‘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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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.

 

A Marriage Made In Art Support: Blick and The AiB Community [BOS Sponsor]

Blick Art Supplies at BOS Community Day 2015
Blick Art Materials at BOS Community Day 2015

There are few brands more synonymous with refinement among Brooklyn’s knowledgeable community of artists, arts educators, and art lovers than Utrecht Art Supplies. What was started by Brooklyn-based painter Norman Gulamerian in 1949 as a business supplying canvasses to other painters would expand to include dozens of products today, ranging from watercolor brushes and easels to its prized line of artist-grade acrylic paints that are valued by artists as much for their consistency of quality, as they are for their affordable price points.

Blick Table
Blick Art Materials table

When the Utrecht Art Supplies was acquired by the Galesburg, Illinois-based Blick Art Materials in April of 2013, many in New York’s art scene wondered what the acquisition would mean for the venerable institution’s line of American-made, artisanal paint. By investing $1 million in modernizing equipment and streamlining production processes at Utrecht’s main factory in Sunset Park’s Industry City, Blick has not only increased the brand’s availability to a wider subset of artists utilizing Utrecht products, but also committed itself to Bushwick’s role in New York City as an epicenter for talented artists and art venues. A commitment that’s been deepened with Blick’s official partnership with Arts in Bushwick’s Community Projects team for this year’s Bushwick Open Studios.

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Painting of Maria Hernandez Park by Joe Gyurcsak

For Blick’s Retail Events Coordinator, Todd McGill-Rusynyk, aligning itself with Arts in Bushwick was a natural fit given its support for other community initiatives such as Materials for the Arts, a city program that collects surplus arts supplies and makes them available to educators and area non-profits. “Artists who are educated early in their field are our customers for life,” says McGill-Rusynyk. “Specifically, with this sponsorship, we are looking to support educational initiatives in the arts through dedicated programs that give back to their community and build experiences in the arts.” For this year’s annual Community Day, Blick featured a demonstration of color mixing, palette organization, and Alla Prima painting (which privileges creating an artwork in one sitting), by Utrecht Brand Manager and Blick resident artist Joe Gyurcsak.

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Painting demonstration by Joe Gyurscak

“I think it’s great that we are doing something right in the backyard of our color mill house which has been in Brooklyn for more than 60 years now,” says Gyurscak, who studied at Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts. Amidst a larger discussion on how New York City can continue to remain a home for dynamic artists, McGill-Rusynyk sees demonstrations like those featured by Gyurcsak during Community Day as a showcase that presents not only the paint’s versatility and quality, but also its affordability. In fact, its commitment to keeping jobs in the borough by investing in Utrecht’s factory earned Blick a Brooklyn Made certification from Brooklyn’s Chamber of Commerce for keeping jobs and creative talent in the borough.

Blick Art Materials
Blick Art Materials tabling at Community Day 2015

“Simply put, we want to be a resource for artists’ needs across the spectrum of their creative pursuits, both as a retailer and as a supporter of the arts,” says McGill-Rusynyk. “Arts in Bushwick, with its dedication to showcasing the artistic community in Brooklyn, are doing important work to make sure New York City remains a place where artists can live and thrive, so naturally we want to support those organizations.”

Meet Your Neighbors: Mixer @ Cobra Club

Arts in Bushwick held their second mixer of the year on February 26th at Cobra Club. There were people in attendance from all over the city looking to get more information about Bushwick Open Studios (BOS) 2015. Some were new to the area, and some have been living or working in Bushwick/Ridgewood for many years. Here are some highlights from my many lovely conversations throughout the night.

Artist Tim Gowan
Artist Tim Gowan has his studio in Ridgewood

 

Tim Gowan works in mixed media; mostly paint, polyresin, found objects and photos. Recently he’s been re-inspired by local public art, and is looking into creating more street art. He first moved to Ridgewood in 1999-2000. He’s been living in the area on and off for the past 15 years, currently residing there. This coming BOS will be the 2nd year he’s attended. His favorite things to do in the area include checking out new street art, The Bushwick Art Crit Group, and being involved in the over-all community feeling. Tim’s three words to describe BOS: expressive, Inclusive, and Interactive.

