New York, 555 West 21 Street
Known for his exacting watercolors depicting scenes of typically masculine coming-of-age scenarios, here Gardner trains his eye onto New York City, tracing the nature of memory and sensation as they relate to urban environments. Gardner's relationship to New York is both as insider and outsider - he moved to the city in 1997 and has been returning regularly since moving back to his native Canada in the early 2000s. This duality allows him the latitude to observe the preciousness of everyday moments while simultaneously outlining his own archetypal version of the city's time-honored visual identity. As much as being in New York is a collection of moments, flashes of images and emotional kindling, Gardner's paintings freeze and elongate these instants, allowing for a dissection of the city's resonant hum.
In Strand, Gardner's cityscape outside the famed downtown bookstore, bright orange construction barriers and scaffolding are present, with delivery trucks and cars maneuvering around them. These tethers to one moment in the city's history are framed by the Empire State Building in the background, the iconic New York that always was and always will be. Lucy's, an ironically bucolic portrait of an Alphabet City dive bar, features piles of trash and recycling piled up on the sidewalk, ready to be whisked away by the city's sanitation department. Gardner's aloof, descriptive rendering allows for an inquiry into how, as city-dwellers, we are conditioned to block these eyesores out of our collective experience, as if their temporary status somehow makes them invisible. Neon lights in the bar's window romantically illuminate some wanton foliage overhead. The city's perpetual motion is suspended, a chance to revel in the mutable details, memories, and projection that, in each moment, create lived experience.