Going About her Own Way at Transmitter

Jen Hitchings is a painter and curator who has been increasingly involved in the Bushwick art scene since she has moved to the neighborhood. She is currently a curatorial member of Transmitter. AIB interviewed Hitchings about her art, current curatorial project at Transmitter, and future plans.

 AIB: How long have you been in Bushwick and how have you been associated with the art scene here?

Jen Hitchings: I moved to Bushwick in 2011, and curated my first show in a basement space at 56 Bogart a few months after. I had a studio in Bushwick for a few years, opened and co-directed the galleries WEEKNIGHTS and Associated, volunteered for a few Bushwick Open Studios benefit exhibitions, and currently I’m a curatorial member of Transmitter.

AIB: Tell me about Transmitter. I understand that there are several curators in the gallery–how does that work, do you share an aesthetic vision?

Jen Hitchings: Transmitter is made up of 6 curatorial members. Each member curates one exhibition per year, and there are 3 exhibitions that are co-curated annually. Though we don’t necessarily define any aesthetic vision, I think the reason we all came to work together is based on some shared aesthetic preferences. We’re all artists and have varying practices, so we each bring different kinds of shows to the table, yet we also do our best to maintain a diverse range of exhibitions throughout the year, and we aim to exhibit artists that aren’t necessarily already part of the local Bushwick art scene.

AIB: Tell me about the current two person show you curated at Transmitter. What is the genesis, premise, curatorial process?

Jen Hitchings: Remainders is a two-person show featuring drawings and sculptures by Colette Robbins, and drawings and a large-scale lightbox piece by Justin Amrhein. I’ve known both artists personally for several years – Justin and I worked together at Pierogi gallery for 5 years – and I think their work fits together for several reasons. Formally, they both make primarily black and white work. Colette’s work is highly process-oriented and comes from interests lying in psychology and personal history, while Justin’s work is very labor intensive and pragmatic yet also has a post-apocalyptic undertone to it. He creates schematic drawings of complex engines and mechanical “replacement trees” but the physical object he’s depicting never exists. Colette’s work takes form in a somewhat opposite way – she takes inherently meaningless Rorschach inkblot drawings that she makes, and then scans them, digitally manipulates them, puts them in a 3-D rendering program and 3-D prints them, then does some surface treatment to give them an archaic look. I sort of liked how the two bodies of work also allude to false truths, which is of course relevant to where we are politically right now.

Colette Robbins
Barnum Effect, 2016
PLA polymer, acrylic, and graphite powder
21.5 x 3.63 x 4.13 inches
Justin Amrhein Political Engine - Version II 2009-17 Dura trans print, back-lit light- box 55 x 152 inches. Ed. of 5
Justin Amrhein
Political Engine – Version II 2009-17
Dura trans print, back-lit light- box
55 x 152 inches. Ed. of 5

AIB: You show quite a wide variety of art. How do you reach and select the artists?

Jen Hitchings: Everyone in the group goes about it their own way, but from my perspective, I generally have shown artists whose work I had already known about usually from seeing it in person in another show, or from a magazine (for example I came to Katie Bell’s work through Maake Magazine which a friend of mine publishes) and I try to focus on showing artists who I consider to be underrepresented.

AIB: Do you encourage artists to submit their work and if so, what is the best way?

Jen Hitchings: Though one of our members does look at submissions that are emailed to us, we don’t really have an open submission policy. I always advocate for just becoming friendly with curators/gallery staff if you think your work would really fit in with their aesthetic, and hopefully a natural progression will lead to a studio visit.

AIB: You are a painter as well. Tell me about your work and how do you prioritize your practice as artist and curator.

Jen Hitchings: I’ve been making paintings primarily of psychedelic camping scenes with distorted perspectives and acidic color palettes. A lot of my work is about escapism, social relationships, and my experience growing up in a suburban working class neighborhood. A few years ago I decided to stop curating and focus more on my work, but after a year or two of that, I really missed curating, and luckily I was asked to join Transmitter around then. Both practices are very important to me and fulfill my desire to be part of a highly supportive, creative network of artists.

