Ellen Hackl Fagan is Immersed in Blue

Ellen Hackl Fagan_ Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue_studio_2016
Ellen Hackl Fagan, Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue, studio, 2016

Ellen Hackl Fagan, the artist, gallerist and curator who runs ODETTA, is having a show at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT. It is curated by David Borawski, and runs till Feb 19th. AIB interviewed her by email about her diverse roles, exhibitions, and overall vision.

AIB: How long have you been associated with Bushwick and in what forms?

EHF: I’ve been working in Bushwick since late May 2014. Prior to that I had my studio in Harlem, mainly in the barrio. From the moment I registered for Bushwick Open Studios, other artist/curator/gallerists have invited me to work with them, and we exchange opportunities often. There’s a strong sense of community here, about raising the quality of our galleries by supporting one another.

AIB: Tell me about the genesis of ODETTA.

EHF: I’ve been organizing, hanging, creating exhibitions of art since 1982. I’d been looking for the right space to both live and work, for several years. I wanted a gallery space where people could see the work from the street and then walk right in. Also, I was looking for a space that could handle exhibiting large-scale sculpture and painting. Finding that combined use space proved impossible in my price range. When I decided to look at leasing strictly commercial spaces instead, I walked into this building the very first day. My landlord loves the arts and had put in the glass front, hoping to attract a gallerist tenant. So I can’t live here, but it’s definitely where I’m getting some good work done.

3 ½ weeks after signing the lease, I designed and built out the space, incorporating my studio into the back of  the gallery space, and opened ODETTA the day Bushwick Open Studios_2014 weekend started with a four-person show titled Opening Day. This featured the work of artist/gallerists Joe Amrhein, Rob de Oude, Enrico Gomez, and artist Marcus Linnenbrink. The place sang with color and artists and the culmination of 30 + years of art and practice was launched in its new home. That was one of the most fun evenings of my life. The neighborhood welcomed me completely.

AIB: You are an artist, gallerist, curator. How do these roles inform each other and how do you prioritize?

EHF: I think it’s difficult to prioritize, but these sides all support each other. I’d like to believe I’m an interesting curator because I see things from an artist’s perspective.  If I’m working for myself, rather than the gallery, I try to give that some attention mid-week every week. Multiple roles have all always been a part of my overall practice. I’m one of 8 children, and married into a family of 12 kids, so I’m used to chaos.

Ellen Hackl Fagan_Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue_Spacecraft_Detail_ ink, pigment, acrylic on museum board, 108 x 60 inches on wall, 2016
Ellen Hackl Fagan, Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue, Spacecraft_Detail_ ink, pigment, acrylic on museum board, 108 x 60 inches on wall, 2016

AIB: You are having now a big exhibition in CT at Real Art Ways. What can you tell me about it ?

EHF: Since mid-November, Into the Blue Again, curated by artist David Borawski, has been running concurrently with Kurt Steger’s solo exhibition, Scribing the Void. Real Art Ways www.realartways.org, is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year. They’re a remarkable institution. Paving the way for interdisciplinary arts as early pioneers in experimental music and film, along with solo exhibitions of some of our best contemporary artists. David placed my works in a solo exhibition in one of their longer, narrow gallery spaces. My 9’ tall blue painting found its home on a singular wall that soars 18’ x 14 ‘ wide. I have experimented with the orientation of my blue paintings, sculpting them while drying in order to amplify their dynamic patterns and to create a humming sort of tension with them just lifted off the ground. Along with large works on paper, the viewer is immersed in this blue environment, creating a joyful space to connect in a full body experience with this gorgeous blue.

AIB: ODETTA is remarkable for incorporating poetry, performance and dance in dialogue with the visual art exhibitions. What is your vision for that in future programming?

EHF: I plan to continue introducing the community to innovative artists who want to share their talents with our enthusiastic audience. Expanding the programming into other genres builds the gallery’s audience. Coming up: Creative Tech Week in May brings the tech world into the gallery setting, integrated into an exhibition about healing systems created by Nature to restore and regenerate itself in the wake of human intervention.

Ellen Hackl Fagan, Into the Blue Again installation, courtesy John Groo photography
Ellen Hackl Fagan, Into the Blue Again installation, courtesy John Groo photography

AIB: What is your vision for the art exhibitions in 2017-18? 

EHF: I plan to have some exhibitions revolve around major themes in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake like our next show, River Woman, featuring works by Nancy Cohen, Fritz Horstman, Ellen Kozak, and Kathleen Vance. A special guest event will an introduction/reception to Riverkeeper. Future exhibitions this year are mainly focused on healing. I feel we’re all in need of that. 2018 is the Year of Color for ODETTA. Programming is going to be all about my favorite topic, color.

AIB: Can you give an insight on how you pick the artists?

EHF: I think, in many ways, the artists pick me. Through studio visits and regular interactions, I get to know their work. If I see a high degree of craftsmanship and intention, and they seem easy to work with, then it’s a matter of how to fit their work into the puzzle. Right now, I’m still in the introductory phase of getting to know artists. I’m looking for quality, a subtle humor and intelligence, compassion, and beauty.

