see them fitting in?
The exhibition includes both optimistic and pessimistic reflections on the metropolis. Rather than only showcasing ugly consequences of present-day behavior, the exhibition depicts a contrast between the “ideal” and the chaotic.

This is your second show as the director and co-owner of Pelavin Gallery. Do you see the direction changing from what it was in the past?
My goal is to celebrate the 30-year history of the gallery by updating the artists program with celebrated emerging artists and to further elevate local culture by creating an evocative event calendar that includes exhibitions, lectures, performances, movies, and concerts.

Had you been involved with the gallery before? If so, in what capacity and if not, where did you come from?
Along with working with numerous galleries here in New York City, I am also the founder and CEO of Black Umbrellas, my own fine art consultancy.

Any chance Pelavin Gallery will start opening on weekends?
The gallery welcomes the opportunity to accommodate our guests’ schedules. We are currently open Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and, for the summer, will are also open on Saturdays by appointment.

"Morning Cocktail" by Bruce Richards, courtesy Pelavin Gallery

"Untitled" by Steven Katzman, courtesy Pelavin Gallery

"Untitled (Durrell House)" by Amy Park, courtesy Pelavin Gallery

"Untitled" by Ivaylo Gueorgiev, courtesy Pelavin Gallery



  1. Nice to see a dialogue between the curator and reviewer to be better able to access the thought process that generated the exhibition.
    It would be interesting, given this format, to have artist statements about their series to enable the viewer to receive even more of a conceptual understanding of the images presented. Art audiences want to feel engaged beyond the role of spectator.

  2. I’m amazed: I saw Cheryl Pelavin had closed when I last visited my former home at 16 Jay Street last summer. Thrilling she’s reopened: wish I knew the gossip behind this rather cursory questioning of who this co-owner is… will look further. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. @Bruce: I agree! Too few galleries and museums allow the artist a voice (or maybe many artists don’t want a voice?). Assuming you’re the artist responsible for “Morning Cocktail”—my favorite piece in the show—please tell us about it. What was your intent? I’m not an art expert, so I’m not sure I can generate too many questions beyond that one….

  4. I never realized that we were in a bourgeois -ifacation regarding the creations of our artists. There are not many galleries in TriBeCa and we are trying our best to present work we feel committed to, we certainly need the community’s support. Todd Masters’ taste and artist group is edgier and more “masculine” than my own group, but when I started my work was considered way out there and I’ve been in TriBeCa 30 years. It is my hope that art lovers will visit our gallery and learn to see a new vision; I have and it’s wonderful. We also have work by many of the artists that I showed during my tenure as director.