‘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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Whorl, Being-in-Emotion at SRO

SRO GALLERY, a  new exhibition space located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, features works by Ashley Garrett and Zach Seeger, two artists with long ties to Bushwick. AIB interviewed the two artists before the upcoming opening of their exhibition.

Zach Seeger, EYE, Oil on canvas, 28" x 36", 2016
Zach Seeger, EYE, Oil on canvas, 28″ x 36″, 2016
Ashley Garrett, PTK, Oil on canvas, 12” x 9”, 2015
Ashley Garrett, PTK, Oil on canvas, 12” x 9”, 2015

AIB: How long have you been working in Bushwick?

Garrett:  I joined Bushwick-based artist-run collective Underdonk in 2014, and I’ve been frequenting Bushwick often for shows and studio visits with Bushwick-based artists since 2013. I had a solo show and group shows around the neighborhood.

Seeger: Although I no longer work in Bushwick, the impetus of the current exhibition at SRO began at 117 Grattan, where I started using the eye motif a year ago. I have participated in shows in Bushwick and for BOS in 2013 I set up work on the street, and in my parked van in front of 117 Grattan. I also hung a fifteen foot un-stretched painting off the roof of the Active Space.  There is a contagious energy for painting in Bushwick and I feel a kinship to many artists there.

AIB: What drew you to Bushwick?

Garrett: Bushwick was the first community of artists I got to know after I moved back to New York; everyone was welcoming and friendly. After graduating from SVA in 2008 I moved upstate, where I rode and trained horses professionally for three years. Bushwick helped orient me to my new situation. It was great to see and meet so many different kinds of artists with serious practices, from a variety of generations. I met there a lot of the friends I have now, and artists I respect.

Seeger: I was first drawn to Bushwick in 2010 when a friend moved to the neighborhood. I started visiting spaces, studios, and people and spent a lot of time at Wayfarers with the group of artists working there. In 2013 I was thrilled to be introduced to the community of artists at Life on Mars Gallery, where I felt an affinity and closeness to the painterly approaches, attitudes, and images.

AIB: What is the genesis of this two person show?

Garrett:  It came out of the studio visits we did and our discussion of the relationship between my ribbon and Zach’s eye series of paintings.  Zach was engaged in a practice of investigating eyes as I was in seeing and articulating the ribbons.  At RISD, Zach installed this show as pairs of ribbons and eyes with lots of space around them. In SRO, Cecilia Whittaker-Doe and Don Doe’s unique space, we installed a kind of swirling constellation.

Seeger: The affinity to one another’s work was instantaneous. We read each other’s work with an intuitive eye, and understood what each other was trying to do in the work. It was a great pairing and we really didn’t need to talk much over; it was an obvious choice.

 Zach Seeger, EYE (turkey), Oil on linen, 20" x 26", 2016

Zach Seeger, EYE (turkey), Oil on linen, 20″ x 26″, 2016
Ashley Garrett, Lightfoot, Oil on canvas, 20” x 10”, 2015
Ashley Garrett, Lightfoot, Oil on canvas, 20” x 10”, 2015

 

AIB: In this show each of you presents a distinct body of work which reads to me like a series with an underlying theme. Did you work on them with a mutual theme in mind?

Garrett: This series of paintings is based on ribbons I won at horse shows from when I was eight years old until recently. The ribbons represent judgments made by the world of a particular performance. However, the actual experience is less literal and more complex than the color of the ribbon: sometimes last place is a great accomplishment, while first place can be a disappointment. The ribbon paintings break down traditional understandings of winning and losing to see into the wealth of complex and often contradictory emotions within the specificities of remembering a particular place, time, and what happened there. Each ribbon may be a synecdoche or metaphor for the physical performance and the skill levels demonstrated through the struggle with and against oneself. They represent  anxiety, hope, achievement, recognition, failure, loss, weakness, power, sensitivity, resignation, embarrassment, shame, joy, and love. I am interested in holding the memories of each ride, win and loss, as I make each painting, to see and feel the whole range of experience and being-in-emotion.

