Trans-cen-der, a Salubrious Push in Bushwick

On Tuesday, January 31st, on a cold winter evening, the Temporary Storage Gallery space in Brooklyn Fireproof was heated up by a lively dialogue about art. Trans-cen-der Art Group launched their first meeting, featuring six speakers: Sharilyn Neidhardt, Christopher Stout, Cibele Vieira, Tim Gowan, Luis Martin, and Meer Musa. The second meeting will take place on Feb 28th at 7PM, featuring artists including Mary DeVincentis, Thomas Burr Dodd, Heidi King, Kurt Steger, Dan Romer, Susan Carr, among others.
AIB interviewed by email the three founders of this initiative: Meer Musa, Sharilyn Neidhardt, and Tim Gowan.

Cibele Vieira, part of the series "The Thread Has a Finger" , exhibits at "We need to talk.." at Petzel gallery until February 11
Cibele Vieira, part of the series “The Thread Has a Finger” , exhibits at “We need to talk..” at Petzel gallery until February 11

AIB: What is the genesis of Trans-cen-der Art Group?

SHARILYN: Christopher Stout ran a very similar group for three years called Bushwick Arts Critique Group. The three of us all attended and/or presented at some point and found it extremely enriching. When Christopher decided to focus on running a gallery, Bushwick Arts Critique Group stopped meeting. I started bugging Christopher about re-starting the group, and eventually he relented, so long as we called it something completely different. Christopher was ridiculously supportive in putting everything together. I quickly realized that I’d need help, and Christopher put me in touch with Meer and Tim, who had also asked about getting the group going again. I had met both Meer Musa and Tim Gowan before, through Arts in Bushwick and other arts-related events. We started meeting in November for a January launch.

TIM: I received an email from Christopher Stout announcing that he was turning over the reins of BACG to Sharilyn, and extended an invitation to me to be a part this great program. What I loved about BACG is that it a community event bringing artists and other like-minded people together.

AIB:  How long have you been in Bushwick / or associated with the neighborhood?

MEER: I have been living in Bushwick since 2010 and I have started to participate as soon as I was aware of the Bushwick Art Scene, which was the following summer during Bushwick Open Studios. My main medium is painting. I have shown my paintings in Storefront Ten Eyck, David and Schweitzer Contemporary, Studio 10 and, Parenthesis Space in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

SHARILYN: I’ve lived in East Williamsburg since 2008 and have had a studio (with Cibele Vieira) at Brooklyn Fireproof since 2015. I participated in Bushwick Open Studios from 2011 and served on the Arts in Bushwick core committee in 2016. I’m a painter who has shown with David & Schweitzer, Friday Studio Gallery, and Parenthesis, among others.

TIM: I was born in Queens, grew up on Long Island. In 1999 I decided to move within the City with the intention of moving to Astoria (affordable at one time).  But, as things should turn out, I unexpectedly moved to Ridgewood.

AIB: What are you aiming to achieve in these events ?

MEER: We are aiming to have artists share their work with other artists and curators, and speak about their works in front of a supporting crowd. It is a great opportunity for artists to expose their art work to a room full of audience, build an artist community, and support one another.

SHARILYN: It’s so easy for artists to get isolated, alone in a studio setting for hours at a time. My work transformed from an engrossing hobby to a serious practice once I started painting at Brooklyn Fireproof. Suddenly there were other artists in my space looking at my work, involving me in their projects, asking for my feedback. Feeling part of a community was not only healthier for me, but moved my work forward immeasurably. Now I just want to grow and enrich that community in any way I can, hopefully providing a similar salubrious push for other artists.

TIM: Community, community, community.  There’s nothing worse than walking into a gallery opening or social event where it appears that everyone knows each other except me…painfully awkward.  And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s ever felt that way.  So with Trans-cen-der, we want to foster community and create an environment that encourages social connection.  For example, at the end of the evening, we all go out to dinner and EVERYONE is not only welcome, but encouraged to join us.

Christopher Stout, upcoming solo at Lichtundfire Gallery in the Lower East Side April 2017
Christopher Stout, upcoming solo at Lichtundfire Gallery in the Lower East Side April 2017
Luis Martin, America Is My Sister, Collage 14 x 17 inches, 2016
Luis Martin, America Is My Sister, Collage 14 x 17 inches, 2016

AIB: Are you scheduling ahead?

MEER: The next slide presentation / Art Talk will take place on Tuesday, February 28th.

SHARILYN: Current plan is to meet the last Tuesday of the month for the foreseeable future. We are taking turns putting each evening together. In addition, we will be hosting smaller side-projects. I am hosting an informal chat session for artists who want to discuss the materials and techniques they use in their art practice, it’s scheduled for Thurs Feb 16.

TIM:  Meer will host this month (February), I will host next month (March), Sharilyn will host April, and then back to Meer for the month of May.

AIB: Can artists apply, is it invitational, or both?

MEER: Artist can apply. At the moment we may have a few space left. It will be eight artists maximum. If the space gets filled, we can keep them in mind for the following event.

SHARILYN: It’s both, and it’s up to the host of the evening to decide who presents.

TIM: We strongly encourage artists to apply, and not only local artist, but artists from all over are welcome to submit their work for consideration.

AIB:  What are your criteria for presenters?

