Fifth Avenue is one of the most famous streets in the world. It symbolizes activity and wealth – the true 24/7 economy. The artist captures the noise and stage precisely at one of its many interchanges as the street heads down town for Harlem. Fifth Avenue is Manhattan personified. The interplay is Madison Square, Broadway, Union Square and behind the viewer a route possibly to Greenwich Village. The artist has cleverly placed us on the street. We are in the frame and taking our chance to cross. An interpretation could be taken straight from Studio 54 nightclub in that the street is saying to us “Don’t walk, Boogie.” Another interpretation can be extracted directly from the ‘Great American Songbook’ “We’ll turn Manhattan into an Isle of joy.”
Having established our position within the frame, this painting’s strength is the draw toward the light. The newsstand seller with a copy of the New York Times or USA Today is about to interrupt our conversation like the drivers in the floodplain of yellow taxis, so enduring to our very existence in Manhattan. The edges of sidewalk and street are defined by deep blue almost acting the same as a shoreline reaching the ocean. The essential buildings and their historic context are not lost, in fact the excitement of the 21st century is in the tipping of one’s hat to the finery of its initial early 20th century profile – a place to visit, be seen at, and to take part in.
Once again, the artist has produced a backdrop to endless stories that could be told. For the viewer, it is work in progress in our journey along the street, listening and becoming more aware of the street’s functional criteria. Whilst as art critics we discuss composition, scale and vanishing points, what is undoubtedly important with this work is the evidence of the artist soaking up as much detail as possible and creating options for the viewer rather than depending on the standard artistic conventions.
I particularly like the juxtaposition of clutter of the vehicles polluting the streets bumper to bumper against the freedom of the sidewalk. The attention to detail is fully highlighted by the treatment of windows at right angles to the horizontal interchange of the street. The glow of fluorescent lighting on the first floor of the building to the right is beautifully contrasted with the sidewalk ground level of the large merchandised windows of the left side building as Fifth Avenue stretches onward. The glare of the Sun may well be masking the Empire State Building? But like Broadway, the street lights up from the glare.
The command of light and shade using bold block colour is a hallmark of this artist and ‘Fifth Avenue’ declares its effectiveness. The shadows of the people by virtue of sunlight is brilliantly matched by high-rising structures that are not representative of any one period of the 19th and 20th centuries. In one terrace and clearly visible you have building shapes of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Fifties and Sixties bland blocks and Seventies internal illumination. ‘Fifth Avenue’ is about energy, presence and illumination – this painting is testimony to these labels.
Back to participation, the artist wants you to strut or be a tourist. Perhaps as in the words of Simon and Garfunkel, to enjoy being ‘The Only Living Boy in New York.’ I can personally hear George Benson’s rendition of ‘Summertime’ and Bob James’ ‘Angela’ which is rather fitting and an acknowledgement to the artist herself. Whatever the choice, the artist has once again delivered a canvas that is absolutely stunning.