‘River Woman’ Celebrates the Intersection Between Art and the Environment

Last Saturday was Earth Day, and people gathered in Washington, D.C. for the March for Science. This Saturday is the People’s Climate March. Both have been staged to promote environment and climate literacy. There is no better time to do some deep thinking about the state of the earth and climate change then right now. The exhibition ‘River Woman’ at ODETTA Gallery in Bushwick compliments this moment nicely. Curated by artist Ellen Hackl Fagan, the show includes works from artists Nancy Cohen, Ellen Kozak, Fritz Horstman and Kathleen Vance. It closes on April 30th so this is the last weekend to visit the gallery.

‘River Woman’
elemental
universal
sustaining
beautiful
dangerous
the river and the woman merge
and become one entity

At the center of the first room sits a large wooden formwork by Fritz Horstman. The gray cavity of the structure makes up the shape of the East River. Roosevelt Island stands out to help the viewer render the entirety of this salt-water tidal estuary, giving the body of water focused prominence. Also featured are two of his videos created from conversations and interactions done with river communities abroad.

Formwork East River
Image: Fritz Horstman, Formwork for the East River, 2017, plywood, wood, hardware, 36 x 216 x 84 inches

Off to each side of Horstman’s installation, hanging on the walls, are two large handmade paper works by Nancy Cohen. One appears to capture debris caught at the river bank. The other, pulls out for an aerial view of a river bend. The undulating surface of the paper evoke the landscape they’re inspired by. It is fun to get up close to these pieces just to let the tactile quality wash over you. There is something ancient and present about their quality.

On the far wall of the first room are paintings by Ellen Kozak. They are expertly produced to create a semi-gloss finish of images that are inspired by natural phenomena, motion and light. Rows of color on one of them feels like ripples in a river. Since 1994, her studio has been perched just above the bank of the Hudson, she says she sees the river in all seasons and the works imbue that sensibility.

Moving towards the back of the gallery gurgling water can be heard. A large sinuous brown mass hugs the corner at torso level. It is a reimagined version of Newtown Creek. Using historical documents, Kathleen Vance traced the tidal flow of the Super Fund creek from its tributaries – Dutch Kills, Whale Creek, Maspeth Creek and English Kills, and redirects it. This new rendition is healed and unencumbered from the last few hundred years of industrialization. The water seems clean enough to drink, it is serene and peaceful.

Blue North Painting
Ellen Kozak, Blue North, 2015, oil on panel, 27 x 30.5 x 2

In tandem with the show, Fagan, of ODETTA invited Paul Gallay, President of Hudson Riverkeeper to discuss the state of the Hudson River and its related tributaries this past Sunday, April 23rd. Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization committed to safeguarding the drinking water for millions of New Yorkers. This year It is celebrating its 50th anniversary. In January, Riverkeeper signed a landmark agreement with New York State and Entergy, the company that runs the controversial facility, to close Indian Point Nuclear Energy Center by 2021. This is a huge victory for Riverkeepers and the people of New York State.

People gather to listen to Paul Gallay, President of Hudson Riverkeeper

Joining Gallay was NYC Water Quality Project Coordinator, Chrissy Remein. She shared stories about the many partners that work together to monitor and gather data. She invited attendees to participate in the upcoming visioning meeting for Newtown Creek which will happen in early June. The two took questions, which led to a passionate exchange by those attending. It was an inspiring conversation that connected the long-time efforts to improve the quality of water and environment along the Hudson River, to current struggles on policy and the ‘River Woman’ artwork surrounding us.

Can’t make it to the People’s Climate March in D.C.? Here are two ways you can take action:

1. ODETTA is having a silent online auction to benefit Riverkeeper. The auction is open until midnight April 30, the last day of the exhibition. The works in the gallery and in the flat files are available. All of the proceeds raised above the reserve price go directly to Hudson Riverkeeper. Support the artist while investing in our waterways!

