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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A Critique of Perception-Based Knowledge: Scott Saunders’ ‘Integument’

by Mary Coyne

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Untitled (pedestal piece using wood, aluminum, stainless steel), 2011, by Scott Saunders; all photos by Mary Coyne

Some things are meant to be. Scott Saunders’ delightful exhibition at Wayfarers is one of those exhibitions that is just “right” and can stand on its own two feet in any location, in almost any context. Saunders, who lives and works in Austin, Texas, has enlightened the mid-fall Bushwick gallery scene with a series of new works that, in their sculptural simplicity inherently question our understanding of perception-based knowledge and critically examine the way in which we view and understand the world around us. In each work, Saunders achieves a type of formal balance of the elements, between the outside and inside, an equilibrium of organic and mechanical.

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Untitled (wall piece using wool, wood aluminum, acetal, stainless steel), 2014, by Scott Saunders

An “integument” in biological terms is a natural covering, a shell, a husk; the term is derived form the Latin for “to cover.” Indeed much of the work formally resembles protective casings of natural objects, armadillo shells or the exoskeletons of mollusks. Yet the delicate structures, made of wood, hardware, and colored fabrics do not repel that outside; instead they draw one in, diffusing its presence in space. Light and air are essential to each of the works. There is a feeling of weightlessness, as all the sculptures could be looked-through, circumnavigated, and investigated like small handmade models of a larger structure. Saunders’ orbs and small landscape tableaus set inside boxes are a contemporary fusion of Llyn Foulkes and Ken Price in their quirky minutiae, their flawless finishes, and juxtapositions of color and form.


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Untitled (wall piece using wood aluminum, acetal, stainless steel), 2013, by Scott Saunders

By drawing one in to look closely at these layered objects, Saunders reveals the boundaries we create around objects and set, categorizing all experience into a defined unit. By peeling back layers and creating unexpected juxtapositions, Saunders shakes free existing assumptions and articulates a method by which an object can become a world.

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Untitled (epoxy, aluminum, stainless steel, styrene, tree, paint), 2012, by Scott Saunders

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Scott Saunders: Integument will be on view at Wayfarers through November 2, 2014. Wayfarers is located at 1109 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.

Food for Thought: Still Lives at Good Work Gallery

by Nekoro Gomes

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Working as the art collective Lazy Mom, artists Josie Keefe and Phyllis Ma have created a whimsically dark interrogation of our consumption of food in the Photoshop age, when every meal from the latest offering at Roberta’s to the new Taco Bell Crunch Wrap is stylized to an almost comically artificial degree. Keefe and Ma, who met as part of the magazine collective Family Family Tree, were inspired to create the exhibit from their respective backgrounds working as a prop stylist and window dresser respectively. “Food photography is usually functional, it’s aesthetically designed to make the ingredients seem as appetizing as possible,” the two wrote in an e-mail to Arts in Bushwick.

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Princess

“We wanted to abstract [that idea] a bit, to use food for its formal aspects, and play with the texture, color, and shape of it as an ‘ingredient’ in the image.” The exhibit depicts images of fruit, flowers, and other foodstuffs in that seeming moment of stasis before it’s either eaten or thrown away. In as much as it is said that a person is what they eat, the collection of digital prints range in order from being tongue-in-cheek to starkly disconcerting in how visceral they are.

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Salon, for example, is a digital print that depicts a pyramid of hair rollers covered in slabs of bacon with the tops of two garlic bulbs displayed off to the side. While the digital print Princess presents a square blob of processed macaroni-and-cheese, set off with miniature rhinestones and a tiara of what appears to be blue shaving gel. Each of the images in the show is organized into families based on the Greco-Roman concept of the four humors—bodily fluids thought to define a person’s personality and health.

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Geometric Floral

It’s the surrealistic elements of Still Lives imaginative re-envisioning of traditional food photography that gives the show its greatest amount of verve. In presenting their compositions, Keefe and Ma seem less interested in making the visual presentation of food seem more present, so much as they are in highlighting the extent to which our everyday meal can take on elements of the ephemeral.