Justin Amrhein
Political Engine – Version II (detail)
Colette Robbins
Hypothalumus, 2014
Graphite on paper
41 x 39 inches

AIB: What can you share about your curatorial plans for 2017 (or beyond)?

Jen Hitchings: Well, I don’t have any other shows planned at the moment, though there is always that list of ‘shows to curate’ that I look back into saved on my phone periodically.

AIB:  Are you / Transmitter planning any curatorial response to the political mayhem we are in these days?

Jen Hitchings: We haven’t really talked about changing our exhibition aesthetics due to it, but speaking for myself, I’ve sort of noticed a gravitation towards more politically-engaged work. At the same rate, almost all artwork can be seen as political in some sense. I curated Josh Liebowitz’ solo show at Transmitter in December, and between the time that I asked him to be in the show and the actual show, the election happened, so a lot of the work in the show evolved in response to that. And, with the current show, Justin Amrhein had made his large-scale Political Engine drawing (which is displayed as a lightbox) in 2009 after Obama’s inauguration, and since Trump’s election, he decided to go back into that drawing and add about another third to it, which is his way of visualizing the progression of political leaders in America. The last ‘part’ that is labeled in the drawing is the ‘Trump Shit Extruder.’

AIB:  What are your concerns and hopes for Bushwick art scene in the upcoming year/s?

Jen Hitchings: I hope the neighborhood continues to grow and that the
energy keeps going. I hope more artists in Bushwick are discovered by galleries that can manage to financially support their careers. I hope more patrons of the arts make their way out to see the shows being mounted. I hope here is more collaboration between artists and Bushwick natives. And like everyone else, I’m concerned about the rising rents and gentrification, and I really hope that starts to correct itself, because it’s pretty unbelievable how many people have already been priced out.

 

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

 

 

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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Precarious Constructs – A Dance with the Maelstrom

American philosopher Marshall Berman rejected the notion of Postmodernism. He believed that we were still in the grips of an ever-growing capitalist system and its rolling ‘creative destruction’. The threads of what others call postmodern, according to Berman, was still firmly nested in his idea of being modern.

“To be modern, I said, is to experience personal and social life as a maelstrom, to find one’s world and oneself in perpetual disintegration and renewal, trouble and anguish, ambiguity and contradiction: to be part of a universe in which all that is solid melts into air… To be a modernist is to make oneself somehow at home in the maelstrom, to make its rhythms one’s own, to move within its currents in search of the forms of reality, of beauty, of freedom, of justice, that its fervid and perilous flow allows.”  – Marshall Berman

He critiqued the postmodern framework because he felt it produced a ‘dismal flattening out of social thought’ and suggested that as a result, “serious thinking of modern life was split between two sterile antitheses’: the idolatry of culture – think art star of the later part of the 20th century; or cultural despair, mostly referencing philosophers of the same period – essentially total downers.

The argument of postmodern versus modern is not what I find important here but rather the definition Berman presents. He calls for a kind of subversive festival in response to the tumultuous experience of modern life. It provides a compelling vocabulary to work with for those of us reeling from recent events of a presumably authoritarian regime taking power through unscrupulous means at best. In his book ‘All that is Solid Melts Into Air’ he looks at Paris, Russia and the Bronx as places where people have had to respond to the maelstrom and have done so with surprisingly new-found elation despite the despair. This is the tension Berman was fascinated with and one I am interested in. He saw it as an important way forward because he believed the inherent recursive rolling waves of creative destruction will continue to crash around us.

Subsequent, artist Uta Bekaia. Photo by JenJoy Roybal

This tension came to mind when I recently attended the second show at Venus Knitting Space titled Precarious Constructs, curated by Levan Mindiashvili and Etty Yaniv. As I walked into the room the first thing I saw was a women with long, thick, black hair, ripped in two. She wore very practical black walking shoes. Her hair was swirled across the concrete and she stared into the distance. It was disconcerting to say the least. Upon a closer look a rainbow of goo appeared to be pouring out of the torso and seemed suspended in time. The body was in a mid-melting state. The face painted with glittery gold and rainbow hashes; she just left the party. Her expression is as if she hasn’t realized that her body has been ripped apart or if that realization just passed and she’s now in a deep calm. The figure is beautifully ugly and poetic and sometimes stops, ceases to give –  but it still stays with you. Subsequent is the creation of artist Uta Bekaia. He explains that it represents that moment when you wake up but you are still caught in a dream and are trying to retain that dream somehow, but it escapes you. For me it embodied the morning-after for pantsuit nation.