2. The 6th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep will be happening on May 6th. You can register to volunteer at one of over 90 Sweep projects across the Hudson Valley and New York City.  Learn more: https://www.riverkeeper.org/news-events/events/rvk-events/save-the-date-6th-annual-riverkeeper-sweep/


ODETTA
229 Cook Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn
Hours: Friday thru Sunday 1-6 pm, and by appointment.
“River Woman’ Is up until April 30th.
Website

 

Joy and Humor Pierce a Vague Dystopia at Exchange Rates

by Catherine Kirkpatrick

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Beards (Judy) by Sadie Hennessy; all photos by Catherine Kirkpatrick

As part of Exchange Rates, Bushwick’s Fuchs Projects partnered with the Queens Park Railway Club of Glasgow, UK. Run by artists Patrick Jameson and Ellis Luxemburg, the gallery is located on the platform of an active train station. With an outreach to the local community, the gallery offers exhibitions and residencies throughout the year.

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Archigraph by Patrick Jameson

There was a vaguely dystopian feel to the show: The most upbeat piece was Archigraph by Patrick Jameson, a work inspired by Archigram, the collective of young British architects that flourished from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. Galvanized by advances in metals and plastics, and by the visionary work of Buckminster Fuller and Yona Friedman, their designs proposed lightweight, modular, even mobile architecture that embraced a utopian dream of futuristic living. Though almost none of their proposals were built, the legacies of both Fuller and Friedman live on in the work of Norman Foster and Richard Rodgers. Reframing and repurposing on shards of discarded Plexiglas, however, Jameson’s small colorful paintings borrow from their utopian plans.


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Ellis Luxemburg of the Queens Park Railway Club

A much darker future is suggested by The Terminal Node, John Butler’s short film about an Amazon-like fulfillment center whose goal is to create “a culture of contentment.” Manned by a lonely mechanized half-human (“I’m glad to be part of something bigger…there is less of me now”), it speaks to the impersonalization of corporate culture. In Ellis Luxemburg’s Conventions a pair of hands, increasingly agitated, light match after match as a calm voice recites instructions for building a bomb as if it were a recipe for chicken pot pie.

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Leland Gorlin in front of his work

Leland Gorlin represented Bushwick with a cluster of small, pure still-life compositions of overlooked and discarded items. Isolated against a white background, rusted blades, shards of mirrored glass, and tiny moths forced the viewer to take a second look at things normally swatted or thrown away, provoking a sense of repurpose and discovery.

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Gallery owner Rafael Fuchs opened his archive to Luxemburg, who chose work in keeping with the unofficial theme of dystopia: a voyeuristic nude with a laptop in a hotel room, a screenshot of images on Fuchs’ computer desktop that suggested the steady creep of technology into art and modern life. A joyous image of his parents dancing heightened the unease of a night pool scene where a body floats, a dumpster overflows, and a card is abandoned and overrun with weeds.

 

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Rafael Fuchs watches his parents dance

At the end of the gallery in “The Feminist Back Room,” UK artists Julia Riddiough and Sadie Hennessy took a playful look at gender roles. To understand contemporary masculinity, Riddiough did a residency in a barbershop. There, she observed, photographed, and recorded the thoughts of actual customers, seeing them as they tried not to see themselves—as vulnerable human beings. In the beautiful limited-edition book Barber Shop, she captures their longings and insecurities: hair tonics and dyes priced for all budgets as well as clippings of gray locks mixed with the darker ones of younger men on the floor. Also included were poignant quotes from customers about their lives and take on gender roles.
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Images from Clip Cut Gel by Julia Riddlough

In Clip Cut Gel, a riff on beauty-product infomercials, Riddiough presents three types: Toy Boy, Rough Trade, and Play Boy who also appear on condom wrappers. The show’s title Something for the Weekend, Sir? is a reference to the UK custom of barbers handing out condoms to customers as they pay. By removing male grooming images and rituals from their usual context, Riddiough allows us, with a wink, to question constraints of traditional gender roles.
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Are We Not Men? by Sadie Hennessy

The idea of grooming was also present in Sadie Hennessy’s collages where male and female adornments crash across gender lines. Iconic statesmen wear garlands of flowers; female stars such as Nicole Kidman and Liza Minnelli sport bushy beards. In the middle, The Male Fop sports big Regency hair and glittering Marky Mark briefs. Witty and fun, these pieces quote glamor and news photographs as well as propagandist and pop art.