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Still Lives is on display at Good Work Gallery located at 1100 Broadway through October 19th, 2014. Opening hours for the gallery are Saturdays and Sundays from 12PM-6 PM and by appointment. The gallery is hosting a closing party for the exhibtion this Sunday, from 12PM-6PM, that will feature free copies of the group’s accompanying magazine: Lazy Chow.

The Playful Dialogues of Rachael Gorchov

by Etty Yaniv; all photos by Etty Yaniv unless otherwise indicated

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Rachael Gorchov in front her work at TSA; photo courtesy the artist

Presented in a striking bright light, Rachael Gorchov’s recent work at TSA resonates as an exemplar collection of exotic hybrid species in an alternate universe. Varying in size and placed in different vantage points from the top to the bottom of the gallery walls, Gorchov’s diverse painted objects create a playful dialogue with each other. While each object can stand alone, altogether as a group they form whimsical and cohesive variations on suburban landscapes, such as the lawns, ponds, skies and flora that surround offices and industrial parks. That said, Gorchov emphasizes that the landscapes in her paintings do not reflect places but rather capture moods in form of conglomerated places and painterly abstractions.

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Partial installation view of Making Strange

For this body of work, which Gorchov both created and curated, the creation process involved photography and drawings of the grounds and architecture in office and industrial parks in suburbia. First she photographs the grounds, then in her studio she makes objects and sketches. “Often I will have a general idea of an object and landscape combination, but it’s usually quite vague at first. It emerges through building forms and sketching,” Gorchov explains.

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Opening night at TSA

She builds her forms out of an armature of insulation foam, chicken wire, chipboard and burlap, then finishes them with a few layers of handmade archival paper mache clay and then paints on top. While some paintings progress straightforwardly from the sketches, in other cases, the paintings diverge significantly, as she elaborates, “the process of painting and making painterly decisions tend to be more a subject in these paintings.” In Gorchov’s work, the intersection between photography, drawing, sculpture and painting results in odd hybrids of two and three-dimensional forms. 

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Deposit Photo #2422191, Mountain View, California (acrylic on handmade paper mache clay, chicken wire and burlap)

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Invasive Species of the Mid-Atlantic Region series, partial view

Gorchov’s painterly objects juxtapose large and small scale forms as well as skewed geometric and biomorphic shapes. Resonating as a colorful witch hat, the triangular larger scale Deposit Photo #2422191, Mountain View, California, readily relates to Invasive Species of the Mid Atlantic Region-Ghetto Palm Raku across the room. Similarly, a piece like Lake Land, a curved rectangular form painted bright blue and white, juxtaposes Vignette, a curvy blimp painted dark blue. In Martin Towers from behind Aetna Staircase and in Martin Towers-Gazing Down, Eyes Out of Focus, Gorchov decisively pairs two objects to form an immediate relationship between shapes, colors and placement in the space.

imageLake Land (acrylic on handmade paper mache clay, styrofoam and burlap); image courtesy the artist

imageVignette (acrylic on handmade paper mache clay, chicken wire and burlap); image courtesy the artist

Gorchov, who has been involved with TSA New York since it was founded in 2012, combines in her art practice substantial curatorial functions. For her, curating shows facilitates an organic pathway to meet other artists and enable fruitful curatorial collaborations with others, such as Caroline Santa her co-curator in a show last summer at TSA New York and the summer before at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Philadelphia. She specifies that based on curatorial brainstorming and conversations with the artists, they select a body of work and leave it up to each artist to choose the exact piece. Based directly on her own studio concerns, she wants her viewers to be aware of the fact that the curated shows are distinctly from an artist perspective.

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Martin Towers from behind Aetna Staircase (acrylic on wood, handmade paper mache clay, chicken wire and burlap)

imageMartin Towers-Gazing Down, Eyes Out of Focus (acrylic on wood, handmade paper mache clay, chicken wire and burlap)

For example, the show she curated in 2008/2009, What Surrounds Us, had to do specifically with material things people surround themselves with to create a sense of home, “I was making work with similar concerns, so I was interested in meditating on this idea”. Likewise, in 2012, Gorchov and Santa  co-curated Intramural, a show that emerged from a conversation about studio practices, “how certain bodies of work end up taking a side-role in the artist’s identity and how we as artists deal with that,” she explained. In their most recent collaboration, Solid Pull, they focused on ceramics made by painters, “as I am a painter who makes ceramics,” she added.

imageInstallation view of Making Strange

In this current show, Gorchov’s curatorial and artistic practices merge seamlessly. She manages to engage the viewer in a nuanced visual conversation. The artist said that whatever idea of interest she had in the beginning of the curating process becomes more developed by the end. This process of discovery is evident in her show and well encapsulated in the title. A translation of a term coined by Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovsky, Making Strange relates to an artistic device to “impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.” Gorchov’s artwork and evocative installation invite viewers to actively join her journey.