Unintended Archeology, artist Levan Mindiashvili. Photo by the artist

The next thing that caught my eye was Levan Mindiashvili’s “Unintended Archeology,” a glowing pink sculpture hanging on the south wall. His constructs are derivatives of places he has lived – echos of the rooms and the structures he has come across. Mindiashvili is an artist that migrated from Georgia to Buenos Aires, and now resides in Brooklyn. In this piece beauty is captured with the pink light that delicately cascades up the side of the white pine rectangle and the concrete casting that sits inside. A black square is embedded in the casting as a placeholder for something yet to come – a window? A picture? a memory? That black square carries over into the composition of “Untitled,”  hanging to the right. This one has a veil, a cobalt blue plexiglass that obscures the architectural vignette, embedded in a grey architectural casting, which has  been carefully crafted to mimic found concrete. In our discussion something he said stuck with me, “these days the idea of place is more precisely identified as an idea of displacement”. I thought of his journey and of so many others past and present.

Parallel Topography 6, 2013-2016, Artist Etty Yaniv. Photo by JenJoy Roybal

The artworks adjacent to Mindiashvili are topographic sculptures made from discarded material  by Etty Yaniv. Here we get the chaotic wave that has found some kind of order in a snapshot, or moment in time. Part of the wave has dripped on the floor, scurried to the corner, and up the wall. It is a remnant of a larger body of work that is reminiscent of the plastic patches that are generated in the five gyres found across our oceans. There, large amounts of debris are accumulated through the movements of the currents, they shift and swirl entangling the world’s plastics. From afar they can be grotesquely beautiful, just like these sculptures. However, Yaniv’s work has other hidden treasures. As you get closer there are words and drawings that begin to strike the imagination and evoke narratives and memories from times past. This current whispers to you.

Detail, Parallel Topography 6, 2013-2016, Artist Etty Yaniv. Photo by JenJoy Roybal
Detail of Myofibril IV The Kiss / Qibla, by Alexandra Leyre Min. Photo by Levan Mindiashvili

The topographic-like sculptures continues with Alexandra Leyre Mein’s Myofibril IV The Kiss / Qibla. This artwork grows out of a wooden stool like two white stalagmites and is made of Hydrostone, mesh wire, cloth, metal, paint pigments and varnish. These forms take on a more sensual twists. They are hand built by the artist with material that dries quickly. She says she likes this quality of time as it keeps the unconscious forces closer to the surface. Where one would imagine the kiss to take place are two pristine flat surfaces facing each other. The organic sinewy shape falls short of an actual embrace but the romance is still there.

The most precarious of Precarious Structures are Liz Sweibel’s constructions. Her process is most telling: she builds, takes apart and rebuilds – using wooden material she found over fifteen years ago. She composes in situ. Gravity and balance play a role in the compositions. For one, a mysterious gale compresses the elements, and another looks like a makeshift rutter. The structures are dense with energy and pack a punch even in their small size. Sweibel includes drawings of ghostly, red dashed, rectangular boxes layered under mylar. Their silhouettes are inspired by the shipping containers that got thrown across the landscape like pick up sticks by the Tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. The trauma of disaster echoes throughout the select works.

Untitled works, artist Liz Sweibal. Photo by Levan Mindiashvili
When Businessmen Meet the Conversation Ends in a Conspiracy Against the People, 2010, artist Andrew Cornell Robinson. Photo provided by artist

Finally we have ceramic works from Andrew Cornell Robinson. The title of the first one says it all “When Businessmen Meet the Conversation Ends in a Conspiracy Against The People”. Created back in 2010,  six black glazed ceramic figures surround a red glazed ceramic pear.  Robinson is the anti-hero’s artist. He describes his work as an exploration of the secret lives of impotent radicals, social pariahs, and no-bodies whose stories fall out of the cultural and familial trees unremembered.

A final quote from Marshall Berman, “All form of modern art and thought have a dual character. They are at once expressions of and protest against the process of modernization.” This is no different in this show. We’ve entered into a maelstrom, our modern, our new chaos.

