I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately. I miss life before the coronavirus, before the last election, before social media. I’m still looking at Instagram, but the accounts I’m drawn to are the ones that take me back somehow, whether it’s all the way to the city of my childhood — like the 1970s photographs I find on Retro New York and similar feeds — or simply to the feeling of being out in the world without mask or gloves, rummaging around drawings, paintings and books.
https://www.instagram.com/p/CBbGI7zha6J”>I started following the artist and designer Julian Montague for his reliable stream of graphic book covers. Sometimes he posts them in thematic groups — four paperbacks decorated with dots, say, or a dozen with searing triangles — and sometimes they’re delivered straight up. Either way, the account’s always good for a quick hit of the clean lines and simple colors that I associate with postwar optimism as well as midcentury design. Mr. Montague’s own design work, with its hip, retro style, sits easily in this aesthetic, too. But what’s kept me coming back — the part where that old-fashioned imaginative idealism burns brightest — is Mr. Montague’s fictional Thorold Gallery, a 1970s institution of uncertain location for which he designs catalogs and exhibition posters.
Richard Tinkler’s kaleidoscopic paintings and drawings are dense but delicate, every organic, colorful pattern clearly a labor of love. They’re also impossible to photograph, which is what I like so much about the artist’s lo-fi Instagram feed. Apart from the occasional selfie, Mr. Tinkler almost exclusively shares snapshots of his own new work. He’s prolific enough to post frequently, and the work always looks terrific. But even when he pairs complete views with close-ups, there’s only so much detail you can get through a three-inch screen. The effect, though, is paradoxical — I feel so vividly aware of the texture I’m missing that it’s almost like having the texture itself.
Butt Johnson’s pseudonym started as a college joke, but now, some years into his working practice, the 41-year-old Brooklyn artist is stuck with it. What he makes under this name are labor-intensive, frequently eye-bending drawings — pieces that he posts from time to time on Instagram. But mostly his account is an endlessly fascinating commonplace book of other people’s drawings from all over the world. And since you can call almost any kind of mark made on a flat surface a drawing, he’s able to include things like ornamented saddlebags, illuminated manuscripts or Emily Dickinson’s curious handwriting, along with plenty of works from the New York gallery scene — the painter Hope Gangloff and the artist known as Jess being two recent highlights — and charming ephemera like an early sketch of Kermit the Frog.
Retro New York
Farrah Dupoux, a 28-year-old native Upper West Sider who edits sound and plays piano for a living, said she started gathering midcentury New York street photography on a Tumblr blog in 2012. Since 2018, though, her acute eye for the best of old New York has made its home on her widely followed Instagram account. Drawing on a range of fine photographers, archives and public domain accounts, and focusing on candid shots of well-dressed people and steeply angled shots of buildings, Ms. Dupoux assembles what feels like the all-time greatest New York City walking trip, one that winds through the staggering variety of its last eight decades. You can start in Flushing at the Unisphere or in Brooklyn with a view of the Manhattan Bridge, hop the subway, pause for a snapshot, say hello to Bullwinkle or stop for a kiss. You may not make it back.
Open Borders Books
Strictly speaking, Open Borders Books isn’t an art account — it’s a bookstore. Founded in Jackson Heights, Queens, by a group of writers, artists and booksellers as a response to the pandemic, the project uses donation-sourced, pay-what-you-like books to raise money for local service organizations like the labor-rights group Damayan and the Jackson Heights Community Fridge. They’re also providing the neighborhood with a sorely needed bookstore and offering free local delivery. What this means on Instagram is a steady, nourishing supply of books — all kinds of books — pictured against red or blue-gray watercolor paper. These days that means a lot.
Follow Will Heinrich on Instagram @willvheinrich.
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