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Opening night at TSA

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Rachael Gorchov: Making Strange is currently on view at TSA (Tiger Strikes Asteroid) thru October 19, 2014. TSA is open Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm-6pm and is located at 44 Stewart Ave, #49.

With Shared Enthusiasm: Seeking Space Exhibition at The Active Space

photos by Nicole Durbin and Aniela Coveleski

Narcissism by Seunghwui Koo, with Datalog spinning in back
Narcissism by Seunghwui Koo, with Datalog spinning in back

 

Now in its fifth year, the Seeking Space Exhibition, organized by Arts in Bushwick, was held at the increasingly popular gallery, The Active Space. The opening reception held on Friday, May 31, helped jump-start this year’s Bushwick Open Studios. Ready to celebrate, the jubilant crowds often made it hard to view the impressively varied collection of paintings, photography, sculpture, and installations.

I Eat My Words by Jen Hitchings
I Eat My Words by Jen Hitchings

 

How does one curate an event whose only true commonality among the submissions is a shared enthusiasm for our particular neighborhood? Such was the challenge presented to veteran AiB volunteers Julia Sinelnikova and Jillian Salik, who co-curated the event. Despite the potential difficulties of working with more than 60 artists, Sinelnikova explained, “I think our biggest challenge is that Jillian and I are both meticulous perfectionists. I’m happy about the high quality of our production, but sometimes we find ourselves bending over backwards—in a good way.”

Untitled (US Map) by Dana Kane
Untitled (US Map) by Dana Kane

The first few things one noticed when moving around the room counter-clockwise were big and moody, with a muted color palate. Works by Grace Troxell and Raisa Nosova made for an engaging pair: The sculptural work by Troxell literally bursts out of and beyond its frame, whereas Nosova’s painting draws you inward, into the darkness. Continuing around the right edge of the room, the mood slowly brightens but retains a certain unsettling feeling.

(Left) Clytemnestra by Grace Troxell; (right) 27th and 7th, NYC by Raisa Nosova
(Left) Clytemnestra by Grace Troxell; (right) 27th and 7th, NYC by Raisa Nosova

The left half of the room was divided into several little alcoves, each functioning semi-independently. As Salik explained, “Julia and I decided to treat each nook as its own subdivision or micro-show. The flow between each nook was important, but an easier transition to make.” One group seemed to be composed of introspective portraiture, such as Kelli Thompson’s vivid Self.

Self by Kelli Thompson
Self by Kelli Thompson

 

Other sections had a distinct sense of humor.  Lisa Levy continues to congratulate her audience on our personal growth, whereas Robert Servo’s alterations to found photos breathed new light into what must have been musty garage-sale heirlooms.

You Internalized a Compliment by Lisa Levy
You Internalized a Compliment by Lisa Levy

 

(Left) Gate Keeper and Key Master and (right) Old School by Robert Sevro
(Left) Gate Keeper and Key Master and (right) Old School by Robert Sevro

 

 

The additional images below offer just a small selection of the bounty that awaits visitors to Seeking Space. Although BOS14 is over (yet not forgotten), the Seeking Space Exhibition will be on view at The Active Space until June 30. Visitors are encouraged to take their own tour through its myriad nooks.