MEER: Nine minutes talk and maximum 10 jpg (RGB) images from a series.  Images need to be 72 DPI at least 15” to 18” width and however in length. Artists can send JPGS to: transcenderartgroup@gmail.com   with WeTransfer or Dropbox storage space art file link.

SHARILYN: Currently we are considering only visual art that can be conveyed in still images. We can’t support video at the moment, but that’s something we are actively looking to change in the future. I don’t want to discourage video artists, but you might have to help us with the technical details!

AIB: I assume you are all artists? Tell me briefly about your own practice and if you are involved in community activity.

MEER: I am a painter, my other practices are drawings and photography.  Besides my involvement in Trans-cen-der Art Group I helped out during the Bushwick Open Studio opening events, set up and dismantle benefit art shows.

SHARILYN: I’m a painter and I also dabble in photography and printmaking.

TIM: I’m a painter and I also play with mixed media, street and guerilla art. Over the past three years, I have volunteered for numerous events associated with Arts In Bushwick, which includes Community Day, Open Studios, and other events where I am needed.

Meer Musa, ‘Indian Eyes’
Sharilyn Neidhardt ‘I Hit a Wall (Milwaukee)’ 2016, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 in
Tim Gowan (Untitled installation view)

AIB: Tell me about the first presenters: how did you put these artists together.

SHARILYN: I thought it would be easier to curate and invite other artists if we put ourselves through the process first. It became a way to practice putting the evening together and to focus our message. We included Christopher as the creative progenitor of Trans-cen-der, and he helped us get many details in place. Cibele Vieira and Luis Martin are supportive fellow travelers well-versed in creating and maintaining art communities.

MEER: Our first presenters included the team that started Trans-Cen-Der art group. We included Christopher Stout, who started Bushwick Art Crit, Sharilyn invited her studio mate Cibele Vieira, and I invited artist Luis Martin.

AIB: Anything I did not ask and you would love to share?

MEER: My sub group for “Artists who meditate” will soon have a place to meet and speak about how their practice helps them stay centered in order to make time for creativity.

SHARILYN: Our first night of presentations was an overwhelming success! I was excited by all the people who showed up not only to be supportive on a cold winter Tuesday, but also asked pointed questions, and were eager to participate. I’d also like to mention that we are indebted to Thomas Burr Dodd and Hazel Lee Santino of Brooklyn Fireproof for not only providing a space for us, but also for guiding our organizational process. We definitely could not be without their enthusiastic support.

TIM: I also want to thank Christopher Stout, Thomas Burr Dodd, and Hazel Lee Santino for their support.

Trans-cen-der Art Group

Temporary Storage Gallery space in Brooklyn Fireproof,  119 Ingraham Street Brooklyn, NY 11237

Instagram

 

 

 

Underdonk, A Community Fixture

Underdonk started in 2013 as a small experimental project space and later evolved into a vibrant artist-run gallery located at 1329 Willoughby. Underdonk’s eleven members operate an ambitious exhibition program such as the notable 2015 exhibition “Paul Klee,” which featured work by twenty contemporary artists who referenced  the 20th century modernist master.  AIB interviewed Underdonk artists via email and they responded as a group:

AIB: How do you know each other?

Underdonk: Some of us are alumni of Hunter College, although at various times; a few of us met at openings or through other art channels.

AIB: How did you form the group?

Underdonk: Underdonk was founded in 2013 as a means to focus our separate curatorial interests into one sustainable project. Some of us were relatively fresh from graduate school and the gallery felt like a way to stay connected to the artistic community we had established there. Some of us have past experience working with artist- run gallery spaces, or have been otherwise involved in the Bushwick art scene. It started in the studios of some of our original Underdonk members at the 17-17 Troutman building as a small experimental project space and then later grew because of the enthusiasm that was started there into our larger space.

AIB: Where did the name come from?

Underdonk: It derives from the street name Onderdonk which is next to the Troutman building where we originated, and means under the hill in the Dutch. It’s catchy, and was the only name that stuck.

Onion by the Ocean, Group Exhibition, Installation image, 2016
Onion by the Ocean, Group Exhibition, Installation image, 2016
Sophie Grant and Jenna Westra, Right of Window, Installation image, 2015
Sophie Grant and Jenna Westra, Right of Window, Installation image, 2015

AIB: What made you chose Bushwick/Ridgewood as a hub?

Underdonk: Underdonk began at 1717 Troutman, where a few galleries like Regina Rex, and Ortega y Gassett, were also operating. Bushwick was attractive because of its open, industrial architecture, proximity to the L, and affordable rents. The last factor turned out to be unreliable, when in 2015 our landlords at 17-17 Troutman gave the boot to all of the galleries leasing space in the building. We moved to a temporary location in Williamsburg, while hunting for our current home at 1329 Willoughby.  We have found a great landlord and are lucky to again be in the vicinity of other artist-run spaces such as Transmitter, TSA, and Microscope.

AIB: Tell me about your organization and mode of operation.

Underdonk: In curatorial and administrative matters we pride ourselves on our flexibility. We accommodate and respect one another’s individual interests and scheduling constraints. That said, we meet no less than once a month, and we email all the time. Keeping membership at eleven allows each of us to curate around one show a year, with room for our annual benefit auction. That is happening soon, in late February/early March, via Paddle8. We are also always happy to hear proposals for visiting curator exhibitions, performances, and readings.

AIB: How do you see Underdonk in context of other artist groups in the area?