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Precarious Constructs
Venus Knitting Art Space
117 Grattan St. Brooklyn, NY 11237
December 9-18, 2016

 

Anki King and John Mitchell are Lone Wolves, Together

Anki King’s and John Mitchell’s living area has been steadily shrinking as their art making has increasingly taken up more of their shared Meserole Street apartment in Bushwick. “We work on either side of the space and live in the middle,” says King, pictured above, with her soft Norwegian accent and a wide smile.

Throughout the ten years of being together, the couple, both painters, have not only established an acute understanding of each other’s daily work rhythms but have also developed a keen awareness of each other’s needs as artists. King says that one of the main reasons their shared work-live situation works well is their awareness of a shared need to spend  time alone.

“We are both lone wolves in our work,” says Mitchell and King adds jokingly, “we get to live alone together.”

This awareness works well in daily life. When they are working on their art in their separate studio spaces for many hours, they can still occasionally find each other in the kitchen or when one of them “yells for help,” as King puts it.

Anki King, Connected, 37"x54", oil on canvas, 2015
Anki King, Connected, 37″x54″, oil on canvas, 2015

It is evident that King and Mitchell share a deep fascination with the figure but they are approaching  their work  in almost contrasting ways, leading to distinct and very different pictorial languages. “We think and work very differently,” says Mitchell.

He paints on stretched canvas. She stretches her canvas to the wall. He cleans his palette after every painting session. Her palette is crusty with layers of paint and seems like complete chaos to him. He does not splash paint around. She splashes paint all over. He makes intaglio prints. She has made a few but doesn’t have the patience for it. He draws in sketchbooks everywhere. Most of her art making happens in the studio.

Anki King, 54"x60", oil on canvas, 2015
Anki King, 54″x60″, oil on canvas, 2015

Indeed,  King’s process is intuitive and organic. Guided by her imagination, materials and drive to search for a still unknown image. She is thriving on surprises. Rather than being in control of a decided outcome, she wants to be in conversation with whatever she is creating. She says that one of her favorite quotes is by the painter Elaine De Kooning, “when you are dancing, you don’t stop to think: now I’ll take a step, you allow it to flow.”

This spontaneous mode manifests in King’s loose brushstrokes which coalesce into dense grayish layers. In many of her canvases she has managed to successfully capture an essence of the fleeting feeling she has been looking for, her linear forms resonate an elusive scent in the Nordic woods where she grew up,  conjuring  primal collective memories  beyond verbalization.

Anki King, One Below, 54"x56", oil on canvas, 2015
Anki King, One Below, 54″x56″, oil on canvas, 2015

Unlike King, who works without preplanning and from imagination, Mitchell works his compositions out before he starts painting and works from direct observation of people and places. He thinks of portrait painting as collaboration.

“The process of painting a portrait is all about spending quality time with the person and getting to know them,” he says.

He also spends time on-site for his landscapes. He started “Three Bridge Painting” for example, by drawing on-site for over two summers and he continues to paint it on-site as often as he can for as many years as it takes. Altogether, his planned compositions, meticulous drawings and long term investigations of his chosen subject, manifest in his canvases , prints and drawings alike. They are precise but not dry. While alluding to painters like Alice Neel and overall deeply rooted in the tradition of representational art, many of his artworks evoke the urgency of the moment, revealing the painter’s inquisitive mind.

John Mitchell, Three Bridge Drawing, graphite on linen, 2014-15
John Mitchell, Three Bridge Drawing, graphite on linen, 2014-15
John Mitchell, Kym Moon, 36x28", oil on linen, 2015-16
John Mitchell, Kym Moon, 36×28″, oil on linen, 2015-16
John Mitchell, Charlie, 30x25", oil on canvas, 2015-16
John Mitchell, Charlie, 30″x25″, oil on canvas, 2015-16

King and Mitchell’s mutual respect for their contrasting artistic sensibilities also translates into a warm support of each other’s work.

“One time I was so stuck with a work that I asked John to put some brush strokes on a piece to break it up,” says King.  They are having a constant dialogue about ways of making, seeing and thinking about art. Moreover, King says that sometimes aspects of each other’s work sneak in.