Works on view at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

(Above and below) Works on view at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

Works on view at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

Visitors at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

(Above and below) Visitors at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

Visitors at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

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Seeking Space Exhibition will be on view at The Active Space (566 Johnson Avenue) until June 30 

With Shared Enthusiasm: Seeking Space Exhibition at The Active Space

by Nicole Durbin; photos by Nicole Durbin and Aniela Coveleski

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Narcissism by Seunghwui Koo, with Datalog spinning in back

Now in its fifth year, the Seeking Space Exhibition, organized by Arts in Bushwick, was held at the increasingly popular gallery, The Active Space. The opening reception held on Friday, May 31, helped jump-start this year’s Bushwick Open Studios. Ready to celebrate, the jubilant crowds often made it hard to view the impressively varied collection of paintings, photography, sculpture, and installations.

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I Eat My Words by Jen Hitchings

How does one curate an event whose only true commonality among the submissions is a shared enthusiasm for our particular neighborhood? Such was the challenge presented to veteran AiB volunteers Julia Sinelnikova and Jillian Salik, who co-curated the event. Despite the potential difficulties of working with more than 60 artists, Sinelnikova explained, “I think our biggest challenge is that Jillian and I are both meticulous perfectionists. I’m happy about the high quality of our production, but sometimes we find ourselves bending over backwards—in a good way.”

image

Untitled (US Map) by Dana Kane

The first few things one noticed when moving around the room counter-clockwise were big and moody, with a muted color palate. Works by Grace Troxell and Raisa Nosova made for an engaging pair: The sculptural work by Troxell literally bursts out of and beyond its frame, whereas Nosova’s painting draws you inward, into the darkness. Continuing around the right edge of the room, the mood slowly brightens but retains a certain unsettling feeling.

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(Left) Clytemnestra by Grace Troxell; (right) 27th and 7th, NYC by Raisa Nosova

The left half of the room was divided into several little alcoves, each functioning semi-independently. As Salik explained, “Julia and I decided to treat each nook as its own subdivision or micro-show. The flow between each nook was important, but an easier transition to make.” One group seemed to be composed of introspective portraiture, such as Kelli Thompson’s vivid Self.

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Self by Kelli Thompson

Other sections had a distinct sense of humor.  Lisa Levy continues to congratulate her audience on our personal growth, whereas Robert Servo’s alterations to found photos breathed new light into what must have been musty garage-sale heirlooms.

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You Internalized a Compliment by Lisa Levy

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(Left) Gate Keeper and Key Master and (right) Old School by Robert Sevro

The additional images below offer just a small selection of the bounty that awaits visitors to Seeking Space. Although BOS’14 is over (yet not forgotten), the Seeking Space Exhibition will be on view at The Active Space until June 30. Visitors are encouraged to take their own tour through its myriad nooks.

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(Above and below) Works on view at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

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(Above and below) Visitors at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

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Seeking Space Exhibition will be on view at The Active Space (566 Johnson Avenue) until June 30 

Forms in Motion: Dancing Queen at Fresh Window

by Etty Yaniv

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Opening night at Fresh Window; all photographs by Etty Yaniv unless otherwise noted

Dancing embodies such a euphoric rush of energy that overcomes the body, “it can be alone in a room to the sound of your favorite music or a spontaneous outburst on the dance floor,” says Alma Egger. She is the show curator and gallery owner of Fresh Window, a new arrival at the lower level of 56 Bogart Street gallery complex. The five artist group show, Dancing Queen, aims to explore those moments in life where a certain energy takes over the body. Everyone experiences a moment of being a dancing queen, says Egger with a smile as she gestures at the artwork in the intimate space at the fully packed opening night.

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Gallerist and curator Alma Egger at the opening

The vigor of dance can be associated with youth, free bodily expression,  control and vulnerability. “When we are young we tend to let this energy out more freely but as we grow older, we tend to feel more vulnerable to this ‘uncontrolled’ energy,” says Egger. This notion of transformed energy translates into a sense of nostalgia in Margaret Coleman’s sculptures, Jennifer Gustavson ‘s installation and Moira Ricci’s video. It morphs into a stylistic hybrid space in Lisa Fairstein’s photograph and takes on more abstracted forms in Fanny Allié’s canvases.

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Opening night, partial installation view

In her small scale sculptures of stuffed animals, Margaret Coleman  embodies the vulnerability of youth by employing the inherent fragility of her material, in this case ceramics. In juxtaposing the image of familiar and cozy childhood toys against the white and cold material, feelings of warmth and chill are simultaneously evoked.