Seeger: The series of eyes I have been working on is a formal motif to frame images and forms within a peripheral context. The paintings are intended to be simultaneously read as interior and exterior; of the body and looking out through a body. I think of them as psychic objects clumsily camouflaged with paint.

 Zach Seeger, Cyclops, Acrylic on board, 18" x 18", 2016

Zach Seeger, Cyclops, Acrylic on board, 18″ x 18″, 2016
Ashley Garrett, Goblin, Oil on canvas, 14” x 12”, 2015
Ashley Garrett, Goblin, Oil on canvas, 14” x 12”, 2015

AIB: What can you tell me about your thought process when you started working on these series?

Garrett:  This is a body of work I began in the summer of 2014 in upstate New York.  I was working on a previous body of work of small still life paintings based on Christmas ornaments that I had made as a child and I was looking for another form for that kind of personal object, related to individual qualities and emotions. When I saw these ribbons I had won hanging on the wall, I thought of the memories they evoked, an accumulation of years of practice, time and care. I began by painting the ribbons as objects with the experiences in mind. The more paintings I made, the less I looked at the actual ribbon and the more improvisation happened.  These paintings are my way of exploring a variety of forms, feeling, intuitions, and situations in connection to both still life and landscape.

Seeger: These paintings are indebted to landscape and place. Many of them literally painted en plein air before applying the eye motif over the image. Painting is how I see; it is how I understand things; it is how I look at the world. I’m not sure if my work is evolving but I am constantly working. It’s like a nightmare where I find myself entering an apartment with bloodstains on the wall and a dead body on the floor. I check to see if the person is ok, but I get blood all over me. In a panic I try to distance myself from the body; I’m not guilty of this crime! But my bloody fingerprints are all over the victim, walls, and surfaces of the apartment. I try to clean up the mess thinking the police will think it is me who did this horror. It is a cycle of staining, smearing, smudging and scrubbing-in the end I make the scene presentable enough.

AIB: How do your paintings relate to each other and how do they differ?

Garrett:  They both involve the reversal of inside and outside spaces within a limited range of formal parameters.  Also both bodies of work are about different kinds of seeing coming from different points of view: Zach’s eye imagery is specific to his experience, and my ribbon images represent my memory of specific experiences as a young child up until a few years ago.

Seeger: The paintings relate to one another in scale and presence. They are rooted in looking. They are not intuitive expressions or descriptions of things, but rather bleak records of memory embedded in our own baroque sensitivities to paint and form. They are similar but arrive at their distinctive image by different modes of operation and paint application.

 Zach Seeger, EYE (computer room), Oil on board, 14" x 20", 2016

Zach Seeger, EYE (computer room), Oil on board, 14″ x 20″, 2016
Ashley Garrett, Siren, Oil on canvas, 12” x 10”, 2016
Ashley Garrett, Siren, Oil on canvas, 12” x 10”, 2016

AIB: We live in time of transition-social, political, ecological. Do you relate to that in your paintings, and if so, in what way?

Garrett: I don’t think the political has to have a direct effect on work to have had an impact on an artist. I think a lot of artists are making work or are trying to make work with or in spite of their complex feelings about the drastic political changes ahead and that can express itself in a multitude of ways. Because of my focus on the landscape I have been thinking about landscape as it relates to climate change and how the landscape itself can and will become a kind of hostile actor against us pretty soon, and then our relationship to it will change drastically. I’m interested in how that transformation might express itself in my work as well as the work of other artists.

Seeger: I am not a political artist, but there probably isn’t anything more poignant than the real-time collapse of species and witnessing a complete transformation of the earth.  I can say that I am not an expressionist; I am not reactionary. I am interested in the formal language of paint: recording and painting a formal reality that is my world. In that sense I am sharing, but my work is not about communicating some sort of emotional current. I think painting is a medium that allows a viewer to see the world on human terms through viewing of the work.