“For instance,” she says, “I have started making some figures that seem quite alien and John worked on an alien world for several years.” So despite their distinct differences, there is reason to believe that something has rubbed off a bit after all, she sums up.

 

Conduit for Cross Pollination: Ess Ef Eff Presents Tread

Alex Sewell, Birth Mother, oil on canvas, 2015
Birth Mother by Alex Sewell (oil on canvas), 2015

 

Alex Sewell, an artist and curator who has recently moved from Lynn, Massachusetts, to Bushwick, sees himself as a middleman between curators and artists. Ess Ef Eff, the recent curatorial project he co-founded with artist Alexander Giavis, is less of a traditional artist-collective and more of a conduit for curators and artists to exchange ideas and collaborate on events in geographical areas to which they typically might not have access. “Since we’re just starting out, we’ll most likely stay within the greater New England area,” says Sewell. Yet, their vision is expansive.

 

Alexander Giavis, Transplant, oil on canvas, 2015
Transplant by Alexander Giavis (oil on canvas), 2015

 

Sewell and Giavis aim to encourage as many artists as possible to be proactive in their communities as well as to facilitate a cross pollination of artists, spaces, and curators from different areas of the country. Regarding their curatorial process, the plan is to rotate roles within the group for each show with the intention of organizing one- to two-week events every three months. As such, Sewell curated Tread, a recent pop-up exhibition at The Living Gallery, and Giavis will curate an upcoming show in Boston for the second part of this inaugural series.

 

Ben Berocci, Demon II, oil and mixed media on aluminum, 2014
Demon II by Ben Berocci (oil, aluminum, mixed media), 2014

 

In Tread, Sewell featured thirteen artists from Massachusetts and New York. From New York were artists Ben Bertocci, Russel Cameron, Nicholas Cueva, Ashley Garrett, Alfred Rosenbluth, Elisa Soliven, Daniel Williams, JJ Manford, and Ted Mineo; from Massachusetts were artists Walker T. Roman, Michael Christie, Alexander Giavis, and Leann Davignon. Demonstrating a wide range of sensibilities, works included painting, sculpture, photography, film, and installation art.

 

Ashley Garrett, Weona, oil on canvas, 2015
Weona by Ashley Garrett (oil on canvas), 2015

 

With Weona, a lush oil painting by artist Ashley Garrett, a vibrant landscape evokes a sunny day out of town. Conjuring a breeze or a stream, a blue form flows from the top of the canvas in a diagonal gusto and intersects with a vibrant yellow foreground, which is dotted with rich and intricate green formations. Its linear moments, such as the red fence pattern in the back and the lonely red line at the edge of the bottom-right canvas, punctuate the space with admirable precision and delightful surprises.

 

Russel Cameron, Baby, acrylic paint on clay with clear acrylic bounding box
Baby by Russel Cameron (acrylic paint, clay, acrylic box)

 

Like an unwanted souvenir, Baby by artist Russel Cameron is reminiscent of something held over from a nightmare. This clay sculpture appears as a small effect that has been carried over into our world. Displayed as a specimen, Baby prompts morbid investigation from its clear acrylic box.

 

Ted Mineo, Pressing Symptom, archival inkjet print, 2015
Pressing Symptom by Ted Mineo (archival inkjet print), 2015

 

Pressing Symptom by artist Ted Mineo hovers somewhere between still life and an exotic life-form. This evocative archival inkjet print conjures two hybrid creatures that manifest both biological and technological attributes. Staged in a dark void, these creatures appear to float on top of a dense liquid or in some acidic air bubbles from an extraterrestrial planet.

As a curator, Sewell tries to see as much work as he can and to identify artists who are working hard in producing interesting art. “If I hear about someone working a job six days a week and who is also in the studio all the time, I’m instantly drawn to that; also it’s hard not to drink from your own well. I have a lot of very talented friends who I love to show,” he says. Overall, the structure of the group is still evolving and the two co-founders welcome committed people who wish to join.