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Pair Bond_1 by Margaret Coleman; photo courtesy of Margaret Coleman

In Happy Birthday, Jennifer Gustavson’s installation creates a narrative that reads like the morning after a dance party where everything is turned upside down. She explains that her installation can come together in a specific time and place, saying “it can never be reproduced exactly in the same way, as it is out of our control”.

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Happy Birthday by Jennifer Gustavson; photo courtesy of Fresh Window

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Not Yet Titled #2 by Jennifer Gustavson; photo courtesy of Fresh Window

With a strong autobiographical streak, Moira Ricci assembled documented fragments of her childhood dance recitals and set them to the soundtrack “what a feeling” from Flashdance, a cult ‘80s film. Ricci, who lives and works in Italy, quit dancing and pursued photography against her mother’s wishes. Using footage she found at her mother’s house, she says, “my aim was to overcome a sense of guilt I had toward my mother after she died.”

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Ora sento la musica chiudo gli occhi, sono ritmo, in un lampo fa presa nel mio cuore3 by Moira Ricci; images courtesy of Moira Ricci

Lisa Fairstein, who resides in New York, is interested in the various modes that photography uses for expression of agendas, viewpoints, or contexts. By merging the direct style of stock photography with a new type of expression, Fairstein aims to create a new space, somewhere between reality and fantasy. Egger says that in Heel, “the red heel seems to have freedom to dance behind the large paper like an object, without having to expose too much.”

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Heel by Lisa Fairstein; image courtesy of Lisa Fairstein

Fanny Allié, a multi-disciplinary artist who resides and works in Brooklyn, says that painting is a relatively new form for her. In the three canvases that belong to her series titled Outlines, the artist rendered outlines of figures taken from online news. The color-coded characters she depicted relate to specific actions which are mostly extracted from the charged context of current conflicts. Whether in groups or alone, the figures all seem to be part of one large choreography, “sometimes tip toeing, sometimes more like capoeira, each individual has his or her own choreography of life, but at the end we are in it altogether in different contexts,” she sums up.

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Apr18-24 by Fanny Allié; image courtesy of Fanny Allié

imageAug30-Sept2 by Fanny Allié; image courtesy of Fanny Allié

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Oct2-13 by Fanny Allié; image courtesy of Fanny Allié

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Dancing Queen is currently on view at Fresh Window until June 1, 2014; Fresh Window is located at 56 Bogart St (lower level) and is open Friday – Sunday 1 – 6 pm and by appointment.

Fame and Viscera at Corporeal Digest

by Nicole Durbin

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Reva Castillenti’s exploration of the human body is simultaneously intimate and grotesque. Her current solo exhibition at et al projects, Corporeal Digest, illustrates the perverse fixation we have with our physicality.

Entering the gallery is a bit like walking into a friendly, brightly-lit morgue. Castillenti has sliced and diced the faux human bodies to showcase the viscera in Barbie-Dreamhouse-pink. Contrasted against bleached-out skin and white gallery walls, the effect is disturbingly sterile.

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Near: JFK’s Scalp. Middle: John Bobbitt’s Penis.


Most interestingly, the “Public Privates” series places sculptures of newsworthy body parts – Michael Jackson’s nose, Nancy Kerrigan’s knee – on literal pedestals for viewers to examine and admire. It brings attention to how the public fascination with the human body can turn a quotidian story into national news- would John and Lorena Bobbitt be household names if she had just stabbed the guy?

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Hilary Mantel’s must-read lecture on Royal Bodies hits similar themes – the monarchs she studies are “all body and no soul.” While we Americans might not have royals to obsess over, we seem a bit jealous when we anoint our King of Pop, our Kennedy Camelot. Hence the same compulsion to stare, to pick our royals apart. As Mantel describes, “…one is compelled to look at them: to ask what they are made of, and is their substance the same as ours.” Castillenti gives us that chance to look, and at the same time forces us to ask why we want to so badly.

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Michael Jackson’s Nose.

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Corporeal Digest is on view at et al projects (56 Bogart St, Brooklyn) through March 2, 2014.