Underdonk: We feel that professionalism is an important aspect of what we do. For instance, we recently acquired both fine art and liability insurance. We also believe, however, that in certain spaces, like our own, professionalism can be overemphasized, to the detriment of experimentation and openness. We hope to remain broad-minded and open to new ideas, regardless of any shifts in the character of the neighborhood and New York at large.

Osamu Kobayashi, "Woogie", Solo Exhibition, Installation image, 2016

Osamu Kobayashi, “Woogie”, Solo Exhibition, Installation image, 2016

AIB: Do you share an aesthetic vision for your group and curatorial projects?

Underdonk: No, not officially! Members are unrestrained when it comes to organizing shows. Most of us turn to one another for feedback or suggestions on artists to include, so there ends up being a sense of continuity.

 Patrice Renee Washington, "Rags and Rinds", Solo Exhibition, Installation image, 2016
Patrice Renee Washington, “Rags and Rinds”, Solo Exhibition, Installation image, 2016

AIB: Do you do collaborative work?

Underdonk: We often co-curate shows, and we have participated in several exchanges with other galleries. We sometimes invite guest curators to put together shows in our space, without the exchange component. Whenever we organize large scale events, such as our annual auction, it is a huge group effort. All of this we consider as collaboration. On an individual level, many of us have collaborated with other artists outside of Underdonk.

AIB: What are your goals for the next few years?

Underdonk: One major goal is to bring more people living in the Bushwick neighborhood into the gallery, as viewers and as participating artists. We would love to be a community fixture, not just an insular art world fixture. We also hope to participate in more gallery exchanges and art fairs.

Underdonk at ESX LA, Group Exhibition, Installation image, 2015

Underdonk at ESX LA, Group Exhibition, Installation image, 2015 Underdonk artists: Aleta LanierAshley GarrettChris BertholfDanielle OrchardElisa SolivenEssye KlempnerGeorgia ElrodJJ ManfordLaura FrantzTryn CollinsNicholas Cueva

1329 Willoughby Ave #211
Brooklyn, NY 11237
L train to Jefferson St

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‘Cracking Up, Breaking Down’ Alludes to Angst, Excess and Emptiness

Cracking Up, Breaking Down (December 11, 2016 through January 08, 2017) was a group show at The Parlour Bushwick located in south Bushwick on the border of Bedstuy. Featuring New York-based artists Ben Pederson, Jack Henry, Nicholas Cueva, and Alex Yudzon, this body of work alluded to themes of angst, excess and emptiness. The show, recently closed, was curated by Rachel Phillips and Janice Sloane, both of whom are artists. Phillips works in a Surrealistic style, allowing the unconscious to guide her practice. The shapes in her drawings and paintings oscillate between abstract and recognizable forms. Sloane utilizes photography, painting and found objects to construct works of art that suggests themes of aging, sexuality, and healing. 

Cozy couches lined a thoughtful selection of eccentric work dynamically arranged in two rooms on the first floor of a townhouse on Bushwick Avenue. Mirrors decorated the walls, and beautiful crown molding adorned the doorways, arches, and ceilings. This setting created an intimate and endearing atmosphere. Using diverse materials and divergent techniques, this body of work suggested a precariousness and unease that reflects the collective state of mind of our generation.

Ben Pederson’s colorful sculptures exude a frenetic quality because of his use of overlapping, bright and contrasting colors, the irrational placement of tiny dots, and the inclusion of uneven, tilted elements. When these elements are combined, they invoke the sensation of being on a precipice. Hollywood Nights is composed of cardboard, plaster gauze, and Epoxy clay. Pederson uses acrylic and vinyl paint to create the brightly colored base, which has solid black triangular structures that jut out from it. In Both Times at Once, it appears the sculpture is trapped inside another work. The surrounding bars are painted black at the bottom and vibrantly colored at the top. This work is more suggestive of architectural elements than of an otherworldly form, contrasting to Hollywood Nights. As viewers walk around these works, colors shift and forms re-shape as if they have caught them in a state of transformation or transition. Is it growing or shrinking, contracting or pulsating, transmuting or putrefying? The sculptures suggest organic and synthetic elements, something of this world yet far beyond it.

Ben Pederson, Junkfood Trees, 2015

Also on view by Pederson are tiny bronzes, dubbed Junkfood Trees. They have hand-painted pieces of food at the edges like pizza, chicken wings, ice cream and other fatty foods. These works suggest the success of the fast food market and the excessiveness in which we consume and unconsciously waste.

 

 

These themes also could be discerned in Jack Henry’s sculptures, column-like structures composed of rebar, Hydrocal, ink, and found objects. A contemporary scavenger, he collects items that are man-made from buildings, ripped billboards, and the side of the road. He collects cultural debris from the places on the peripheral—the places people see but never truly look at. By utilizing the discarded and banal, Henry’s work suggest issues of mass consumption and Post-Industrial America.

Jack Henry, Untitled, 2016

Henry’s sculptures appear to be in a state of deterioration akin to a dilapidated or abandoned building. For the works in this show, the artist assembled dried flowers, straw, plastic tarp, and other pieces of detritus to construct human-size monuments reminiscent of tombstones. The shape alludes to ancient Roman and Mesopotamian burial shrines, calling attention to how the past informs the present and how objects come to stand in for memories. The sculptures are described in Henry’s artist statement as “monuments or memorials to cultural disaffection.” A sublime beauty is found in the castaway, things that no longer serve a purpose but have a past akin to people.