Whorl

SRO Gallery 1144 Dean Street, Crown Heights, Brooklyn NY 11216

Ashley Garrett and Zach Seeger

Opening Reception: January 12th, 6-9PM

Jan 12 – Feb 19

 

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.

 

BOS2015 Day by Day: Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 2014 BOS Closing Party at Bizarre

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

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

Building Blocks of the City: Zoning 101

by Aniela Coveleski

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While it may seem really overwhelming, zoning policies are something that every resident of Brooklyn (and all other places of the city) should know about. Luckily, there are various organizations that exist to help everyone understand city policies. During Exchange Rates, Generis held a hands-on workshop called “Zoning 101” at the Vazquez Building. The workshop discussed all of the different laws and rules of city zoning, and how it affects people living in artist-heavy communities. Our host, Susan Surface, really cares about fair treatment to those living in art communities with regards to real estate and zoning. Along with the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) and the Artist Studio Affordability project, we were able to work through different discussions and activities to broaden our knowledge on this topic.

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Mark Torrey from CUP lead the majority of the workshop by using a beautifully designed game board and building blocks. The Center for Urban Pedagogy’s mission is to use design and art to help the general public get more involved in civil laws and urban policy. They run workshops like this and have tons of educational material available on their website.

Since this workshop took place during Exchange Rates, there was a big focus on how these zoning laws impacted specifically art-based communities. The Artist Studio Affordability Project is an organization that is mainly focused on helping to preserve affordable art spaces for people working in the arts. At the workshop, we learned how zoning changes and building permits affect real estate prices, and ASAP helped to explain what rights you have as a person that already inhabits an art space. You can find more information about upcoming events, and how to get involved with ASAP on their website.

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When living in an urban environment, changes happen around you constantly.  Real estate markets change, demographics change, and city governments work to maximize the possibilities of each area for a number of different reasons. There are so many factors in each level of change that sometimes it’s hard to keep up. Workshops like the one put on by Generis are extremely helpful. The Center for Urban Pedagogy and The Artist Studio Affordability Project can help you understand your rights. Remember, you can also find all about zoning and your rights as a tenant in New York City by contacting the City Planning department of NYC.

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Exchange Rates was “an international exposition of artworks and art galleries in and around Bushwick, Brooklyn” that paired more than 16 Bushwick galleries and spaces with an extended list of galleries from the USA and abroad. The event was produced by Sluice__, a London-based art initiative, which joined with Bushwick locals Theodore:Art and Centrotto to bring the concept to life. The four-day event featured Beat Nite, the semi-annual late-night gallery event produced by Norte Maar, along with panel discussions, parties, and a performance art night.

Gesture and Commentary: Recent Gallery Openings

by Etty Yaniv; photos by Etty Yaniv unless otherwise indicated

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Ellen Hackl Fagan’s studio, in the back of ODETTA Gallery, MoleculesofMusic, 2014, ink, acrylic, graphite on board

Luhring Augustine / Philip Taaffe’s recent large scale paintings seamlessly interweave a myriad of techniques, such as silkscreens, stencils, collage, marbling, and staining. This mélange results in a subtle and rich surface which resembles tapestry or fabric. The color, rhythm and surface in these images create layered patterns, resonating a meditative space in which past and present submerge. The most arresting canvases in this show are grouped on the wall facing the entrance, Nocturne with Architectural Fragments, Imaginary Fountain and Choir.

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Philip Taaffe’s Nocturne with Architectural Fragments, Imaginary Fountain, Choir (left to right)

Life on Mars / Fran O’Neill’s newest series, painting her way home, features large-scale abstract gestural paintings and smaller scale works on paper that draw on the tradition of abstract expressionism. Filled with gutsy color combinations and bold brush strokes, her imagery conveys a sense of energetic, almost ecstatic immersion in the immediacy, intimacy and physicality of mark making.

