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.
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.
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, 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.
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’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’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.
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.