Jack Henry, Sheer 1, 2016

Nicholas Cueva uses a traditional medium to express a contemporary mindset. His oil and acrylic paintings utilize gestural brushstrokes to create playful abstract shapes that contrast to the areas of raw, unpainted canvas. This technique refers to how we create our own narratives about situations and must fill in the gaps when missing information. Cueva often uses still life and portraiture as a departure point. In American Une, some objects can be discerned; for example, a bent hand in the upper left, a green parrot with a gold chain in the upper right and a glass of wine in the bottom right. An eye and a shape of a face appear to be at the center of the canvas, although the artist has scraped oil and acrylic paint off to make a large void at the focal point. It’s as if the face has been effaced by time like a torn advertisement on the street.

Nicholas Cueva, Pick Nick, 2016

The voids are important elements in Cueva’s work and function as psychological and emotionally charged spaces. In Pick Nick, the perimeter has recognizable objects like a bowl of fruit, bananas, glasses, a vase, a table, and the middle has been unpainted or erased. The scattered gaps in form and voids at the center become portals, allowing viewers to navigate through the surface of color. The paintings thus become a vehicle for contemplation. The breakdown of the picture plane into fractured shapes suggest the fragmented nature we perceive reality and recall memories—the splintered way we see the world, ourselves, and how we choose to remember it.

Alex Yudzon’s photographs are meticulously arranged and draw inspiration from Classical compositions by Old Masters. Yudzon studied painting and art history. The latter informed his artistic practice. He was most interested in iconography, 16th and 17th Old Master paintings and still life, particularly the vanitas paintings. The artist explains the genre “combined semi-rotting food with symbolic objects to emphasize the ephemerality of sensual experience.” He often stages fruit and objects, arranging them in front of a backdrop of hand-painted scenes or reproductions of works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. He then photographs the installations straight on. This juxtaposition of the present and past show how the two are inexplicably intertwined. Yudzon’s photograph is a contemporary work of art now—but in time they will be viewed as work of the past. His art will be situated within an art historical context and he will become part of a genealogy of artists. Unlike the human body, works of art and artists can be immortalized; they do not ossify and deteriorate with time.

Alex Yudzon, Papaya Mountain, 2016, Edition of 6

Yudzon creates centralized, triangular arrangements of objects in his photographs. In Campfire, burning candles are staged in the front of a woods scene. The dark, smoky background recalls the Renaissance technique of sfumato. In the foreground, the wax has melted into a sticky web that is repulsive yet mesmerizing. In Papaya Mountain, the semi-rotting fruit is arranged in a pile on a plate that sits on a brilliantly patterned cloth. It is displayed in front of a mountainous backdrop and the shape of the fruit mimics the form of the mountains. The vehement pink-orange color of the papaya contrasts to the subtle blues and grays in the background. He typically photographs an excess of objects as exemplified in Papaya Mountain and Campfire. The artist described his work as having “an anxiety of collapse through overabundance.” The excess thus becomes a means to the breakdown. In Cocktail, Yudzon places a lobster arm into a cup. In this work, he chose to focus on a static, singular object, instead of creating a mis-en-scene of objects in a transient state akin to the aforementioned photographs. Light dramatically shines on the lobster vase positioned in front of an endless, faded background. The objects the artist chooses are ephemeral or in a state of decay. The decomposition of the things alludes to the fragility of our body, the entropic nature of life, and the transience of each moment.

Cracking Up, Breaking Down is a stimulating show that touches on contemporary issues and collective anxieties related to an unstable American sociopolitical climate. Several galleries in the area, such as Underdonk’s Sister Outsider or Knockdown Center’s Nasty Women, have had exhibitions of work that directly allude to the uncertainty and vulnerability our community feels after the shock of the 2016 election results. Social trauma lingers–a term coined by Mary Kelly when discussing difficult experiences and feminism during the 1970s-80s; however, she had come to find a rupture in the continuity of feminism and the avant-garde. This chasm correlates to the social division that both Democratic and Republican parties face within their organizations. This show is particularly important because it a poignant reminder that only after things fall apart can we begin to build something new. The fractured pieces of ourselves will not be the same size nor fit in exactly the same place, but it will be come together and be more durable, stronger, and resilient. Some say there is beauty in the breakdown, but, as I see it, there is a greater beauty in what lies ahead—what we cannot foresee or fathom yet, what is just out of sight.

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BOS2015 Day by Day: Friday

WHG-BOS2014-Vexta
Vexta mural at the 2014 Bushwick Collective Block Party; all images by the author

I wish we could talk about something other than the weather, but I just have to say…I AM SO GLAD IT’S NOT GOING TO RAIN ON OUR PARADE! What else is there to say really. Well, except it’s finally Friday, and not just another Friday, but the first Friday in June, a day that for nine years now corresponds with Bushwick artists swinging open their doors to welcome in the lost, the wandering, and the art-curious. It is time, people: Bushwick Open Studios 2015 is here.

We know BOS is not small. There’s help if you want it: curated guides by Hyperallergic, Flavorpillartnet, and Bushwick Daily, who are dropping their tips subdivided via renamed micro ‘hoods based on MTA stops (heads up—they also just posted a list of killer parties). In the next couple days, we are also offering our selections for how to get the most art for your step this weekend. Read on.

