Alan Wadzinski’s Zoo Stories

Alan Wadzinski’s zoomorphic sculptural smorgasbord, simply titled “Sculptures,” is officially coming to a close tomorrow night at NY Studio Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It stands as the artist’s fourth solo exhibition in the space and features several new pieces along with favorites from his previous shows, “The Massive Sea” (2008), “The Greatest Show on Earth” (2010), and “False Idols” (2011). From 8 pm through 2 am on Saturday, March 1, a party will take place to celebrate not only Al’s intricate spirit animal assemblages and his status as the gallery’s bestseller, but also the fact that he will be the last artist to officially exhibit in NYSG under the curatorial eye of Kristen Copham, the gallery’s long-time owner and director.

Copham, an artist in her own right, moved the gallery from Chelsea to the corner of Stanton and Suffolk in July of 2008. The iconic sign above the gallery still reads Louis Zuftlacht, after the owner of the former haberdashery and tailor shop that was forced to close its doors as the neighborhood took a turn for the worse in the ’70s. Celebrated art consultant and curator Paul Bridgewater, who often shares curatorial duties within the space, went as far as to re-appropriate the sign’s alternate verbiage for his Smart Clothes Gallery exhibits. This seemingly playful homage to the space’s former inhabitants takes on new meaning as the neighborhood becomes radically transformed. While old storefronts get the commercial makeover, new galleries pop up every day, catering heavily to a younger demographic, one perhaps less interested in museum caliber sensibilities—that is, art that exudes a keen and dedicated eye for craftsmanship. Though his work can at times be playful and modern in a certain sense, Wadzinski has no qualms about citing Alberto Giacometti and Auguste Rodin as heavy influences.

Mr. Wadzinski, a tribal member of the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohicans, believed for many years that he wanted to be a taxidermist. That is, until the history and mythology of his people, passed on primarily by his mother (Al’s father is Polish), provided him with the impetus to explore the traditional themes of his native culture, albeit in a unique and contemporary manner. Images seared into his youthful subconscious by the likes of Frederic Remington, coupled with the bare-bones practices and realities of life on the reservation, led Wadzinski to adopt an affinity for found objects, scrap metal, cast-offs, and other salvaged materials.

This man’s treasure (another man’s junk) comes together to form anything from wild tribal masks and shimmering totem animal wall busts of intimidating complexity, to larger-than-life showroom sculptures that are nothing less than astonishing in their scale and composition. Despite living in Minneapolis with his wife and 11-year-old son, Wadzinski exists as one of the most accomplished studio artists to exhibit on the Lower East Side in the last decade. To further solidify and commemorate his status as a tried and true LES art warrior, one only has to look at the inspiration for Wadzinski’s latest commissioned piece—a life-size sculpture of none other than Lady Gaga herself.