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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.

Forms in Motion: Dancing Queen at Fresh Window

by Etty Yaniv

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

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

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Gallerist and curator Alma Egger at the opening

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

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Opening night, partial installation view

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

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Pair Bond_1 by Margaret Coleman; photo courtesy of Margaret Coleman

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

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Happy Birthday by Jennifer Gustavson; photo courtesy of Fresh Window

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

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

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

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

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Heel by Lisa Fairstein; image courtesy of Lisa Fairstein

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

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

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

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

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

Associated Artists – curators Trio: Jen Hitchings Theresa Daddezio Julian Jimarez-Howard Will Show You

by Etty Yaniv

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(Left to right) Jen Hitchings, Julian Jimarez-Howard, Theresa Daddezio “Hot Mamas” group exhibition, Courtesy Associated

Art making and curating coalesce seamlessly in the daily lives of the three dynamic Associated founders. Sharing an easygoing and unpretentious demeanor, Jen Hitchings, Theresa Daddezio and Julian Jimarez-Howard, the young and energetic force behind this upcoming art venue in Bushwick, convey a winning combination of informality, thoughtfulness, professionalism and ambition. Like an adventurous jazz trio with an experimental impulse and endless stamina, they create their own tune by using improvisation and continuous interaction with natural coolness. They work together in the “way that friends hang out and sometimes dive into intellectual conversations,” Hitchings observes. Aside from Associated business, they regularly meet socially, and when meetings are called, ideas and potential new artists to exhibit are exchanged casually. Hitchings explains that, like the name, they typically compile “associated” people and ideas in order to make shows, which are presented to everyone else that they are “associated with.”

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Artists and curators (left to right): Caroline Falby, Rachel Hayes, Julian Howard-Jimarez, Theresa Daddezio, Jennifer Hitchings, and Sharon Horvath, Photo by Willow Goldstein

A conversation at Hitchings’ and Daddezio’s shared painting studio embodied this spirit of informal communication. Initially, our conversation was halted for a few minutes to welcome with hugs an artist who stopped in to drop off work for “Hot Mamas,” a group show that opened July 20. Multitasking is the name of the game: each member juggles day jobs with making art and sharing a passion for showing other people’s artwork. Hitchings, who works as a manager at Pierogi, says that her gallery job informs her artwork more than her curatorial practice. Constantly consuming art, handling it, and communicating with artists about their process and concepts, inspires her and she feels incredibly lucky for that. “It’s like going to an awesome grad school, but not paying for it rather getting paid,”she said.

Jimarez-Howard, a Brown graduate who earned his masters in art business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art and runs OUTLET Fine Art in addition to his work with Associated, adds that having three or even four jobs is becoming the norm in Bushwick. Daddezio agrees. “You have to, if you want to be able to make it in this area,” she said. In fact, all three of them arrived in Bushwick only about two years ago, evidently equipped with ambition to make it happen.

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Jennifer Hitchings,Theresa Daddezio in their studio

For Hitchings and Daddezio, being pro-active as individuals and as a collaborative team derives from their shared undergraduate school experience at SUNY Purchase in upstate NY. Daddezio recalls that as soon as they arrived in Bushwick straight after graduation , they stuck together. “You want to prove yourself, coming from a small out-of-town state school,” she says with a mischievous grin.  Hitching nods her head in agreement and so does Jimarez-Howard, who moved to Bushwick after staying in Rhode Island briefly after graduation. “School is definitely the bond between them,” he concludes. Hitchings traces her interest in curation and gallery work back to her BFA committee planning role, where she first discovered that she didn’t like the idea of a full time studio work in isolation, but rather preferred to engage in organizing projects which unify people, such as looking and talking about art in public. For Daddezio, on the other hand, painting is a clear priority, and she openly admits that the curatorial work sometimes “hangs out on the sidelines for too long because I am so obsessive about painting.” And indeed, as a painter who is primarily preoccupied with exploring ideas on form, composition and color, Daddezio is also the first to admit that she has an unapologetic bias toward painting in her curatorial practice.