imageWarby by Fran O’Neill, courtesy of Life on Mars

Benjamin Pritchard‘s intimately scaled canvases successfully pair with O’Neill’s sensibility. His contained shapes, painted with mostly restrained and contrasting color palettes, evoke an unidentified sign system with a personal bent. The forms both collapse inward and push outward beyond the layered surface, emitting enigmatic psychological vibes.

imageBenjamin Pritchard with his piece 325 (Steffy)

imagePlane Sam by Benjamin Pritchard

Fresh Window / Alexa Hoyer’s documentary photo series depict homemade gun targets used in illegal shooting ranges. These targets, made of movie star pin ups, politicians, severed mannequin parts and discarded consumer objects, punctuate the desolate beauty of Nevada’s desert landscape and create an uncanny sense of displacement mixed with poignant cultural commentary.

imageFrank by Alexa Hoyer, courtesy of Fresh Window

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Cutout by Alexa Hoyer, courtesy of Fresh Window

Odetta / The artists in PAY TO PLAY, Joe Amrhein, Rico Gatson, William Powhida and Rita Valley, reflect with deadpan humor and cool remove on ethical issues of economics in our society, with a particularly sharp gaze at the art market. Powhida, for example, presents a series of objects fabricated according to different formal strategies accompanied by hand painted certificates, poking fun at the values of these resurgent neo-formalist tropes.

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Installation view featuring the work of Rico Gatson (Ronald Feldman Fine Arts) and William Powhida (Charlie James Gallery, LA)

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Some Asset Class Paintings by William Powhida 

Songs for Presidents / James Sheehan‘s exciting new body of meticulous and textured paintings encapsulate a rich universe within a minuscule scale. Sheehan’s imagery centers on artists such as Malevich, Guston and Miro, alluring the viewer to delve in, decipher the visual clues and navigate the space one step at a time. Sheehan assumes the role of a “designated mourner for the painters painter,” as he puts it, by making viewers perceive his devotion to a single canvas.

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On by James Sheehan

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The Unimaginable Zero Summer by James Sheehan

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Luhring Augustine is located at 25 Knickerbocker Avenue. Philip Taaffe is on view until April 26, 2015. 

Life on Mars is located at 56 Bogart Street. Fran O’Neill, with Benjamin Prichard in the Project room is on view until Feb 15th, 2015

Fresh Window is located at 56 Bogart Street. Targets, featuring the work of Alexa Hoyer, is on view until Feb 6, 2015.

Odetta is located at 229 Cook Street. Pay to Play, featuring recent works by Joe Amrhein, Rico Gatson, William Powhida, and Rita Valley is on view until March 8, 2015. 

Songs for Presidents is located at 1673 Gates Avenue. James Sheehan, at the lek, will be on view until Feb 15, 2015.

A Chance to be Seen: Blick in Bushwick

by Etty Yaniv; all photos by Etty Yaniv

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Opening at ArtHelix

When Aaron Morrill, chairman of the board of Blick Art Materials, approached ArtHelix, a dynamic art gallery in Bushwick, he intended to use the space for a holiday party. Instead, after discussing the idea further they decided that there is no better way to show support for the Blick Art Materials employees than provide them with a sponsored art show at ArtHelix. “Blick’s business is made strong by the creative spirit of their employees, many of whom are themselves passionate and talented artists,” says Jackie Cantwell, the show curator. ArtHelix co-owner Peter Hopkins adds that the show both celebrates the Blick associates hard work and suggests that the company is sympathetic to their struggle of balancing a job with the hope of an art career.

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Peter Hopkins of ArtHelix and Aaron Morrill of Blick Art Materials

The curatorial process was straightforward: each associate was invited to submit as many works as they liked with the knowledge that only one piece would be accepted. Since Blick has never hosted a curated or professionally hung exhibition before, this initiative enabled the participating artists to experience the process of submission, curation, and presentation in a gallery setting. “It was a great opportunity to treat their work with the respect it deserves while also asking that it be presented and submitted professionally,” emphasizes Cantwell. She explains that work was chosen based on its quality, craftsmanship, presentation, and potential to create some kind of narrative with the other artworks in the show.

