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Bushwick Beat

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

On this segment of Bushwick Beat, we stayed close to the Jefferson stop on the L train, visiting group shows at TransmitterSchema Projects, and Sardine.

At Transmitter, a group show titled “Photo II” ran the gamut of photographic practices, from bizarre portraiture and still life to architectural abstraction.

Erin O'Keefe at Transmitter

Erin O’Keefe at Transmitter

The work of Erin O’Keefe was immediately arresting for its bold color and solid form. After the initial read, however, the status of the work as a photograph quickly came into question. With unreliable space, gradients, and shadows that seem too sharp, these images reveled in their ambiguous status, blurring the distinction between documenting real space and creating an artificial image.

Eli Durst at Transmitter

Eli Durst at Transmitter

Showing off an equally bold sense of form, the photographs of Eli Durst explored a deadpan surrealism that thrived in the harsh contrasts of black and white. A particularly striking image casts an apple against the reflective light of a table. The sharp and exaggerated shadow becomes a tangible form as the table fades into a blurred white.  With a minimum of manipulation and by simply harnessing the textures of things, Durst’s photographs become a light show of the weird mis-recognitions in the act of seeing, of visions that refuse to relay and stay stubbornly inert.

Irina Rozovsky at Transmitter

Irina Rozovsky at Transmitter

Irina Rozovsky’s work shared the high key visual intensity of O’Keefe’s images as well as the surreality of Durst’s photos, contrasting the austere composure of those artists with a fragile vibrancy of broken, complex things. As a result, her photos felt more documentary in nature, less focused on the artifice of the photographic eye than the makeshift enigmas found in the world.

At Schema Projects, “Archetypewriters” was a group show organized by ROE Projects, focusing on small drawings that used systems and patterns and suggested a kinship with writing. As a bonus, most artists also shared a love of vibrant color.

"Archetypewriters" at Schema Projects

“Archetypewriters” at Schema Projects

The drawings were tightly hung along eye level, with dozens of works by the eight featured artists. All of the pieces were engrossing, whether for the simple visual power of neon markers, the precision of a lace-work pattern, or the indecipherable rules that set a given work in motion. For this visual eclecticism, “Archetypewriters” managed to be one of the most visually impressive shows we had seen in Bushwick in a long while.

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Butt Johnson in “Archetypewriters” at Schema Projects

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“Process +/- Pattern” at Sardine Gallery

Finally, we visited Sardine gallery, where “Process +/- Pattern” put five artists together along the theme of process and pattern. In contrast to “Archetypewriters” and “Photo II,” this show featured work that did not immediately speak in unison, and varied considerably in medium and approach.

A video display of a self-erasing page of the Old Testament by Willum Geerts

Willum Geerts in “Process +/- Pattern” at Sardine Gallery

A video display of a self-erasing page of the Old Testament by Willum Geerts sat alongside a pattern drawing and paintings by Keigo Takahashi and Shane Drinkwater. A Tatlin-esque wall sculpture by Karen Tepaz was hung next to a woven work by Heidi Hankaniemi. The broad themes of the show invited this extreme variety; and while “Process +/- Pattern” proved less focused than the two earlier shows, it was a welcome abandon of their principled approach to medium.  The focus was instead what these objects shared despite their disparity – a commitment by each artwork to be what it was, whether followed through by the rule of pattern or discovered in the process along the way.

-Will Patterson

Bushwick Beat

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

For this installment of Bushwick Beat, we visited the 56 Bogart St. building to see the latest exhibition at Life on Mars gallery.  The reason we focused our visit entirely on Life on Mars was the news that it would be closing its doors with a final show. This comes as a surprise, as Life on Mars has been responsible for hosting talented and relevant painters throughout its brief history, many of which are synonymous with the art scene in Bushwick.

"An Occasional Dream" at Life On Mars Gallery

“An Occasional Dream” at Life On Mars Gallery

The gallery put on a group show titled An Occasional Dream.  As is befitting for a gallery named Life on Mars, the title is derived from a David Bowie song of the same name, and featured a number of the artists they have shown over the years.

Work by Paul D’Agostino

Work by Paul D’Agostino

Most of the artists featured here have been the subject of shows at the gallery before, making each work in the exhibition feel like a song on a greatest hits album, each standing in for the rich and exciting shows it has held in the past.  We covered many of these artists in Bushwick Beat in the past, including Paul D’Agostino’s here, whose work is pictured above.

Farrell Brickhouse at Life on Mars

Farrell Brickhouse at Life on Mars

Farrell Brickhouse, an SVA instructor regularly featured at Life on Mars Gallery, contributed a thickly worked silver painting for the show.  Its most distinguishing feature was a crater cut out of the center that strikingly resembles the moon, complete with craggy stucco surface and silver sheen. The painting perfectly captures the moon – both its perpetual presence in the night sky and its intangible distance in space.  The dingy-bound figures accumulate at the very bottom of the canvas giving gravity to the scene so that the moon hovers in contrast.