#BOS2015 officially kicks off tonight with our annual Launch Party and Seeking Space Exhibition at Be Electric—art, friends, drinks, DJs, and, of course, more art. Did you miss the deadline for Seeking Space? The Living Gallery is hosting their annual BYO Art open art show tonight as well as a BBQ and open-mic events throughout the weekend. If the Launch Party gets a bit too crowded, head to festival mainstay Harthaus, located a few blocks over, for a group show including performances at 7:30PM and 8:30PM.

BushwickLikeABOSPrintLab
Custom BOS t-shirts printed by The Bushwick Print Lab

For the festival early birds, the Bushwick Print Lab is holding a BOS Bazaar today, 3-7PM. Stop by and see them in action, and pick up your own custom-printed goodie. Reactivator at The Active Space and #ShwickOpenStudios will be open all day, with the action going strong all weekend long.

A solo show by Don Pablo Pedro opens tonight at English Kills Gallery, and nearby, Fine & Raw Chocolate is hosting an opening of their weekend show: A Variant Form of Lust. In between, swing by Pine Box Rock Shop to say hello to Bushwick’s favorite Hominoidea, Frank Ape. And when you’ve had your fill of sweets, head over to Bizarre Bar for the Purgatory & Paradise Party celebrating the launch of Meryl Meisler’s newest book, an event that is sure to “drag” you into the wee hours of Saturday.

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The 2014 BOS Closing Party at Bizarre

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Stay tuned here, as BOS2015 Day by Day will provide additional tips and updates to help navigate your BOS weekend. To create your own customizable “map,” be sure to download the official BOS app and check out the online BOS Directory. Official BOS Hubs throughout the neighborhood can serve as a gathering point, providing print guides, shade, and the much-needed restroom break

Production Meets Consumption in Film Series at Lot 45

by Nekoro Gomes

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Announcement from press release; image copyright Bushwick Co-Op Film Series

 

As the inaugural film in the Bushwick Food Co-Op Film Series at Lot 45, The Beekeeper was a logical choice. Bees are associated with springtime, and in the midst of what seems like a bitter and unrelenting winter, a bee sting for a couple warm sunny days seems more than fair. Curated by Lauren Bennett, the documentary follows a frenetic season in New York City’s
DIY beekeeping community and provides a fascinating glimpse into the
different personalities drawn to the practice.

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Still from The Beekeeper; photo by Nekoro Gomes

 

In the film’s different portrayals of aspiring and experienced beekeepers, from a former exterminator to a sedentary librarian, The Beekeeper provides a concise travelogue documenting a community of agricultural artisans who take to the practice for a sense of connection to a
natural world that can be hard to find in our concrete jungle. The film
opens with two juxtaposed montages that highlight the fervor that New
York City’s many transplants bring to any endeavor. As Andrew Cote, the
head of the New York City Beekeepers Association, parades his hives for
the New York tabloids on top of the genteel Waldorf-Astoria, James
Cowell of Otter Creek, Pennsylvania, is seen packaging his own brood for
relocation to the five boroughs.

The film was shot and produced by Bushwick filmmaker Jill Bauerle along with director Susan Sfarra. The reasons to focus on such an
esoteric, not to mention downright scary, subset of the city’s
agricultural community soon become clear. As Sfarra notes, “Why are people, even people
in cities, drawn to beekeeping? The beekeepers we met were interested in
making some extra money, in getting in touch with nature, or simply
interested in learning more
about the science of beekeeping.”

 

Andrew Cote provides the documentary’s major through-line. Yielding a compelling presence, Cote is shown quizzing Hasidic Jewish students on kosher food, using a police surveillance crane to take down a troublesome hive, and later dropping terrific throwaway lines such as “I don’t want any old
queens.” With just the right mix of sanctimony and sincerity, Cote is a
delightful tour guide through the city’s beekeeping ecosystem. For Cote, a fourth-generation beekeeper, the practice was one of the few ways for him to be close to his father, but as Beekeeping for Dummies’ author Howland Blackiston notes, the practice is also attractive because it “helps New Yorkers become cognizant of the fact that they are
deeply connected to the natural world.”

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Illustration from press release for The Beekeeper; image copyright Bushwick Co-Op Film Series

 

Yes, you will see plenty of bee
stings in The Beekeeper, and the different ways people get them—climbing
a tree to collect a hive or just before they’re able to get their bee
masks on—are a little cringe worthy. “A surprise though was how many
beekeepers mentioned the calming effect of bees. There is something
calm, peaceful, orderly about bees that
people are drawn to, something that we would like to see in ourselves.”
The most interesting aspects of the film, however, are the different
anecdotes that demonstrate the extent to which our ecosystem impacts these insects, ways significantly more chilling than anything they could do to us.

 

Witnessing experienced beekeepers hold up handfuls of dead bees at the tops of
condo developments, or watching beekeepers trying to introduce “foreign”
queens to a new hive in the hope of trying to produce a new
honey-making colony, you get a perverse look at the extent to which
profit motives have vastly unforeseen consequences. A reality not helped
by a $20 mark-up on bottles of city (versus country) honey. “Several films
already have explored well the large-scale issues around bee health as
it relates to commercial beekeeping. Yet, there hasn’t been a film that
looks at beekeeping in our communities,” Sfarra notes.