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ArtHelix curator Jackie Cantwell and gallery manager and assistant curator Wilson Duggan

Given the democratic nature of this group show as well as the wide range of work and media, Cantwell and assistant curator Wilson Duggan faced a substantial curatorial challenge. Their placement choices often result in a cohesive space with sufficient breathing space around individual artworks.

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Pata Llano, I Remember Pangea, 2014

For example, hanging Pata Llano’s white sculpture of linear cubes in the upper corner of the back room creates a subtle white on white effect, activating the tall ceiling, corner, and wall. Liano’s minimalistic sensibility is juxtaposed with Gavin Weir’s flair for the fantastic. With its vibrant colors and meticulous linear rendering, Weir’s imaginative drawing creates a convincing presence, while conveying a surprising dialogue with Liano’s white sculpture across the room.

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Gavin Weir, La Luz de Alante es la que Alunbra from 2014 (pencil, ink, watercolor on paper)

Similarly in the middle room, Megan Westgate’s two delicate, abstracted and intimately scaled mixed media drawings on paper bounce off Felix Caballero’s bold figurative canvas or Luan Gashi’s semi abstracted image.
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Megan Westgate, Filthy Rich from 2013 (mixed media)

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Felix Caballero, Notorious from 2012 (acrylic on canvas)

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Luan Gashi, Woman 2 from 2014 (acrylic on canvas)

Blick’s sponsored art exhibit initiative is in line with ArtHelix’ vision of showing work by groups of under or unrepresented artists. “The art world has an underside, made up of art handlers, art store employees, and many other sub-groups of those who toil in the art world, but seldom if ever get a chance to be seen as artists in their own right. It was amazing to see the joy and validation that came to the associates by doing this show. We are really proud to have hosted this,” says Hopkins.

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Sahdir Ellis, Batman: HUSH from 2009 (acrylic on leather)

At the entrance to the back room, a pair of painted sneakers titled Batman: HUSH dominate the space. They are placed on two shelves of slightly different heights. It takes me a minute to recognize Sahdir Ellis, the artist, who is conversing with Peter Hopkins and a group of viewers next to his artwork. “I helped you at the Blick store yesterday,” he reminds me with a smile.

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Blick in Bushwick is on view until December 21 at ArtHelix, Friday to Sunday from 12pm-6pm. ArtHelix is located at 299 Meserole Street.

Blick in Bushwick featured work by A. Demetrius Felder, Amanda Menezes, Andrew McCoy, Ann Marie Amick, Bryant Castro, Carlos Williams, Chris Gonzalez, Curtis Andrews, Daphane Love, Eleisia Richardson, Felix Caballero, Gavin Weir, James McDonough, Jose Londono, Josephine Tam, Julius Pearson, Karina Antigua, Katarra Peterson, Lance Laurie, Luan Gashi
Macey L. Brady, Mark Fionda, Megan Westgate, Melissa Tolve, Mustafa Allsop,
Pata Llano, Sahdir Ellis, Samantha Philbert, Sara Jean-Baptiste, and Whitney Meredith. The show was curated by Jackie Cantwell and Wilson Duggan.

By Chamberlin Newsome

After the brutal winter New Yorkers bore thru this year it seemed only fitting that these Bushwickers would make their very own “staycation” and bring the tropics to town!  Thanks for LOOKING so DAMN GOOD in all your awesome-tropical gear!  (I liked the look so much that I had to get my very own tropical shirt at the mobile vintage shop before the weekend was over!)  For those that were not wearing a vacation, they kept in the tropical island spirit with a live bird as an accessory, hair wraps, and tropical sunset settings.    

See more of The Look Of here.

by Chamberlin Newsome

First night of Bushwick Open Studios and EVERYONE was looking great!  Launch party at Radio Bushwick was a hit with music, dancers, and and extra cool crowd!  Here are some of my favorite looks from last night!  Thank you everyone for your great style and for letting me capture it!  

See animated gifs and and click thru the whole look the first evening of Bushwick Open Studios here!