Multifaceted: The Story Behind Good Work Gallery

by Arthur Ivan Bravo

Fate, or coincidental circumstance, has situated Good Work Gallery in the seemingly strategic crossroads of the ever-increasingly busy interaction of Broadway and Dekalb avenues, straddling the border between Bushwick and Bed-Stuy, an area that already hosts Bushwick mainstays such as The Living Gallery, Goodbye Blue Monday, Lone Wolf, and Wayfarers. Sporting an impressively large storefront-style facade, Good Work Gallery makes one wonder why artist and commercial sign-designer Scott Goodman hadn’t decided to become a gallerist sooner.

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Opening night, Alvarino Klein Design Production Systems Team: New Work. Photo courtesy of Alexander West Guerrero

First used as Goodman’s studio, the space at 1100 Broadway has its own colorful history. As Goodman’s landlord told him, the building was constructed in 1931 and was originally used to manufacture clothing. Decades later, it was badly damaged by the fires that burned Bushwick in the 1980s. Subsequently, the building became the location of more than a few types of illegal activities until it was bought and developed—all this information, Goodman is quick to add, should be taken with a proverbial grain of salt.

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Scott Goodman in his gallery, office, and studio space

Goodman became aware of the space for the first time in 2006 when he was finishing his BFA at Cooper Union. It housed the studios of a then fast-emerging collective made up of Cooper alumni: The now well-known but decidedly anonymous collective had a retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum last year and currently runs the foundation-challenging BHQFU school. The collective also held shows and parties at 1100 Broadway, many of which Goodman frequented. A few years later, the collective moved on, leaving the studio spaces they had formerly occupied available for other artists. At first Goodman worked at the so-called storefront space as a member of the art collective DADDY, but eventually he inherited it from the collective after a lead member moved to California for graduate school.
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The facade of Good Work Gallery

Conveniently, Goodman already had experience renovating the interiors of galleries throughout the city. As Goodman said, “After having done this work, I felt equipped to remodel and repurpose my own storefront art studio and turn it into an exhibition space.” Responding to opportunity, Goodman adds, “It felt like the universe had placed all the ingredients for an art exhibition space around me, and that it was my responsibility to put them together…I opened it for a number of reasons.  I wanted to work with and be close to other artists.  I had the knowledge necessary to fix up the space, and some friends that wanted to help me do it.  I knew talented artists.  Because I make money with my business, I didn’t have the financial constraints that some other galleries have.  This would allow me to focus on exhibiting work that I find exciting, regardless of its marketability.”

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Scott Goodman (left), with artists Nick Klein (center) and Miguel Alvarino (right) of Alvarino Klein Design Production Systems Team

The studio’s design, with floor-to-ceiling windows that face the street as if specifically constructed for display, was not only useful for the kind of work that DADDY was doing, but also ideally suited for Goodman, considering his background: Goodman returned to painting toward the end of his studies at Cooper with renewed concerns about the nature of installation, while also fashioning a career of designing commercial signs and displays. Eventually, both his work and his art informed one another. Although Goodman has essentially converted his studio space into an art gallery, he still intends to continue using it as his studio and office in-between exhibitions. With this intent in mind, Goodman chose all the furniture in the space to be mobile, and all his things are portable so they can be moved in and out as needed.
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Opening night, Alvarino Klein Design Production Systems Team: New Work exhibition. Photo courtesy of Alexander West Guerrero

For the gallery’s first exhibition, which opened mid-January, Goodman brought in artists Nick Klein and Miguel Alvarino, under the collaborative name of Alvarino Klein Design Production Systems Team. He met Klein years back in Miami, and they have kept in touch until both Klein and Alvarino moved to New York City. The paintings on display represent works in progress throughout the exhibition’s visiting hours and are part of a series commissioned by a real estate company in Florida for display in an office setting. Goodman explained that situated in a gallery space, the paintings “suggested a critical re-framing of the Abstract Expressionist movement’s popularity among corporate interests, having appropriated some of the formal vocabulary of abstract art which is commonly found in corporate settings.”

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Good Work Gallery is located at 1100 Broadway. Opening hours are subject to change; see the gallery’s current website.

Upcoming exhibitions include Ben Sisto: Used Books, curated by Joshua Caleb Weibley, and First Responders, curated by Zachary Smith, opening March 7 and April 5, respectively.