AIB: How does the change in the neighborhood affect the art scene and can you share any concerns and hopes for the near future?

EHF: I see the neighborhood as prime for becoming another extension of Williamsburg. As in other areas, artists and galleries will get pushed out ultimately to luxury brand stores. But artists have always challenged the wisdom of a business model in favor of experimentation. So, a constant migration to affordable space is part of the process. ODETTA is a project that can move around if necessary, and I will continue to develop satellite opportunities for artists’ works to be seen by wider audiences.

 AIB: The country has gone through a political quake. Will that affect your art program or your own artwork?

EHF: For our current show, the elegant black works of Thomas Lendvai, Janet Passehl, and Esther Podemski transmit a funereal hush to the exhibition. Our upcoming show River Woman has a strong message of healing the earth and one another. As we continue through 2017, every exhibition is directly offering messages of hope and loss as the artists themselves experience the ramifications of this new administration’s tactics.

AIB: Where can we see your work next?

EHF: I will be showing my work at A.I.R. in an exhibition titled Space Craft, curated by  Liz Surbeck Biddle, featuring works by Tomoko Abe, Liz Surbeck Biddle, Ellen Hackl Fagan, and Jackie Welsh. Opening reception Friday March 17, 6-8 pm. This exhibition runs thru April 16, 2017.

April 4- June 29, 2017, What Does Blue Sound Like?, solo exhibition featuring my web based phone app, The Reverse Color Organ, at the New York Public Library, Mid-Manhattan Library Windows. Artist dialogue with guest artists Joseph Celli and Hap Tivey, April 29, 2017 fromj 2:30-4:30 pm.

Ellen Hackl Fagan 

Into the Blue Again

Real Art Ways

Hartford, CT

November 17, 2016 – February 19, 2017

David Borawski, Curator

 

 

‘Bushwick Tales’ Exhibits Urbanism through Art and Artifact

The group show Bushwick Tales exemplifies a Bushwick urbanism while conjuring up whimsical tales.

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 SpadaforaTrish 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.     

Fanny Allié, Woman Wheel (TheCarriers), plastic bag hand-stitched onto fabric, 2014-15, 14" x 19"
Fanny Allié, Woman Wheel (TheCarriers), plastic bag hand-stitched onto fabric, 2014-15, 14″ x 19″

 

James Prez, Composites from Booktures, 2016
James Prez, partial installation view
Amy Mahnick, Quatrefoil, carryout coffee tray, 2016, 7.5”x7.5”x2”
Amy Mahnick, Quatrefoil, carryout coffee tray, 2016, 7.5”x7.5”x2”

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).”

16.Michal Gavish, Nano portrait 2 (Protein); acrylic on fabric and paper; 2015,12" diameter (20X20 framed)
Michal Gavish, Nano portrait 2 (Protein); acrylic on fabric and paper; 2015,12″ diameter (20X20 framed)
Noa Charuvi, Rocks and Drums, oil on canvas, 2016, 14”x18”
Noa Charuvi, Rocks and Drums, oil on canvas, 2016, 14”x18”

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.”  

A Lenticular Void Occupying Space

by Christopher Stout

image The Sea Is a Big Green Lens; entrance view at Studio 10 

Currently on display at Larry Greenberg’s gallery Studio 10 is The Sea Is a Big Green Lens, a collaborative installation by two Brooklyn artists and brothers: sculptor David Henderson and sound artist Douglas Henderson. This installation comprises an arrangement of fifty sculptural objects, integrated with fourteen speakers, materially “sketching the boundaries of a vast, lenticular void occupying the gallery space.”

imageCeiling view of The Sea Is a Big Green Lens

Recently, the Arts in Bushwick editorial team visited Director Annelie McGavin at Studio 10 to create the following photo essay of the exhibition, providing images to communicate the sculptural component of this installation. Further amplifying the experience, a recording of the accompanying sound composition articulates an abstract narrative derived in part from “Whitesounds,” a poem by deceased Romanian academic Paul Celan.

imageRear gallery view of The Sea Is a Big Green Lens

This emotionally dense installation is not to be missed. If possible, visit the gallery (again) on Sunday, January 26, 2014, to meet the Henderson brothers and hear them discuss their work. Tell them Arts in Bushwick sent you!

imageAlternate ceiling view of The Sea Is a Big Green Lens

imageAlternate rear gallery view of The Sea Is a Big Green Lens

imageAlternate entrance view of The Sea Is a Big Green Lens

###

The Sea Is a Big Green Lens will be on display at Studio 10 until, Sunday, February 2, 2014. Studio 10 will also host an artist talk at the gallery on Sunday, January 26, 2014, from 4:00PM to 6:00PM.

Studio 10 is located at 56 Bogart Street. Viewing hours are Thursday-Sunday 1PM-6PM and by appointment.

An artist and member of the Arts in Bushwick editorial team, Christopher Stout is also the founder of the Bushwick Art Crit Group.