 

 

 

Taiga and Babushki in Bushwick: The Work of Dasha Bazanova

Dasha Bazanova in front of her work
Artist Dasha Bazanova in front of her work

Dasha Bazanova spent her childhood in Kulikovо, a little countryside village in northern Russia, where local farmers often use Samogon, a homemade vodka, as currency. Bazanova is a multimedia artist whose ceramics, paintings, drawings, and installations draw upon her Russian heritage, memories, and aspects of Eastern European mythology. Her artwork often refers to huge Taiga forests, Russian people, and colorful folktales. In Bushwick, where she moved right after graduating with her MFA from LIU Post (Long Island) about a year ago, Bazanova has found a supportive art community as well as opportunities to show her work and meet artists of different nationalities who work in similar media.

Dasha Bazanova work
Works by Dasha Bazanova

In her new project that includes both paintings and ceramics, Bazanova is referring to her experiences in the Russian countryside at the time of the Soviet Union. For instance, The Group Portrait depicts a group portrait from a typical kindergarten around Arkhangelsk, a little town in northern Russia, where the artist grew up. She identifies the little girl with a yellow bow-knot as herself, which makes this image particularly endearing.

Dasha Bazanova, The Group Portrait , Oil on Wood, 2015
The Group Portrait by Dasha Bazanova (oil on wood), 2015

Similarly, Walking Behind the Grandmother portrays Bazanova’s grandmother, and Walking Behind Grandmother 2 portrays a typical moment from Russian village life. “Once every two weeks, there was a truck in our village which brought watermelons from the closest little town. This continues today,” Bazanova explains.

Dasha Bazanova, Walking Behind the Grandmother, mixed media, 2014
Walking Behind the Grandmother by Dasha Bazanova (mixed media), 2014

Bazanova also touches upon typical historical moments from the former USSR. In People Waiting, for example, she depicts the long queues created by the coupon-based distribution system, which were a typical device in motivational campaigns. She recalls a joke at that time in the Soviet Union in which a boy asks his mother, “Mama, where is papa?” and the mother responds, “He is standing in the line to get coupons for the coupons.”

Dasha Bazanova, People Waiting , Oil on wood, 2015
People Waiting by Dasha Bazanova (oil on wood), 2015

With more contemporary references, Buranovskiye Babushki portrays an Udmurtian ethno-pop band consisting of eight elderly women who represented the Russian Federation in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012. They finished second. “Since they make me proud, I dedicate to them this painting,” Bazanova adds with a smile.

Dasha Bazanova, Buranovskiye Babushki, Oil on Wood, 2015
Buranovskiye Babushki by Dasha Bazanova (oil on wood), 2015

In her ceramic sculptures, Bazanova also refers to babushki and mythologies. The Russian version of the Romulus and Remus story provides inspiration for the grotesque Breast Feeding. “Making ceramics is a totally opposite process from painting,” says Bazanova. She loves the unpredictability in the glazing process: “There is that feeling you get when you don’t know how the color (glaze) comes out while the sculpture is still firing inside the kiln. Every time, it is a surprise,” she adds.

 Dasha Bazanova, Walking Behind the Grandmother 2 , Ceramic,  2015
Walking Behind the Grandmother 2 by Dasha Bazanova (ceramic), 2015

 

Dasha Bazanova, Breast Feeding, Ceramic, 2015
Breast Feeding by Dasha Bazanova (ceramic), 2015

Overall, both her paintings and ceramic works mine Bazanova’s rich Russian heritage. Now in Bushwick, she sees this community as a haven for forming her identity as an artist. With interest, we look forward to seeing how her experience in Bushwick will affect her artwork.

Dasha Bazanova, Babushki,  Ceramic,: 2015
Babushki by Dasha Bazanova (ceramic), 2015

 

 

Failure, Destruction, and The Responsibility of Privilege: gilf! and SHATTERING

Indefinite Isolation Abolished by Ann Lewis; image courtesy of A&O PR
Indefinite Isolation Abolished by Ann Lewis; image courtesy of A&O PR

SHATTERING, the recent show of activist artist Ann Lewis (aka gilf!) at Joseph Gross Gallery, was the second part of a three-part series of works that focuses on participatory art aimed at allowing members of the community to express their frustrations. SHATTERING incorporated Lewis’s nuanced yet powerful style of sculpture with an element of community participation. Guests were able to smash glass in a secluded section of the gallery and then step out and view the delicate and meaningful pieces in the show. Using acrylic, broken ceramic, and former police barricades, her work questions what is happening with and within the state of community across the country. After seeing the exhibition, Arts in Bushwick sat down with Lewis. The conversation shed light on her art and process.

