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New York comes alive in local exhibit


If you're considering a trip to New York City, or simply want to experience what it would be like flying into the city at night, you can instead book passage to Elder Art Gallery here in Charlotte.

Joseph Greenberg's paintings in his exhibit New York, My Home, which largely focus on the Manhattan skyline, have something of the magnificence of the city in them -- especially when viewed from a distance.

In oil paint, Greenberg uses dots that look like electric lights to form the skyscrapers, as well as to convey the excitement of too much to see and do. Greenberg's paintings feel very alive and we know that if we look hard enough, we will see David Letterman, Mike Piazza and Mayor Bloomberg in them somewhere.

Just like this gallery venue, these paintings are eclectic. They're sophisticated, as if Greenberg were a distant cousin of the pointillist master Georges Seurat, yet in some parts of the canvas, they seem to be painted by an outsider (i.e., untrained artist). For example, all of Greenberg's bridges look like the innocent images of a third grade student.

And to add to the eclecticism, Greenberg also shows small, brightly colored, geometric paintings that represent the Twin Towers even though they resemble African tribal images.

On my first visit to this show, I studied the artist's large painting of "Twin Towers" (1989), which stands approximately four and a half feet high. At first, it gave me a shock: It was a very haunting piece, as the World Trade Center windows were filled with light signifying the presence of people.

The second time I saw the exhibit, I saw this piece as a tribute to the Twin Towers.

In a telephone interview, Greenberg said that out of the window of his third floor apartment on 18th Street at Union Square -- where he has lived for 50 years -- he can see the Empire State Building, the Mutual of New York Building and the Metropolitan Life Building.

"I feel these three buildings are like "nature' that man has created," he stated. He's especially taken with the Empire State Building, which he feels was built with regard to the humans who would use it and view it.

Greenberg has actually spent some time in North Carolina. Back in February of 1996, he was a resident artist at Western Carolina University. Asked to comment on the architecture of downtown Charlotte, he simply noted that it reminded him of the joys of Disneyland.

In some of his paintings, Greenberg finds peace instead of excitement. "Along the Avenue" is an unpopulated, serene scene of a street where, against a blue sky, the major points of interest are two flying American flags. Here we see one of Greenberg's gifts. At first glance, these flags seem very realistic. However, on closer examination, we see that they're formed from a few crosshatched lines -- abstract images that contain the essence of reality.

People painted in Greenberg's work often appear to be anonymous and indistinct, as in "Times Square" (1991), which features lots of human movement under umbrellas. Or they appear innocent and almost childlike, as in "Union Square" (1990), where the figures look like they might be out of a children's picture book.

Greenberg says the energy many people claim they experience being in New York City is coming from a symbiotic relationship. "The people give their energy to the city, and the city gives energy back to them," he explains. "It's like a marriage!"

The exhibit New York, My Home will be on display through February 28 at Elder Art Gallery, 1427 South Boulevard. Hours are 10am-6pm Tuesdays-Fridays and 10am-2pm Saturdays. For additional information, call 704-370-6337.

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