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“Star Gazers,” 60″x70″, oil on canvas, 2013, Courtesy Theresa Daddezio

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“Windows, Variations, Repetions,” 8″x10″x12″ each, oil on canvas, 2011- 2013, courtesy Theresa Daddezio

Filled with canvases, easels and myriad painting paraphernalia, Daddezio’s and Hitchings’ studio space projects the familiar vibes of an active painter’s studio, but despite their affinity for technique and bias toward painting, in their curatorial practice both artists aim to remain open minded. Daddezio hopes not only to show a “wide breadth of work,” but also to make viewers come up with unexpected interpretations. “If it gets people thinking, it is a good thing,” she asserts. Hitching elaborates, “When I think of curating, I think of rearranging and presenting both ideas and visual objects in a way that hasn’t been done before.” Jimarez-Howard makes large conceptual work that evolves from ideas that are overtly related to social and art world contexts, such as raising viewers’ awareness to the invisible labor of art handlers, shippers, and construction workers whose hard work facilitates the art-world glamor. From his perspective as a conceptual artist, he finds it’s not necessary for him to like a piece of art as a curator, yet it is essential that the artwork communicates to viewers a cohesive thought process. That said, for all three of them, constant reinterpretation of their social and art milieu seems to play a central role.

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“Adolescence,” 2012, oil and acrylic on canvas, 18″ x 30″

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“Banana Split,” 2013, oil and acrylic on wood, 27″ x 21″, courtesy Jennifer Hitchings

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“Invisible Labor,” photo from a performance, courtesy Julian Jimarez-Howard

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“Screwdriver,” cold forged steel, plastic, 9″x1″, 2011, courtesy Julian Jimarez-Howard

Jimarez-Howard’s and Hitchings’ artwork clearly convey social themes on different levels. Less directly, Hitchings’ brooding paintings reflect on our indulgent culture in suburban and urban contexts alike. In life, Hitchings evidently sticks to pragmatism. “We are always out at openings,” she says decisively. It is important for her not only to participate in what is happening now but also take an active part in what is going to happen next. Daddezio adds in her frank and earnest manner that as an artist, curating for her is “like an excuse” to have a dialogue with other artists. In fact, they all share the passion to support artists and provide them with additional exposure. “There are so many artists and not enough spaces to show,” Hitchings asserts. Daddezio reinforces, “So many people are not showing their work enough.” From their well-rounded perspective as young art makers and communicators, the Bushwick art scene seems promising. Hitchings describes it with words such as “non-hierarchical” and “camaraderie,“ while Jimarez-Howard says that for the moment, there is a real sense of supportiveness in the community. Referencing again their shared experience as newcomers to Bushwick, Daddezio sums up with a hearty laugh that “by default you fit in because there is so much quirkiness.”

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(artwork): Caroline Falby, “Homestead,” photo by Willow Goldsein

Wacky Wednesday Drink N Draw at the Living Gallery

by Holly Shen Chaves and Etty Yaniv; photos: Meryl Meisler

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Looking for something fun to do this Wednesday in Bushwick? Head over to the Living Gallery  at 1094 Broadway for their weekly Drink ‘N Draw class. For a mere $10, participants are provided with an endless supply of wine, drawing materials (paper, pencils, pens, charcoal, oil pastels), live models (nudes ones too!), and if you’re lucky something sweet to nosh on.

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Last week, AiB Blog went to say hi to gallery director and owner Nyssa Frank (pictured at bottom in her signature tutu and crop top) and decided to check out the drawing class. Our verdict? Highly recommend.