 

[AiB] How did you get involved with using art to promote discussion of social issues and community change?

[gilf!] I started making street art in 2008. I had been trained as a fine artist but was focusing on other things at the time. I became super frustrated when trying to initiate meaningful conversations about the state of our world because everyone would shut down and changed the conversation. I turned to art as a means of expressing myself and as a way to create the dialogues I was longing for. Political topics were immediate in my stencil work from the Green Revolution in Iran to the torturing of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison.

 

[AiB] What was the most interesting reaction to your art that you have experienced?

[gilf!] I was in the midst of my month-long Autoincarceration duration performance last fall when I had came upon a really interesting group of older men. The project entailed me spending an entire month in various orange prison jumpsuits to raise awareness about mass incarceration in this country. I spent the month creating art on the jumpsuits, researching, and discussing the problem with strangers on the street. This one group of guys was initially put off by me wearing this jumpsuit. Immediately charging that I was co-opting an issue that wasn’t mine the discussion got very interesting—many of them had been formerly incarcerated.

After I explained the project I invited them to a protest about mass incarceration to which I was en route. They declined and said “We can’t go to a protest. We’ll be the first ones arrested and they’ll send us right back upstate.” That statement really galvanized my practice. People often criticize me for fighting other people’s battles, and tell me I should focus on my own. When we have massive portions of the population literally unable to protest the conditions and the constructs that they must live within, I find it to be the responsibility of the artist and people of privilege to bring these topics to light when others lack the resources to do so.

 

[AiB] How have you seen your art transform throughout your career thus far?

[gilf!] It has changed tremendously, and often. I am always evolving and growing, and I tire of creating the same work over and over. I think since 2008 I’ve created at least five different bodies of work. While things change quickly, I am always working, so I suppose that’s just part of our very fast-paced, overworked world. It’s important to try new things and to fail. I’m always motivated to experiment with new materials and concepts.

 

[AiB] Can you explain your creative process?

[gilf!] I usually become outraged at some injustice and that sparks an idea. I then focus on the research which further fleshes out the concept. I have been focused on more process based work in the last year or so, and I find it imperative that I enjoy my process. So if it’s an awesome idea but it doesn’t sound like fun I don’t do it. That’s been super empowering. I spent years hating my process but never questioning it. That only produces madness.

 

[AiB] What are you hoping people will take away from seeing your work in SHATTERING?

[gilf!] I’m more concerned that they take away something from experiencing SHATTERING. I know not everyone will participate but the experience of intentionally breaking something—in a gallery—is incredibly powerful. We rarely have an opportunity to be destructive in this hyperconsuming, hyperconstructive world. It’s such a beautiful release. I think it helps reset people’s energy. Ultimately, I’d like people to reconsider the negative constructs around the ideas of destruction. Sometimes it’s important to destroy things so that new ideas can germinate.

 

[AiB] You’ve used barricades as a medium in some of your work. How did you acquire them? Do they have a backstory?

[gilf!] I can neither confirm nor deny that the barricades were salvaged from the streets of NYC.

 

[AiB] How did you choose the pieces of broken ceramic used in your acrylic wall sculptures?

[gilf!] They are all separated by type. I spread a mix of them out on my floor and see what stands out to me. I build from that stand out piece and specifically focus on the three-dimensional composition. A theme or an issue that I’ve been focused on tends to come to the surface of my mind and the piece develops from there.

 

[AiB] Do you have any advice for anyone that wants to get involved with helping to change the problems they see in their community?

[gilf!] Know your strengths, and focus them on a problem you want to see solved. Don’t scatter yourself with too many projects. Find a group or two you really resonate with and see how you can help.

 

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More works by gilf! will be on view in Towers of Power, an exhibition opening at the MoMA Design store in SoHo on 11 June, and in the simply titled WOMEN, on view at the Women’s League of Voters of the City of New York opening on 13 June