Artist Shakhed Hadaya
Artist Shakhed Hadaya currently works mostly out of cafés in the area and is hoping to show with friends off the Morgan L stop during BOS

 

Shakhen Hadaya works in multiple mediums, including ink, sculpture and book arts. She is working on a graphic novel that has sculptural elements. This is her first year showing work during BOS, and has lived in Bushwick for 3 years. Her favorite place to hang out and work is Little Skips. She is also helping with a community zine project that’s being run through the café. Hadaya’s three words to describe BOS: overwhelming, community-building, and inspiring.

Artist Ben Hilario-Caguiat
Artist Ben Hilario-Caguiat has his studio in Brooklyn Brush Studio 355

 

Ben Hilario-Caguiat is a printmaker and sculptor who works in mixed media. His work includes mostly abstract, anime-inspired concepts. He’s been in this studio since August and currently lives on Staten Island. This will be his first year participating in BOS, but he attended last year and loved it. His favorite place to hang out is Arrogant Swine on Morgan Avenue. Hilario-Caguiat’s three words to describe BOS: exciting, discovery, and possibilities.

Artists Dana Robins and Meli Sanfiorenzo
Artists Dana Robins (left) and Meli Sanfiorenzo (right) from Tea Factory Unit 10 aka “The House of Oops”

 

Meli Sanfiorenzo works with painting, photography, video and performance art. She has shown her work in five BOS festivals, every year since 2010. The House of Oops also holds monthly shows with which she is involved. Her favorite places to hang out in Bushwick are Maria Hernandez Park and neighborhood rooftops. Sanfiorenzo’s three words to describe BOS: expressive, supportive, and community.

 

Dana Robins also lives and works at The House of Oops. She works in mixed media, primarily using acrylic, found objects, and, recently, electronic elements. She has been in Bushwick for only 2 months and has never attended BOS but has heard wonderful things. Her favorite thing about the area so far—exploring and finding new street art. What she hopes to experience at her first BOS? Community, feedback, and inspiration.

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In addition to being a great opportunity to meet your neighbors, attending one BOS Mixer is required to register for Bushwick Open Studios. Upcoming mixers include: Wednesday, March 2nd @ The Acheron and Monday, March 9 @ the Pine Box Rock Shop

Eclectic Transactions at Spring/Break (Part II)

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

[continued from Part I]

In its fourth year, the curator-driven Spring/Break Art Show presented an impressive roster of over eighty curators and more than hundred artists who all approached the theme of “transaction” in a variety of ways. The fair took over a disused part of the historic James A. Farley Post Office with work ranging from solo to group exhibits, including some Bushwick curators and artists with diverse sensibilities, including large-scale installations, immersive projections, paintings and collages.

Wilson Duggan and Christopher Stout
Wilson Duggan (left) and Christopher Stout (right), with Duggan’s work Stranded

 

Christopher Stout, Artist and Founder of BACG curates a booth featuring four artists, Wilson Duggan, Eric Gottshall, Andrea Wolf Yadlin, and Thomas Stevenson. Wilson Duggan’s Stranded consists of inscribed pages from used books that he finds on discount racks.Each page in this series contains a personal inscription, either denoting ownership, or notes that signify the book as a gift. Framed and grouped, the marked pages convey a
meditation on the value these items once held for their owners.

 

Thomas Stevenson
Thomas Stevenson in front of his work

 

Sarah G. Sharp, a Bushwick resident, curates and participates in Use values. Youth Communes,  Sharp’s mixed media collage, evokes both a Russian religious icon and a Bolshevik propaganda poster. The golden threads emitted from the three girls in the foreground, overall group pose and the bold red type of Life magazine on top, coalesce into an iconic image with a critical gaze at media portrayal of utopian bliss. This work is part of The Youth Communes and the Pacific States series, in which Sharp reflects on the notion of Utopian subcultures in mass media reproduction by manipulating 60s and 70s magazine images of communes and idealized nature on the west coast.