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Film Screening at Lot 45; photo by Nekoro Gomes

 

The relationship between humans and bees finds echoes with that between humans and humans, forming one of the films most interesting narrative
cruxes. The different rivalries on the “proper” ways to be a beekeeper
come into sharp focus as the documentary moves along. The film’s climax
comes when Cote rushes to the scene to help police safely transport bees
away from a beekeeping “slumlord” with more hives than coding
regulations allow. The kicker, however, is that Cote had not only seen
this beekeeper’s hives at an earlier point in the film, he was actually
behind the whistle-blower phone call. Sipping on a wonderfully made spiced-honey and gin cocktail made by Lot 45 especially for the documentary screening, you can’t help but come away with an understanding that sweet things don’t always come from an agricultural process that’s particularly nice.

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A trailer and outtakes from the film are available on the film’s website, with the documentary now available on iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, PlayStation, VUDU, Xbox, and YouTube Movies

 

The Bushwick Co-Op film series will continue weekly through the coming spring. For more information on screenings, you can like their Facebook page or visit their website. The next screening, Fed Upwill be held at Lot 45 on Wednesday, February 25, at 8PM

Confronting Prejudice: Strategies for Women in the Arts

by Catherine Kirkpatrick

 

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Panelists (left to right) Anki King, Frida Kahlo of Guerrilla Girls, Jenn Dierdorf, Asha Cherian, and Anne Sherwood Pundy; all photos by Catherine Kirkpatrick unless otherwise noted

 

In a world where the new (however that may be defined on any given day) is often pursued like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, it is striking how certain issues keep returning to the fore. On November 18, 2014, the Bushwick Art Crit Group sponsored a panel discussion called Marching Forward: Collective Strategies of Women in the Arts. Moderated by BACG Exhibitions Director, Kelsey Shwetz, it included artists Anki King, Jenn Dierdorf, Frida Kahlo of Guerrilla Girls, Asha Cherian, and Anne Sherwood Pundyk.

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Frida Kahlo of Guerrilla Girls

 

The first topic discussed was the need to redefine success in the art world. Frida Kahlo stated that the highest price paid for a work by a woman artist was less than 10% of the highest price paid for the work by a man artist, raising the question of whether money is always the best measure of success. Anki King wondered about the possibility of other systems of acquisition besides sales, noting perhaps trade. In response, moderator Kelsey Shwetz wondered if these two systems were
mutually exclusive. Thomas Burr Dodd, the owner of Bushwick Fire Proof
where the discussion was held, urged artists to focus less on the
“endgame” of selling and more on the rewards of the creative process and
interaction with their peers. Asha Cherian of Gender Casual talked about the need for women to be bold and think outside traditional boundaries, an ethos Guerrilla Girls, an organization founded by women artists in 1985, has embraced.

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Moderator Kelsey Shwetz

 

Through eye-catching posters, street projects, and books, Guerrilla Girls has presented hard facts and numbers about women’s lack of presence in the art world, always with a dose of humor. “If you make people laugh, they will listen,” said Frida Kahlo, who appeared in full guerrilla attire (members adopt names and masks as a way to “depersonalize” their message). For one of their projects, they counted the number of nudes of women at the Metropolitan Museum versus the number of paintings by women, and found, not surprisingly, that the former was very large, whereas the latter was very small.

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Asha Cherian (left) and Frida Kahlo (right) of Guerrilla Girls

 

So dedicated to their roles as “professional complainers,” the art critic Robert Hughes once invited Guerrilla Girls to participate in a documentary, then paid them to go away. But a few weeks later, Hughes publicly acknowledged that there were not enough women in the art
world. Their message had been received. That film also inspired Asha Cherian, who
saw Guerrilla Girls posters growing up. She urged women artists to keep thinking
boldly, saying: “If you can imagine it, sometimes it actually begins to
exist in the world.” Cherian and Pundyk,
who is also a writer, spoke about the importance of using language to
expand the dialogue and market in the art world, wondering if gender
blindness is as pervasive in that realm as race blindness is in life.

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(Left to right) Jenn Dierdorf, Asha Cherian, and Anne Sherwood Pundyk

 

Shwetz said that the creation of communities of women is very important, and a show of hands by the audience indicated that most women belonged
to such organizations. King said, “Women are very good about
supporting each other.” Dierdorf, who is Co-Director of Development
at the A.I.R. Gallery, the
first gallery run by and for women in the United States, discussed the
importance of such organizations in “perpetuating knowledge and
experience.” Cherian spoke of mentoring, citing the example of Leo Castelli
helping Larry Gagosian. “Networks would go a long way,” she said,
“toward creating an ‘abundance’ concept not a ‘scarcity’ concept.”

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(Left to right) Anki King, Frida Kahlo of Guerrilla Girls, and Jenn Dierdorf

 

On the topic of global outlook, Frida Kahlo spoke about the terrible
violence against women in many places, asking “Is it our responsibility to
deal with it?” Dierdorf, admitting to being a “pessimist,” said the art
world is a confined space with a limited audience, and prefers the
intimacy of studio visits as a way to exchange ideas. Power
dynamics were also touched upon, with King talking about working “extra
hard” during studio visits to keep things on a businesslike footing
with men. “The only solution I found,” she admitted, “is getting older.”

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Anki King (left) and Frida Kahlo (right) of Guerrilla Girls

 

All the panelists spoke with quiet passion, reminding us that women’s
rights are human rights. Their art speaks, not to a small niche, but
the entire world. Many perspectives were presented, and by including
Guerrilla Girls, an organization founded in 1985, the panel bridged
generations, especially important at a time when the relevance of feminism
itself is often questioned.

