Bushwick BeatMarch 19th, 2016
For the latest installment of Bushwick Beat, I visited the current exhibitions up at the 56 Bogart building. Nestled centrally off of the Morgan L, 56 Bogart is home to some of the more established galleries in Bushwick, in addition to a vast number of artist studios. Prior to its conversion, the building was used for manufacturing, and despite a few coats of white paint, the galleries do nothing to mask that origin. From creaky floorboards to patchwork ceilings, the informal atmosphere and post-industrial aesthetic check all the boxes on what makes for the typical Brooklyn gallery scene.
First up was Momenta Art, where an exhibition by artist Zoe Beloff centered around old reels of Mutt and Jeff cartoons from the 1920’s. Entitled The Infernal Dream of Mutt and Jeff, the show features the 1930s two-minute film in which its main characters descend into hell, which Beloff interprets as echoing the stock market crash of 1929. The artist takes this historical curiosity as a launching pad to discuss the convergence of film, physiognomy and political economy. The gallery is set up like a film history museum, with multiple reels, ephemera, and old cameras on display, interspersed with quotations and documentations from media theory and physiology experiments. For an in-depth analysis, visit Momenta Art’s website.
A series of soft-lit wall scrolls were a highlight of the exhibition. The piece featured above quotes Walter Benjamin, gives an illustration from established art history and parodies both the social critic and the artist in a faux instructional style. The tragicomic two-minute tale of Mutt and Jeff serves as muse and nexus for this braiding of histories and disciplines.
Next, a visit to Theodore:Art where Sharon Butler’s latest exhibition was finishing up its run. The paintings all hang at a comfortably small scale, showcasing the artist’s hesitant touch and cryptically simple abstractions. Butler collects shapes that speak a certain language, whether purposefully scribbled within a ruled triangle or collected like a paragraph of text without letters. Butler withholds the significance of these gestures, and the resultant paintings seem disconnected from whatever intellectual process forms them. Goethe Color Triangle, pictured above, is a prime example, its title referencing the theory of color by 19th century German literary figure Johann Wolfgang von Goethe without any hopes that that reference would communicate the artist’s decision-making process. The painting is a testament to the idea that strangeness can be an artwork’s greatest asset, at the point when it breaks from received ideas or determinate meaning.
Perhaps its was the consistency of size or the sheer number of works on display, but everything in the show seemed rendered at a higher and more compact color key than could be seen of Butler’s past work. Absent are the peaking tints of grey and gesturally unstapled canvases that associated her with her own brainchild movement – New Casualism. A focused and more confident enigma seems to have taken their place.
On view at Honey Ramka was the work of Katrina Fimmel. Fimmel’s paintings involve luminous highlighter-like colors drawn on in paint with a light and washy touch. The sparsity of color makes the experience of looking dreamlike as one follows the free association.
At Life on Mars gallery, the paintings of Paul D’Agostino were pristinely hung against the soft daylight. Bright and repetitive shapes, mostly circles and arrows, are serially arranged. They feel intuitively like pause, play, and skip buttons. Their seriality is interrupted by the occasional splatter, knick, and stucco-rough applique of paint. Executed in full opaque primaries, the pieces can feel jarring when enveloped in the gallery’s calm natural light. The work in the show derives from D’Agostino’s Chromatic Alphabet, a standard set of 26 panels that correlates each to a letter of the alphabet. The correlation is more than numerical, as the color and directionals are apparently determined by the phonetic pronunciation of the letters in English.
Also on view at Life on Mars is a series of sequential ink drawings by D’Agostino. Each one featured a little negative-space creature. A block of text breathes life into the little drawings, supplying a loose but playful relationship to their absent and untroubled floating.
Lastly, I visited Black and White Gallery where the group show FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) showcased the work of five artists. The highlight of the show was the poem objects of Nicole Reber. Her poetry here becomes all the more effective by being made physical – entered letter by letter on announcement board. The boards force associations to all sort of non-art contexts, places such as community centers or listed menus in rural diners. The deadpan banality of the writing multiplies with each association that gets drawn on to the gallery walls.