The Youth Communes by Sarah G. Sharp
The Youth Communes by Sarah G. Sharp; image courtesy of the artist

 

Molly Dilworth’s Flag State/Red, Purple, Green repurposes retired sails into imaginary flags for container ships. Made from excess materials that are the byproduct of modern production, Dilworth’s “Flags” hang in a row with a bold and visceral presence. The combination of their abstract compositions and materiality suggest symbolic forms of language, signs of state and corporate power.

Flag State/Red, Purple, Green by Molly Dilworth
Flag State/Red, Purple, Green by Molly Dilworth

 

Fanny Allié, a Bushwick based artist, shows  65 Street Characters sculptures which breathe
new life into discarded objects. Allié transforms lost gloves that she finds on the streets of NYC  into toy-like stuffed characters and groups them in rows. Each character evokes a personal history: used, abandoned and reborn in its own way. As individual objects, they evoke a sense of transience, and  as a group they can read as a parable on harsh social realities. Comforting and disturbing at the same time, these Street Characters are
oddly alive.

Fanny Allié
Street Characters by Fanny Allié, curated by Chris Bors

 

In a dark echoing room, Bushwick artist Will Rahilly, aims two projectors at two bowls of
water resting above a pair of speakers. Synthetic sounds create interference patterns in the reflected image, which depicts an evolution of two figures engaged in a cacophonous sonic language until they are destroyed. This visually intriguing multimedia installation brings to mind gridlike abstractions from the 70s computer graphics, peppered with additional layers of sci-fi vibes.

Boils by Will Rahilly
Boils by Will Rahilly, curated by Alva Calymayor; image courtesy of the artist

 

Jac Lahav and Jordan Buschur curated Trash4Gold, a group show which evokes alchemy and transformation. Lahav’s Cripplebush  draws upon a 1800’s map of Williamsburg/Bushwick; the title refers to the original name of Northern Brooklyn, which was known as Cripplebush for the predominant cripplebush trees in this swamp filled area. Lahav, who has been living in the Buwhwick/Greenpoint area for fifteen years and has witnessed how the neighborhood has changed,  is reflecting here on the nature of urban transformation. His vertical map grows from a dark foreground and protrudes upward, resonating an outline of an abstracted figure. This schematic persona is pushing upwards beyond the limits of the canvas, just like the neighborhood it embodies.

Cripplebush by Jac Lahav
Cripplebush by Jac Lahav; image courtesy of the artist

 

Jackie Mock, another artist in Trash4Gold, pins tiny colorful fragments from NYC subway stations to a white surface and frames the  small scale relief with a heavy set brown frame. Assuming the air of an artifact in a musty natural history museum, Mock’s fragmented pieces resemble archaic mosaics or exotic minerals. It is notable how she manages to capture with minimal measures such an elegant, precise and rich image of elapsing time in a place where most New Yorkers rush by daily.

Paint Samples from Various New York City Subway Stations by Jackie Mock
Paint Samples from Various New York City Subway Stations by Jackie Mock; image courtesy of the artist

#SetintheStreet is an ongoing art project in which Justin Bettman builds elaborate sets out of unwanted materials and furniture, mostly found on the street, such as White and Seigel Street in bushwick. After shooting the photos, the sets are left up on the street, where passersby can shoot their own photos and share using the Instagram hashtag #setinthestreet.