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Frida Kahlo of Guerrilla Girls

A Genuine Urge to Behold: ‘Meltdown’ by Kurt Steger

By Etty Yaniv

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Opening night at ArtHelix, with partial view of Meltdown by Kurt Steger; photo courtesy of Vincent Romaniello

Suspended murky waterdrops on the verge of dripping from an icicle onto a sheet of paper prove to be almost hypnotic in Kurt Steger’s interactive project at ArtHelix. Utilizing elegant wooden contraptions made of a rotating large-scale low wooden table, a transportable tall crane-like sculpture, and a few low benches, Steger’s participatory performance evokes a genuine urge to behold the genesis of a fresh mark, from the first drip to the final circular tracing. The resulting drip drawings hang on the walls, mostly depicting  circular forms that range from dark sepias to vibrant yellows and rusty oranges.

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(Above and below) Close-ups of Meltdown by Kurt Steger at ArtHelix; photos courtesy of the artist

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Reminiscent of playing a board game or raking a Zen garden, Steger’s circles are formed by a group of participants sitting around a table and turning it. The ice that drips onto the paper contains materials such as carbon, rust, soil, and locally harvested toxic waters. As participants rotate the paper manually, the melting ice creates a Zen-like circle of urban stains. “The detritus frozen into the ice pods stains the paper onto which it drips in the same way that our devastating carbon footprint stains the earth,” Steger elaborates.  With notions of ritual, environment, and community in mind, the artist invites visitors to participate in what he calls “the creative impulse.“

image(Above and below) Close-ups of drip drawings by Kurt Steger at ArtHelix; photos by Etty Yaniv for Arts in Bushwick

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There is a shamanistic aura to Steger’s work. Yet, it is far from a trendy or ironic new age trip, a didactic sermon on global warming, or a doom and gloom apocalyptic scenario. “My interest in environmentalism and psychology are prevalent in all my work,” says Steger, who had resided in the mountains of Virginia and Northern California before arriving in Bushwick more than two years ago. His urge seems idealistic but also pragmatic with a playful bent: “Our planet is in deep peril, and yet even in the midst of its demise, there is beauty, and therefore hope,” he says. This series of drip drawings materialized after Steger moved to New York. “There was a dramatic shift between living in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the urban grittiness of Brooklyn, and I felt the need to express my longing for nature,” he contemplates.

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Large Circle No. 1 (1472 Drips) by Kurt Steger at ArtHelix; photo by Etty Yaniv for Arts in Bushwick

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(Clockwise from top left) Runoff No. 2, Runoff No. 3, Runoff No. 5, Runoff No. 6, Runoff No. 4, Runoff No. 7; all works by Kurt Steger at ArtHelix; photo by Etty Yaniv for Arts in Bushwick

 

Besides conveying Steger’s love of nature mixed with his deep concern for the environment, Meltdown also highlights the importance of the communal experience. Steger projects an immersive John Cage-like meditation, in which process, form, and content merge seamlessly. The performance not only echoes the meltdown of the environment, but also urges people to seek a solution through a communal focus.

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Artist Kurt Steger (left) with visitors to Meltdown at ArtHelix on opening night; photo courtesy of the artist

Similarly, in his ongoing project entitled “Lodge,” the artist invites conversation in an open-aired construction that alludes to a Native American sweat lodge. Installed in a wide range of locations, from gritty urban lots (e.g., Harrison Place, Bushwick), to panoramic coastal settings (e.g., Portland, Maine), the artist creates a spacious, sacred container for sharing stories. He believes that when we open our hearts to each other “we access the brilliance within and communally tap into our creativity. In doing so, we increase the chance of finding new ways to live sustainably.”

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Lodge by Kurt Steger, installed in Harrison Place, Bushwick; photo by Etty Yaniv for Arts in Bushwick

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Lodge by Kurt Steger, installed in Portland, Maine; photo by Etty Yaniv for Arts in Bushwick

Steger says that when an artist activates objects in the world, he also activates nature and brings it to a place of aesthetic resonance, which in turn leads to a positive societal change. “It is my hope that by bringing nature into an urban environment, I offer the possibility of mitigating both our personal wounds and our cultural malaise,” he elaborates. His work conveys an urgent plea to fight the ignorance that drives us to destruction, mixed with a subtle longing for human bonding. In Meltdown, Steger offers visitors this opportunity, by sitting together in a circle and focusing on a single drip.

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Artist Kurt Steger (second from left) with visitors engaging with Meltdown at ArtHelix; photo by Etty Yaniv for Arts in Bushwick

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Artist Kurt Steger with partial view of his works included in Meltdown at ArtHelix

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Kurt Steger’s Meltdown will be on view at Art Helix from 24 October to 30 November 2014; ArtHelix is located at 299 Meserole Street, with gallery hours Friday-Sunday, 12-6PM

Friends with Benefits…for Life: New Web Series Comes to Bushwick

Image copyright of “Friends with Benefits for Life”
Image copyright of “Friends with Benefits for Life”

 

As recent online-only series have demonstrated, neither television nor cable is necessary for a program to be successful. Indeed, if “High Maintenance,” a NYC-based Vimeo-hosted Web series recently profiled in the New Yorker, is any indication, then D.I.Y. tactics may be the new model for quality programs. It is in this spirit that “Friends with Benefits for Life” reaches us.