Daniel John Gadd at Life On Mars Gallery

Daniel John Gadd at Life On Mars Gallery

Continuing the motif of irregular, moon-like circles, Daniel John Gadd contributed a large painting with blue glass on plywood.  The piece is rich with weathered subtlety – a clear result of the artist’s process and the fragile sense of care he brings to it.

Todd Bienaveau at Life on Mars Gallery

Todd Bienaveau at Life on Mars Gallery

Todd Bienaveau’s paunchy paintings usually depict slovenly figures drinking beer, getting tattoos or attending rock concerts.  In this piece, the artist shows a painters supplies, brushes in an empty gesso bucket and a paint tube with the cap twisted on.  By the mute blue green of the setting, they look quietly pushed aside after a day’s work.

Brenda Goodman at Life on Mars Gallery

Brenda Goodman at Life on Mars Gallery

Brenda Goodman’s piece reads like a strange surrealist play.  She draws together associations with Tim Burton films and 2-D side scrolling video games in a way that manages to feel fresh and unbeholden to influence.  Her limping, wooly-black figures are barely animated abstract shapes, and are given breath by nothing more than an occasional delirious eye.

Fran O’Neil at Life on Mars Gallery

Fran O’Neil at Life on Mars Gallery

Since the closing of the show, it has been announced that with Life on Mars gallery closing, a new gallery will take its place.  David&Schweitzer Contemporary will carry over a majority of the artists and management from Life on Mars.  The re-formed gallery will be opening in the same space with its first show opening for the upcoming Bushwick Open Studios taking place on October 1st and 2nd.

Even as it turns out that the closure of Life on Mars is not so final as it seemed, its final exhibition in its current form was a great occasion to reflect on art in Bushwick throughout the gallery’s tenure, and to consider where it might be headed as the neighborhood ceaselessly continues to change.  In any case, the exhibition was an occasion to dream.

-Will Patterson

Bushwick Beat

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

For the latest installment of Bushwick Beat we saw a range of galleries, including those visited last month at 56 Bogart St., along with galleries located a little further down off of the L train.  

Austin Lee at Life on Mars Gallery

Austin Lee at Life on Mars Gallery

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Our first visit was to Luhring Augustine.  The high profile gallery got its start in Chelsea, and when it opened a Bushwick branch, seemed to confer a new legitimacy to the predominantly small scale, artist run gallery scene.  Other major Chelsea galleries have been more reluctant to expand to Bushwick, and Luhring Augustine remains somewhat unique in the landscape.  As one of the largest spaces in Bushwick and certainly the most pristine, it truly feels like a portal across the river straight to Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Glenn Ligon at Luhring Augustine

Glenn Ligon at Luhring Augustine

Artist Glenn Ligon showed a 7-channel video installation where each screen featured a different cropped view of Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip, the comedian’s standup special from 1982.  Pryor has been an enduring interest for Ligon throughout his career, with Ligon’s text paintings often featuring quotes by the standup comic.  

This performance by Pryor is notable for being his first appearance after an attempted suicide  resulting from his drug addiction, which he speaks about candidly and at length in this segment. However, the frenetic cropping and jagged movements of Ligon’s work, titled simply “Live,” cuts out all of his dialogue. The installation forces the viewer to sit in silence while Pryor’s body is fragmented, highlighting Pryor’s physical tics and gestures alone, each one an overstatement of stereotypes pertaining to race and masculinity for black men.  Surrounded by silence and darkness, to watch the installation is fascinating, bizarre, and charged with a social critique that is at once ambivalent as to its message and lacerated with an uncomfortable force.  

Elizabeth Ferry at Honey Ramka

Elizabeth Ferry at Honey Ramka

We then made our way to 56 Bogart, where we saw the extremely cute sculptures of Elizabeth Ferry, featured in her solo exhibition, Shelf Life, at Honey Ramka.

The show consisted primarily of cartoonish depictions of snails, small figures that could have easily been swallowed up in the large gallery space.  However, the artist took a novel approach to the installation in displaying the molluscs.  Installing low shelves all along the perimeter, the little sculptures were discovered as visitors brushed past the wall.  This changed the way one interacted with the gallery space causing the visitor to snake along the wall to observe each piece on an intimate, closeup scale.

Elizabeth Ferry at Honey Ramka

Elizabeth Ferry at Honey Ramka

The gallery was also filled with long, pebble-studded tables supporting clam-themed snow globes, a natural extension of the mollusc theme.  Along the walls were brightly colored depictions of faces (presumably of snails) whose features were made by casting a variety of things, such as bananas and handprints, in plaster.  Overall, the show was successful purely on the strength of its joyful and odd spirit of creation.

Austin Lee at Life on Mars Gallery

Austin Lee at Life on Mars Gallery

At Life on Mars gallery, a group show titled Ghost in the Machine was on view.  It featured the work of artists David Humphreys and Austin Lee.