Bushwick Typewriter Living Room by Justin Bettman
Bushwick Typewriter Living Room by Justin Bettman, #SetintheStreet; image courtesy of the artist

 

Rhonda Wall’s intricate collage- paintings resemble a condensed time capsule, where past, present and future merge into a new yet oddly familiar space. With a surreal bent and meticulous attention to detail, patterns and color, she coalesces cut-outs from technical textbook, newspapers, and advertisement onto geometric or psychedelic backdrops. These result in a wildly unique and engaging imagery, beyond any categorization.

Discovering Earth by Rhonda Wall
Discovering Earth by Rhonda Wall, curated by Renée Riccardo

 

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The fourth annual Spring/Break Art Show took place at the Skylight at Moynihan Station, March 3-8, 2015.

Eclectic Transactions at Spring/Break (Part I)

by Etty Yaniv; photos by Etty Yaniv unless otherwise indicated

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Spring/Break opening, Ambre Kelly & Andrew Gori

The Spring/Break Art Show press conference opened with a whimsical wedding. Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori, the duo fair organizers, performed a civilian marriage ceremony on top of a flight of stairs, to the surprise and delight of the press crowd below. Such an intimate-scale spectacle like this wedding ceremony suggests an emotional exchange, that fits perfectly with this curator-driven fair and its overall theme of “transaction.” In its fourth year, with an impressive roster of over eighty curators and more than hundred artists the fair features mini-shows, ranging from solo to group exhibits, including some Bushwick curators and artists with diverse sensibilities, including large-scale installations, immersive projections, paintings and collages.

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Luminessenz by Visualpilots, multimedia installation, curated by A. Moret

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Christine Sciulli, Propoulsion Field, curated by Tracy Causey Jeffrey, Site specific video projection installation

Peter Gynd, a Bushwick based curator, features two
memorable installations, both manipulating found objects. The first
installation is Digital Being, Taezoo Park’s kinetic installation
of technological garbage, is based on a hypothetical existence of an invisible
and formless creature born within the circuits of electronic waste. In the dark
elongated cave-like space, the massive
jumble of electronic equipment  is lit by
spots of dramatic purple and golden lights. A projection of white images in the
background reinforces the sense that we are witnessing the emergence of a newly
born consciousness, the machine  assumes
an essence of a Golem and gets a soul.
With a touch of pulp, dark comedy and dystopian flair, Park’s
installation evokes the very moment of transformation.

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Taezoo Park, Digital Being, electronic waste and mixed media, 2015,
Courtesy Peter Gynd

The other artist selected by Gynd is performance-based
artist Katya Grokhovsky who also made a site specific sculpture for the
show. It consists of repurposed colorful
objects scattered on the center of the floor in a playful composition, which
creates an intriguing tension between repose and action, spillage and
containment, gravity and lightness. It
is as if the artist has just performed here a second ago and left traces of her
bodily presence.

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Katya Grokhovsky, Uproar, 2015, Found objects, mixed media;
courtesy Peter Gynd

Craig Poor Monteith, of Regina Rex, and his co-curator Elizabeth
Denny, of Denny Gallery, feature Brent Birnbaum’s installation at the fair. His
kinetic  pile of painted treadmill
sculpture is jaw-dropping. Birnbaum
bolted together eleven running treadmills
up to the ceiling, painted them with lush colors and programed them to
run in all direction at different paces. The result is an addictive cacophony
with a hypnotic rhythm. The treadmills suggest the relics of a failed perpetual
Capitalist dream in which the purchase of a product has the potential to
transform one’s  life, and now,
disillusioned, they are repurposed back
into the marketplace as an art object.  

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Brent Birnbaum, Untitled, 2015, Treadmills and mixed media, 9.5
x 13 x 11.5 feet 

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The fourth annual Spring/Break Art Show took place at the Skylight at Moynihan Station from March 3-8, 2015.