Filmed entirely in Bushwick, “Friends with Benefits for Life” is a new Web series whose approach to production is as unconventional as the love and relationships it explores. Its main characters, Ben and Anna, are “roommates who became friends, who then became friends with benefits, and then…they had a kid, and so the benefits were for life.” Director John Reaves has provided Arts in Bushwick with an exclusive look at this new series (for the trailer, click here).

Reaves notes, “a number of scenes were shot at Cobra Club and they have been a huge resource/help in the process of trying to get this made.” Further extending their support, the Cobra Club will be hosting the premiere of “Friends with Benefits for Life” this Wednesday, 1 October, at 8PM, when all three 10-minute episodes will be screened. Because admission is free, money can instead by spent on the evening’s drink special, appropriately called the “Friend with Benefit.” With a live DJ on hand, this evening provides a golden opportunity to support a local creative initiative.

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The Cobra Club is located at 6 Wyckoff Avenue, steps from the Jefferson L stop. The premiere/screening of “Friends with Benefits for Life” will begin at 8PM, this Wednesday, 1 October

Friends with Benefits…for Life: New Web Series Comes to Bushwick

Image copyright of “Friends with Benefit for Life”
Image copyright of “Friends with Benefit for Life”

 

As recent online-only series have demonstrated, neither television nor cable is necessary for a program to be successful. Indeed, if “High Maintenance,” a NYC-based Vimeo-hosted Web series recently profiled in the New Yorker, is any indication, then D.I.Y. tactics may be the new model for quality programs. It is in this spirit that “Friends with Benefits for Life” reaches us.

Filmed entirely in Bushwick, “Friends with Benefits for Life” is a new Web series whose approach to production is as unconventional as the love and relationships it explores. Its main characters, Ben and Anna, are “roommates who became friends, who then became friends with benefits, and then…they had a kid, and so the benefits were for life.” Director John Reaves has provided Arts in Bushwick with an exclusive look at this new series (for the trailer, click here).

Reaves notes, “a number of scenes were shot at Cobra Club and they have been a huge resource/help in the process of trying to get this made.” Further extending their support, the Cobra Club will be hosting the premiere of “Friends with Benefits for Life” this Wednesday, 1 October, at 8PM, when all three 10-minute episodes will be screened. Because admission is free, money can instead by spent on the evening’s drink special, appropriately called the “Friend with Benefit.” With a live DJ on hand, this evening provides a golden opportunity to support a local creative initiative.

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The Cobra Club is located at 6 Wyckoff Avenue, steps from the Jefferson L stop. The premiere/screening of “Friends with Benefits for Life” will begin at 8PM, this Wednesday, 1 October

BOS’13 Recap: A Call To Action

by Ruth Nineke, photos: Kyle Mumford

I intentionally refrained from posting my recap of the incredible 7th BOS weekend because I wanted to allow the follow-up stories and photographs to keep building a memorable enthusiasm for the festival before I took time to call all of the artists, creative entrepreneurs, and residents of Bushwick to committed and fervent action.

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BOS ’13 was a monumental success for artists, business owners, AiB organizers, and lovers of the arts alike. The fun and highly inspirational weekend underscored a decade of population growth in the area, while simultaneously making artists more aware of their own undeniable and invaluable contributions to society.

Art is the external manifestation of internal processes. While it’s tempting to debate what precisely constitutes art, perhaps a more beneficial addition to the creative discussion would be acknowledging that art multiplies – procreates even – the more those identifying as artists continue to engage and interact with one another, the more creative growth is spurred in others.

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Nearly every artist I spoke with before BOS ’13 shared the same sentiment toward their neighborhood and its annual festival:

They love living in Bushwick for its creative energy and the sense of community it provides. It’s encouraging to know that someone you know – just down the hall or down the street – is not only capable of assisting on your project, but is also likely willing and genuinely excited to help you. And Open Studios affords the often reclusive artist an opportunity to connect with their neighbors, and inspire one another.

Last weekend the landscape crackled with possibility. As a writer with a fondness for color and motion I found myself with a two-day pass to narrator heaven, surrounded by sights and sounds, struck with impressions and inferences in rapid succession. I witnessed the live preview of an urban utopia; the fusion of individuals sharing their experience unrestrained by age, gender, race, sexuality, income, livelihood, or medium. From McKibbin to Bogart, Ingraham to Knickerbocker and all along Troutman, peaceful smiles and positive vibes filled the streets as friends and strangers delighted in one another’s conversation, creativity, and fashion. The volume of bodies, the number of open studios and businesses, boasted a clear testament to the fertility of a neighborhood brimming with palpable awesomeness.

This year’s festival establishes an inescapable turning point in the story of Bushwick. The remarkable turnout, participation in, and reaction to BOS ’13 highlight the power of community bonds, and also reveal what can be achieved when creative and innovative minds unite on positive initiatives.

For many summers this place has been a semi-well kept secret for artists in search of affordable rents, or so it seemed. However the cat is now officially out of the proverbial bag. And that’s not a bad thing. On the heels of this wildly invigorating weekend artists and creative entrepreneurs – everyone with a passion for the arts who’s content to call Bushwick home – must accept their shared responsibility to their neighbors and themselves to preserve the foundation of what we have collectively created, and sustain a community in which art can continue to flourish.