The role of the artist is not merely to record history for future generations, but to enlighten society on the issues of our time. There is an artist from the Big Apple, whose origins go all the way back to Emerald Isle, who lyrically conveys sustainable tidings in his most recent exhibit.
Gregory de la Haba is a classically trained painter, writer, author, publisher, cum laude graduate of Harvard University, and Curator-at-large at Geuer & Geuer Gallery in Dusseldorf, Germany. Furthermore, the New York artist with his wife, Teresa, owns and operates the oldest bar in New York City, McSorley's Old Ale House, which encapsulates the authentic spirit of Ireland in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Throughout his artistic examination of current issues, Gregory de la Haba, has explored the ancient and sacred structure of the totem as theme while taking his love for the sea and the surf culture that surrounds it, as cue to create a new body of work that is primordial yet modern, familiar yet dashingly fresh.
The exhibition TOTEM POEMS that opened on April 18 in the Monegasque gallery META, located on 39 Avenue Princesse Grace, features de la Haba’s new sculpture, assemblage, and photo collage. This art show continues a tradition that began at META in 2018, with the OCEAN ART WEEK, to homage the sea. The gallery also showcased the conceptual and interactive Wailing Reef Project by Gregory de la Haba. This work references the abundance of plastics found in our waterways in the form of two totems reminiscent of bleached coral reefs — when the algae that lives on the coral dies —and all the reef’s magnificent color dies with it — leaving behind lifeless, white limestone beds.
Gregory de la Haba brought his creative pursuit to a higher level, by allowing guests to have a proactive role in the fruition of his artwork. Visitors were invited to scrawl their 'wishes and dreams for and of the sea' on brightly colored Post-it paper and to be like algae, colorful, and to bring their color to the work, to embed their dreams, wishes and light to de la Haba’s unique and masterful Bleached Coral Totems.
The artist’s statement was born out of his metropolitan life, observing the abundant consumption of waste in a big city, as he explains: “New Yorkers throw away on average about 25 pounds of garbage a week. That translates into almost 14 million tons of garbage being generated annually by nearly nine million people. Each day, over seven thousand sanitation workers with their thousands of garbage trucks pick up this waste from homes and offices where its brought to transfer stations around the city before being dispersed––by train and barge––to landfills and recycling plants across the United States and as far away as China. Garbage is big business. It also exacts a great, damaging toll on our environment. According to Oceana, the non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring our oceans, an estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastics alone find their way into marine ecosystems every year. That's equivalent to one full, plastic-laden garbage truck dumping its contents into the ocean every minute. That’s insane. And little wonder that while taking a stroll on a small stretch of beach in Queens I can fill up a buckets' worth of plastics in ten minutes. And here began the impetus for the 'Wailing Reef Project'.”
The META Gallery, couldn’t be a more fitting venue for his inspirational work, since in ancient Greek 'meta' means beyond. This name truly epitomizes the gallery’s intent to serve as a platform of openness, freedom and elevation. TOTEM POEMS is an ode to this quest, as Gregory de la Haba’s artwork is bringing awareness of the damaging effects our societal habits have on our precious oceans and marine life. The power of creativity may lead the way to constructive change, as Gregory de la Haba says: “A collective cry just might help. It sure as hell won't hurt.”