Additional images:

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Things are Risky, Baby, Artist: Ashley Wick, Curated by
Lauren Gidwitz (in pic); Courtesy Samuel Morgan Photography for SPRING/BREAK
Art Show

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Ben K. Voss, #elegantfleet (RS78), curated by Yulia Topchiy , ‘Unspoken Dialogue’

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Jade Fusco (DMZL) Sphinx: Talking Tapestry, acrylic on
polyvinyl, 5’x7’, curated by Arielle de
Saint Phalle and Michael Valinsky; courtesy the curators

Connecting New Generations of Collectors and Artists: Sugarlift Launches

by Willow Goldstein; photography by Ethan Covey

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The exterior of Sugarlift located at 200 Morgan Ave

Headquartered in the industrial district of East Williamsburg, Sugarlift provides a freshly launched online shopping experience. Their office doubles as a gallery, housing a lounge area where clients and artists can drop in, a rotating wall to display the most current pieces from the collection, and a workspace where their in-house framing is done. They keep things simple, stating “our mission is to connect a new generation of artists and art collectors.” Their website is streamlined, and their blog is neatly organized, avoiding art-speak while being informative, both features that promote the company’s aim to simplify and demystify “the art world.”

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Founders Wright Harvey and Bart Piela

With affordable prices and a resolute belief in artist and consumer education, Sugarlift hopes to bridge the gap between a new generation of collectors and artists. Conversation with founders Wright Harvey (CEO) and Bart Piela (COO) soon makes evident their enthusiasm. The two met while working for JP Morgan, and though they both shared a passion for art, they were unimpressed with the affordable art currently on the market. They wanted to be able to reach a new generation of collectors, and so they envisioned Sugarlift to fill this gap. The two quit their jobs and have been making this dream a reality ever since.

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Sugarlift’s streamlined website

While browsing an online mega gallery such as Artsy can often feel similar to getting stuck on Pintrest at two in the morning, Sugarlift aims to create a boutique shopping experience. Focusing on the intersection of printmaking techniques with new digital methods, Sugarlift pairs traditional and new media artists with adequate resources. Their focus is on younger artists who have mastered their craft, but are working outside of the traditional gallery system and are generating only a fraction of their income from art making.

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Sugarlift’s website homepage

The inaugural collection, Volume 001 (Fall 2014), consists primarily of Brooklyn-based artists discovered at events such as Bushwick Open Studios and MFA shows or through connections to major players such as Sotheby’s. The collection includes Fanny Allie, Amy Barkow, Foale/Durkin, Joe Hollier, Isaac Mann, Hiba Schahbaz, Chris Willcox, and Michael Aitken. Locating their operations in Bushwick has allowed for Harvey and Piela to work closely with the artists. Given this, Harvey imagines that Sugarlift will continue primarily to feature local artists, at least for the foreseeable future.

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Joe Hollier and friends at the Sugarlift Launch Party

Arts in Bushwick spoke with artist Joe Hollier, who has been working with Sugarlift since Harvey walked into his studio off the Morgan stop during Bushwick Open Studios 2014. He says the experience has been wholly positive. Working with Sugarlift from concept to execution, Hollier said they met with several printers, looking for the right chemistry, before deciding on Axelle Editions, located in Brooklyn. With work also in the collection, Bushwick-based artist Fanny Allie was paired with master lithographer Judith Solodkin to create a series of digital sown prints, which are the result of using an embroidery machine that can interpret digital renderings. Jamie and Archie Foale of the British trio Foale/Durkin spoke of the appeal of working with Sugarlift rather than with traditional galleries located in London. Their pieces, Gilded Cloudscape, are the most expensive of the inaugural collection, yet still mildly priced at $2,500.

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Members of the British artist group Foale/Durkin

Sugarlift offers a unique opportunity for both artists and collectors. The collector is awarded with a quality piece of original, ready to hang artwork, while the artist is gifted the chance to work with new techniques. It’s a win-win in our books.

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Sugarlift is located at 200 Morgan Ave. They hosted their launch party on November 5, 2014.