Lee’s application of spray paint in these works is surprisingly subtle and painterly given their paired down and cartoonish imagery.  He manages to find a lot of detail, emotion and descriptive transitions in these works.  What is especially arresting is the way that hard and soft edges define areas of the paintings, giving focus to the blues of eyes in one instance and dissolving upper lips in the shadow of giant noses in the next.  This not only gives the works a sense of space and a strange relevance to photography, but delights the eye in figuring out how near or far the spray can was to the surface when each mark was made.

David Humphrey at Life on Mars Gallery

David Humphrey at Life on Mars Gallery

The other artist featured in the show, David Humphrey, mashes together figurative and abstract imagery with a dry and obscure sense of humor.  His paintings are impossible to normalize despite being very clear.  This is due in large part to how effortless, almost nonchalant, his transition is between recognizable things and indecipherable abstraction.  Humphrey’s paintings speak to the possibility inherent in refusing the either/or proposition of abstraction and figuration that painting is so often reduced to.

Takahiko Iimura at Microscope

Takahiko Iimura at Microscope

Our last visit was to Microscope, one of the galleries located off of the Jefferson stop.  The show featured work by Takahiko Iimura, a Japanese artist based in New York who has been making work with film and video in a career that spans five decades.  The works on view in Seeing Double are sharply effective at presenting video and film as the subject of itself.

Takahiko Iimura at Microscope

Takahiko Iimura at Microscope

Across film projection, video recording and television display, each piece places the viewer in a non-place where recording and replay technology observes only the act of its own function, disconnected from human interest or further content.  As a result, the show feels like a sanctuary and respite from our everyday interactions. Where so much of our lives is spent looking through screens, it is good to have an occasion to watch them from a distance.

 

No Toxic Factor

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Among the usual crop of gallery openings this past month, there was an exciting pop-up show taking place at Central Booking in the Lower East Side. The pop-up exhibition, titled No Toxic Factor reunited 33 artists who spent the summer of 2011 in the School of Visual Arts Painting and Mixed Media Residency.  They have kept in touch since then, and the lasting impact of their experience has led to this exhibition almost five years later.

“NO TOXIC FACTOR,” at Central Booking in the Lower East Side

“No Toxic Factor” at Central Booking in the Lower East Side

No Toxic Factor was an extraordinary event featuring former residents, faculty, and visiting artists from 2011, curated by SVA Residencies own Assistant Director of Special Programs, Keren Moscovitch.

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The title and concept of the show rest on the conceit that organizing as a group has an altering effect on the individuals who participate in it, synchronizing them while making them unpredictable.  This is observable in social phenomena such as “mass hysteria.”

Video and installation by residency alum Rebecca Kinsey

Video and installation by residency alum Rebecca Kinsey

From the press release:

“ …this exhibition seeks to examine the mass hysteria that can arise amongst highly energized, closely situated individuals. History has thus shown us that large groups of people can generate unpredictable synchronized behaviors that often remain unexplainable by science. Despite suspicions that environmental poisons or other bacterial agents may be at the core of such phenomena, oftentimes these events, when investigated using modern research methods, are shown to have ‘no toxic factor’ involved. This exhibition points to the ambiguity of mass hysteria, suggesting that the line between laughter and psychosis, joy and mania, the rational and the senseless, are innately blurred. Recognizing the destructive forces that lie dormant within all groups, we instead choose to celebrate creativity, community and collaboration.”

The crowd at "NO TOXIC FACTOR"; Installation by Majella Dowdican, Residencies alum

The crowd at “No Toxic Factor”; Installation by Majella Dowdican, Residencies alum

No Toxic Factor found an interesting spin on the group show. Framed in such a way, one begins to wonder to what extent individuals are changed by being in a close-knit studio environment like SVA’s Summer Residencies. The claim of the exhibition is that the experience does change the individual, and if that can inspire a strange mania, it can also be generative, collaborative, and a powerful creative force.

“NO TOXIC FACTOR,” at Central Booking in the Lower East Side

“No Toxic Factor” at Central Booking in the Lower East Side

See more of the artists: Residencies alumni Rebecca KinseyWilliam PaganoLiz FloresKatalina Guerrero, Lorella PalenCristina Camacho; and the faculty members Tobi KahnOfri Cnaani, and Ira Richer. Read our review of Ofri Cnaani’s recent exhibition here.

Bushwick Beat

Saturday, March 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.

Zoe Beloff at momentaart

Zoe Beloff at momentaart

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.  

Zoe Beloff at momentaart

Zoe Beloff at momentaart

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.

Sharon Butler, “Goethe Color Triangle” (2015), oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

Sharon Butler, “Goethe Color Triangle” (2015), oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

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.

Sharon Butler at Theodore:Art

Sharon Butler at Theodore:Art

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.

Katrina Fimmel at Honey Ramka

Katrina Fimmel at Honey Ramka

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.

Paul D’Agostino at Life on Mars

Paul D’Agostino at Life on Mars

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.

Paul D’Agostino at Life on Mars

Paul D’Agostino at Life on Mars

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.

Nicole Reber at Black and White Gallery

Nicole Reber at Black and White Gallery

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. 

-Will Patterson

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