Shelter is a contemporary art gallery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side that represents and promotes emerging artists, with a particular focus on those who have been ignored or neglected by the art historical mainstream. Shelter emphasizes the respectful and equitable representation of early-career artists, and is proud to represent the artists of Brooklyn’s LAND Studio & Gallery, a program for professional artists with developmental disabilities.
Anonymous Hollywood Drawings
A selection from a trove of drawings made by an anonymous artist depicting women in Hollywood from the 1930s-1940s, each done on a scrap of brown wrapping paper.
Some have burns on their edges, many have a corner cut off. The majority of them are doublesided. The materials used tend to be simple, most include graphite and colored pencil or chalk, and the consistency of palette may imply that the artist did not have a full range of drawing supplies at the ready.
Source material for some of the works have been found in gossip columns and advertisements from the 1940s and 1950s, typically in Hollywood-centric publications but also in general interest magazines such as LIFE.
Presenting the work of an unknown artist is never straightforward - there are endless holes and gaps that beg to be filled in. Whatever their story may be, we find these drawings an absolute delight to spend time with, and we hope you feel the same.
Joseph Butta was a member of LAND Studio & Gallery in its formative days, and produced a massive body of work until his death in the early 2000s.
Butta’s ongoing series of drawings and writing he deemed the “Lost Belles”, featuring a rotating cast of women in artist-imagined gowns and jewelry, with sprawling eyelashes and commanding hairstyles.
In a corresponding “fashion column,” the artist predicted and advised on style trends for the months ahead.
Hanley’s meticulously organized images pay homage to the food he grew up eating, the sweets he tries to stay away from, and the music he so lovingly listens to.
Kenya Hanley (b. 1975) lives and works in Brooklyn, and has devoted countless hours a day to drawing his two great loves: food and reggae musicians.
Hanley's meticulously organized images, often color coded and labeled, pay homage to the food he grew up eating, the sweets he tries to stay away from, and the music he so lovingly listens to.
Hanley has been featured in multiple Outsider Art Fairs in New York City, Belgium’s MADmusée, and Tokyo’s UTRECHT design store. His work has been the subject of an exhibition at the flagship J Crew store on Madison Avenue and has since become part of J Crew’s corporate collection. His art also figures prominently in The Museum of Everything in London, England. Hanley has been reviewed in VICE Magazine’s Creators Project series, Artforum and Disparate Minds. In 2017, a monograph of his work, Tasty Reggae, was published by All-You-Can-Eat Press. Hanley has been a member of LAND Studio and Gallery since 2005.
Little is known about Ralph Middleton’s early life other than the fact he was born in, and started to paint in, Harlem, New York. Middleton’s work began to gain recognition amongst folk and outsider collectors in the 1960s and 70s and at some point during those years, he moved to the west coast, making homes out of abandoned rail stations and underneath bridges.
The consistency of color palette and materials in in each of Middleton‘s series suggests that someone, possibly a patron, arts program, or supporter, gifted Middleton some paints and board, which he fervently used to create wildly energetic paintings of everything from people he knew, to seemingly abstract scenes of color and line that, we may assume, reflected some of the energy within and surrounding the artist. Middleton deftly keeps each painting from feeling weighty with a subtle and effective use of white, both as negative space and peeking through brushstrokes, the latter of which show an artist confident in his hand. Often painted on board, the artist signed each piece and typically provided an exact date and location, perhaps in a way providing a record – tangible and visible – of this particular moment in his transient life.
Middleton resided in Los Angeles in the 1990s, where he attracted attention from musicians, artists, and collectors seeking out exciting creations by unknown and under-known artists. At the time he was living under a bridge, and these predominantly young and creative collectors would visit him, delivering materials or acquiring work. Despite his precarious living situation, Middleton was known as being self-educated, with a particular interest in philosophy, film, and the arts.
Self-taught African-American artist Charles Simmons (1939-2020) resided in North Carolina throughout his life. One of eleven children, Simmons left school after ninth grade and worked with his family to grow crop tobacco; he was later employed by the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company for 35 years.
Simmons started carving wood in the 1970s, typically in the form of dolls given as gifts. After retirement, he became a dedicated artist, painting and carving a large number of works, many of which relate to his life experience and surroundings.
A friend and neighbor of artist Raymond Coins, the two men often worked alongside each other, with Simmons carving sculptures out of wood, and Coins out of stone. Eventually Coins, who became a sort of artistic mentor, taught Simmons how to work with stone, and as his motor functions declined with age Simmons adopted this medium exclusively for his sculptural work.
Simmons was incredibly prolific in the short span of time that he focused solely on his artwork. While his friend Coins, who was white, has received significant recognition, Simmons has not. Despite the same subject matter – animals and humans – and the same techniques, even despite the fact that the two artists sometimes worked on each other’s pieces, Simmons has been largely ignored since the early 2000s.