Art for Whom? The Institution in Perspective

by Willow Goldstein

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The Role of Art and Funding panel discussion at BOS’14

What happens when Ben Davis, Hrag Vartanian, Deborah Brown, and Natalia Nakazawa join a panel to discuss the intersection of art and funding? A lively debate over the role of the individual versus the institution in a power struggle for the coveted available funding. The third AiB panel, The Role of Art and Funding Progress, took place at Brooklyn Fire Proof East in conjunction with Bushwick Open Studios on June 2, 2014. In addition to the four panelists, moderator Alexis Clements provided structure and guidance in a sometimes heated debate.

Spanning subjects from the Rheingold development in Bushwick to the current standing of the Brooklyn Museum, the conversation often become polarized as individual areas of interest and awareness took center stage. Institutional critique, in particular, became a major theme: Clements challenged the notion that museums are for the people, asking “Accessibility for whom?”—do museums intend to serve their communities or do they exist for another purpose? Such questions led to a conversation on the historical role of the museum and how that role has, and has not, changed to reflect contemporary needs.

A distinction surfaced between art as culture and art as market. Depending on their field, all the panelists had a specific relation to “art.” Ben Davis, author of 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, often took a hard stance on the lack of political action in art funding. Hrag Vartanian, founder and editor-in-chief of Hyperallergic, provided context to both meanings of art in relation to the contemporary landscape. He cited successes such as the pressure Arts and Labor applied on Frieze Fair, which resulted in Frieze agreeing to direct 1% of its funding to the local community. Natalia Nakazawa, an artist, educator, and arts administrator, acted as cheerleader for the programs that bridged the gap between community and the institution. Deborah Brown, an artist and gallerist, reflected on the transformation of art given her observations of Bushwick. She highlighted a pertinent example of when art (culture) piques the interest of art (market) enough to convert a community.

Although all participants saw flaws in our current systems, solutions or, even, next steps remained unclear. Clements spoke of the potential for artists to use their position as leverage, yet concrete examples of this are slim. Brown continued to stress the importance of artist education and community integration, themes carried over from previous panels on affordable housing law and tenets rights. Vartanian countered with his observations on the lack of coalition building, particularly in Bushwick, yet stressed that the issues at hand were much bigger than the arts. Nakazawa continued to point out the efforts that arts-engaged individuals working in education are able to implement, but these solutions addressed the issues at hand only on a microlevel—though potentially effective, such scope is limited.

As the topic expanded and tangents emerged, the discussion sometimes fell off track, a flaw serving to illustrate the complications inherent in this dialogue. Nevertheless, this conversation must be viewed as a beginning. If passion is any indication of change, this initial step and the many similar ones taking place in New York City are surely a stepping stone in the right direction.

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The full panel discussion is available online here. AiB will continue its Panel Discussions series this fall with topics focusing on education and minorities in the arts.

AiB Panel: Affordable Housing Today and Tomorrow

by Sessa Englund, Julia Sinelnikova, and Samantha Katz; photos by Willow Goldstein

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Flushing Ave at Morgan Ave, the heart of a neighborhood in transition

Arts in Bushwick is proud to announce the first AiB Panel Discussion, Affordable Housing Today and Tomorrow, to take place at Radio Bushwick. Coordinated by Arts in Bushwick Lead Organizers Sessa Englund and Julia Sinelnikova, and moderated by local writer and community figure Robin Grearson, this panel discussion will focus on the issues surrounding the heated debate over the housing crisis in Bushwick, with an emphasis on art workers and the shifting landscape of New York’s creative sector.

With the highest concentration of artists in the city, Bushwick is home to a diverse community, representing a cross-section of the urban population. As gentrification rapidly transforms the neighborhood, artists and residents are bonded by the local politics of unbridled development. Through discussions featuring experts in the creative fields and prominent community leaders, AiB Panel Discussions aim to source this energy to create a powerful voice for change.

