Bushwick Tales was a gallery show curated by artist and writer Etty Yaniv, a contributor to this blog, featuring sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, collages and a performance the night of the opening, which was opened at 117 Grattan Street over the weekend of Bushwick Open Studios and closed October 16, 2016.
Yaniv explained that since the show took place during BOS weekend, she decided to go with a large group and diverse work. After several conversations with various artists she selected artworks from Fanny Allié, Nancy Baker, Dasha Bazanova, Noa Charuvi, Jaynie Gillman Crimmins, Ashley Garrett, Michal Gavish, Peter Gynd, Liz Jaff, Amy Mahnick, Anki King, Eliot Markell, James Prez, Evan Reehl Ryer, Bob Seng, Patricia Satterlee, Natalie Simon, Fedele Spadafora, Trish Tillman, Jeanne Tremmel, Brian Wood, Mary Ivy Martin and included one of her own. All these artists are staples in the Bushwick arts community in some way. She said she wanted to avoid a salon style exhibition and made an attempt to provide each artist a distinct presence, “opting for a mélange of sculptural work and wall work to engage the whole space.”
Attending the invitational exhibition reminded me of morning walks through the neighborhood. One of my favorite paths takes me past the small manufacturing district along Waterbury Street then over to Newtown Creek. When the metal garage doors are open I get a glimpse into the mysterious going-ons of each business. When the doors are rolled down, it’s the remnants along the curbs, the stains on the concrete and the things stuck in the gutters that provide hints about what happens inside. For me, this show captured the industrial-urban essence that surrounds Bushwick, through forms, choice of palettes and overall aesthetics.
For instance, in The Carrier Series, the silhouettes created with black plastic bags, hand-sewn on fabric by Fanny Allié, looked like the familiar and unfamiliar figures carrying their burdens along Morgan Avenue. As you stared at these figures the feelings oscillated between lonely and heroic and then each became dark compositions that engaged one’s sense of structure. Even though pieces were static, a lenticular approach also projected the quality of breathing.
James Prez showcased several sculptures from a larger body of work called Booktures. The artifacts from these artfully composed objects could have easily been taken out of a waste bin from one of the nearby toy distribution centers. Some are fastened atop old books. All of them strike your imagination and random narratives begin to build – or memories of familiar toys, like horses and ducks, quickly flash by. Unlike the narratives implied by Prez’s work, Amy Mahnick manipulates industrial found objects, like tissue boxes and egg cartons, for their design affect. How they are situated in space is also important.
The little ceramic creature, Misunderstood, by Dasha Bazanova lives underneath the bridge at English Kills, between Morgan and Varick Avenues. It is kind and humble and it’s main job is to bless the tiny school of silver fish that swirl in the creek so that they eventually make their way to healthier waters. Go ahead, go out there one early morning and it might grace you with its presence. Not far from Misunderstood is Pompeii on Parade #1 skiing its way down Flushing Avenue in the winter. Elliot Markell creates imaginary characters from found objects. In this piece, the anthropomorphic shape is wonderfully executed with the use of concrete, rebar, paint, old gloves and found wood.
Michal Gavish goes weird science with Nano Portraiture, creating large petri dishes that capture the biological structures of the polluted creek or the composition that can be found in the nearby oil refinery. That’s not really the case, but it is, when your imagination is walking through Bushwick.
The day of the opening, guests passed an old Christmas tree with two brown boots popping out of the end. At first glance it looked like a prank but then you realized there was a person embedded in the tree. Mary Ivy Martin stared straight up into the sky that night while people mistook her for trash. Her performance and subsequent documentation reflects on the blurred lines between people and nature in urban environments.
Yaniv explains, “She was lying motionless on the sidewalk outside the space in pouring rain, tucked in garbage bags and a Christmas tree. It was quite amazing to see how passersby were mostly ignoring her presence, at times even throwing garbage at her (accidentally I hope).”
The paintings by Noa Charuvri capture construction details, material vignettes that are ever present as a result of the rapid reshaping of the urban landscape that is happening in Bushwick. Jeanne Tremel’s sculpture-installation, “Mindful / Landfill”, deals with displacement directly. According to Yaniv, “Jeanne’s ephemeral sculpture embodies, in a poetic way, the very essence of this Bushwick tale. It’s both sad and life affirming.” It was conceived in the artist’s old studio a few blocks away, dismantled and stored when she had to leave, then re-appeared at Venus Knitting Art Space. The sculpture-installation appears to be loosely constructed with a dense amount of debris, dirt, plant material and found objects woven in an empty mattress wire structure. This metal cloud of debris is propped up approximately 24″ from the floor. Scattered below is a light layer of dirt that seems to have fallen from the cloud.
All these works captured a kind of Bushwick urbanism. Curator Etty Yaniv further explains, “I definitely wanted to establish an underlying sense of place in this show, particularly of urban spaces such as Bushwick. In my own work I am very drawn to the idea of place and time specificity, so that is inherently part of my thought process when I am curating as well.”