By NOAH BECKER October, 2020
Originally from Vienna, Austria, founder Adriaan Van Der Plas settled in New York City in 1980. Inspired by the street art culture in New York City, Van Der Plas opened his first gallery in Gramercy Park in 1986. In 1992, the gallery moved to Lower Manhattan’s South Street Sea Port. In 2013, Van Der Plas Gallery moved to its current location at 156 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Van Der Plas Gallery currently represents artists associated with the Lower East Side and East Village art scenes of the 1980’s up to the present.
I've collaborated on a few shows at Van Der Plas over the years and I'm either friends with, or aware of his artists. Canadian artist Jason McLean is a gallery artist and also a few NYC legends hang their hats at Van Der Plas. The new show is called "Bullshit" and I have some of my drawings included. Al Diaz who is the other half of the SAMO graffiti team is in it with me - I liked that idea a lot. It's very Warholian of me to talk to an art dealer about a show they have included my work in, so here goes...
Noah Becker: I've been interested in your gallery since I was in a show there - now we are working together again. What is it that you look for in art that you want to show in your gallery?
Adriaan Van Der Plas: I am interested in New York locals, particularly those who create and are involved in street art, particularly works that are inspired by the 80's, and not just reminiscent of it in a way that confines it to the past. I look for an inner and intuitive expression of the human spirit in these works. Most importantly I look for work that takes tangible steps forward towards creating a new future. I look for art that breaks barriers.
Becker: The group show we are doing together is called "Bullshit" and I was curious about that title? Is there a story about it? I was saying "we" because I'm in this group show, you're the actual impresario of the show and the gallery owner. So what's with the title?
Van Der Plas: Bullshit comments on the chaos of the pandemic, the outrage we are experiencing in our city and across the country over racial and economic inequality and injustice, and the uncertainty of the outcome of the election. The idea is to incite anger and outrage in order to mobilize people to fight for a better outcome to all of the issues plaguing our city and the country, and for voters to participate and change the system that is perpetuating these injustices.
Becker: Al Diaz is an interesting artist with his history of being the other half of the SAMO graffiti team with Jean-Michel Basquiat. What is it about the New York art scene in the 1980s that interests you? Were you in New York at that time?
Van Der Plas: I moved to New York City in 1980 and opened my first gallery in 1986. I was surrounded by art and artists that inspired the culture and the street scene of the city at that time, and I was heavily influenced by Richard Hambleton, and Keith Haring whose works I saw in my neighborhood. I identified with this street culture and the freedom and accessibility that it allowed. You could see Haring in a subway station, and Hambleton on abandoned street corners; artists would meet on Rivington street in an abandoned lot, in a way that concentrated talent and provided an art scene and community that was organic and less commercial than it is today.
Becker: You might be one of the few remaining galleries on the Lower East Side in New York City. What's it like dealing with this pandemic and running a gallery?
Van Der Plas: We are taking advantage of 3D camera work in order to continue our presence as a part of the community on the Lower East Side, while at the same time bringing our shows to a wider audience. We are also putting a lot of focus onto social media, documenting the events and exhibitions at the gallery in a way that allows us to exhibit works in increasingly dynamic and interactive ways. This is an important time to remain open and continue to be a fixture of the Lower East Side, while setting an example of resiliency for the community, smaller art institutions in the city, as well as for emerging artists.
Becker: What are you planning after this show?
Van Der Plas: After "Bullshit" comes to a close on November 15th, the gallery will be holding an exhibition entitled "Vor Kunst" that will bring together works from over 50 artists. The show will explore postmodern concepts of art, meditating on Hegel's ideas of "Vorkunst," or pre-art. It will challenge notions of what "proper art" is and how we can break free of these limitations and constraints. The show will look at how we can expand upon and move past ideas of what is deemed proper or acceptable in the art world today. WM
Noah Becker shows his paintings internationally. A visual artist, saxophonist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine, Becker has also written freelance articles for many other major magazines. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has also written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010) viewable on Youtube.
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