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98 Linden St, the focus of a recent New York Times article 

Panelists will discuss past initiatives for sustainable housing and new alternatives, with the aim of finding more effective approaches to the present deficit of long-term affordable housing. This panel will take a closer look at the underlying causes of displacement such as gentrification, rent increases, rezoning, and lack of government oversight as well as their effects on the North Brooklyn community. Through this discussion, we seek to examine how high rates of displacement have become systematically tied to development within many of New York’s transitional communities. More than an information session for neighborhood activists, AiB Panel Discussions will serve to create a meaningful conversation as the moderators search to find common ground between representatives on each side.

Prominent neighborhood figures will be in attendance to discuss and share their insights on current issues. Panelists will include Chloe Bass (Arts in Bushwick Co-Founder), John Dereszewski (former District Manager of CB #4, Bushwick Historian), Kunal Gupta (Silent Barn), and Kevin Worthington (Office of Council Member Antonio Reynoso). Informational packets concerning tenants’ rights and housing regulations will be distributed at this event.

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The first AiB Panel Discussion, Affordable Housing Today and Tomorrow, will take place at Radio Bushwick, 22 Wyckoff Avenue, on Sunday, March 30, 2014, from 5 to 6PM

Textures to Touch: WAH Bridges Bushwick

by Willow Goldstein
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Rachel McCollum aka MILO

Colorful felted and stitched shapes animate your path up the hallway of the former bank building that now houses the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center. Built in 1867, the main gallery room is a beautiful space, light filled with vaulted ceilings. The room is activated by Yun-woo Choi’s undulating sculpture, which hangs in the center of the room, while sculptures sit close to the floor and the walls are hung with stellar artwork.
 

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Work by David Pappaceno

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Work by Jason Kachadourian

As my feet carry me around the room, themes begin to emerge. Textures abound, a mix of media and material that reflect the experimental nature of the world from which they were created: Bushwick. Bushwick, a world of color and decay where the trash on the streets is counterbalanced by the art pasted on the walls.

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Work by Abel Macias

Curator Brittany Natale clearly has a strong understanding and appreciation of this culture. The survey show includes work by more than 60 Bushwick artists working a multitude of traditions. New ways of working emerge throughout the show. As shown in the following images, forms crawl and bend off of the surfaces to which they are attached, static by nature, yet threatening to reanimate themselves. Abstract pieces stand next to figurative and narrative work.

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Work by Jack Henry

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Work by Orianne Cosentino

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Work by James Weingrod

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Work by Valley Fox

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Work by Yaz Rosete
 

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Work by James Weingrod

Familiar materials are manipulated and made foreign, such as in Julian Lorber’s multimedia paintings consisting of acrylic paint, soot, and archival tape on wood. While clearly being a 2D piece, Lorber’s work glows and has depth that beguiles the simple materials in play.

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Work by Julian Lorber

Other pieces fall into the realm of unknown beauty, a realm that makes art viewing so rewarding. Julia Sinelnikova’s wall-mounted sculptural creations employ a variety of materials, including resin, plexiglass, and transparencies, to create the fluid pieces that are part of her Reveals and Sprites project.
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Work by Julia Sinelnikova

Few pieces could be categorized strictly into the usual suspects of drawing, painting, photography, etc. Scissors, hands, and glue intercepted these defined practices to create art that is truly engaging, to both the eye and the mind.  Colors activate the surfaces upon which they adhere.
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Work by Lorraine Nam

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Work by John Breiner

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Work by Yun-woo Choi

WAH Bridges Bushwick is an excellent display of the quality and variety of work being created in this community. The survey is well conceived, both on a macro and micro level. Differing cultures, personal narratives, and collective histories are successfully brought together to interact with each other. As the work is inspected in detail, patterns and ways of working are seen to have more similarities than differences. Individually, each piece tells a distinct story, but collectively, the show offers an insight to Bushwick now, a creative community of natives and transplants who are making art that encourages interaction and dialogue. This collectively progressive outlook made for an exciting exhibition that left me feeling invigorated and excited.