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Held from 7-9, the Drink N Draw we attended featured two models, one male and one female, who held challenging positions despite the grueling heat. One of the models, Freddie Nunez, moonlights as a singer/song-writer and performed live for the class. While he serenaded us, the class had the option to draw any number of components – the intricate wires from the amp and mic setup, the motion of Nunez’s crooning, or even an abstract interpretation of the scene.

Each week, Frank switches up the rotation of models and performers, inviting musicians, poets, and other creatives to provide fresh drawing fodder for the regulars. Those who have taken a drop-in drawing class or a university drawing course knows that there are certain structures live modeling classes usually adopt. In this case, Frank works with instructor Jennie Penny to provide some guidance to the class without being overly didactic or strict. Penny began with ten two-minute warm-up sketches, explaining briefly what those are for the unfamiliar, moving on to longer durations. She didn’t try to instruct in between the sets and only gave basic but helpful suggestions to beginners.

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During the non-performance sets, Frank played music to get the creative juices flowing. Photographer Meryl Meisler, who trekked along to document the class in action, enjoyed the course. “The experience made me think of my first day of Life Drawing class freshman year of college,” she recalled. “I walk into the room with my first ever naked model. He turns around we were both astounded, like deer in headlights. The model was a boy I had just graduated high school with the year before.” 

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Etty Yaniv, a regular contributor to AiB Blog and an artist who specializes in drawing, was also pleased. “This is a unique life drawing session, unlike school, or uninstructed sessions I have attended. For instance, we had the privy of drawing a guitar player in action, while the other model was posing beside him during the performance. The combo of music and a pair of models made it like a happening that loosens the hand and mind. That said, the session was well organized and handled professionally,” Yaniv reported. “I particularly liked the way that Frank and Penny  interacted with participants, occasionally suggesting to view their drawings in the most unobstrusive and gentle manner. Highly recommended.”

Our only suggestion? More fans for the summer! But the heat plus wine plus chocolate makes for some very interesting drawings.

New Space Alert: Lorimoto at 16-23 Hancock Street

by Talia Shulze

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Lori Kirkbride is an artist based in Bushwick, and one half of the team behind Lorimoto, a gallery space that she founded with her husband and fellow artist Nao Matsumoto. Lorimoto opened it’s first show on May 31st during Bushwick Open Studios 2013. Visit Lorimoto at 16-23 Hancock St. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your work, and the history/genesis of Lorimoto

I am from the mid-west & moved to NYC 12 years ago to go to grad school for art.  I got my Masters in Painting from Pratt Institute.  That is also where I met my husband Nao Matsumoto who earned an MFA in Sculpture there.  He still works part time there teaching mold-making and casting.

I am a painter who mostly works large scale creating colorful abstract polymer and resin paintings on panels.  I also recently started creating textiles by making repeat patterns of my paintings.  I have been using those textiles to reupholster vintage furniture.  My most current piece, a chair “Walrus” is currently on view at hpgrp gallery at 529 W. 20th st in Chelsea in my current show “Piece of Cake” along with a painting installation.

My husband Nao Matsumoto is a sculptor who works largely with molds and casting.  He is very technically skilled but often employs a bit of humor to his work.  He is also a master woodworker and makes high end custom furniture. He is from Yokohama Japan and has been living in NYC for 16 years.

Lorimoto really came about when we got married 2 ½ years ago.  Being and artist I did not take his last name but we coined the term as a mosh of us together and our friends called us that too.  We thought of it as an umbrella name we could use together when collaborating on more furniture or design like projects.

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As for the gallery when the opportunity arose to acquire this building (we had been looking for a live/work where there was room for both of our studios including my husbands woodworking shop) we knew we wanted to have an exhibition space that ideally had street access.

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This building had all of these things.  We took over the building one year ago this month. We first moved our studios there and began renovating our living area.  In the spring we ran a Kickstarter Campaign successfully to finish out the gallery in time for BOS. We opened Lorimoto for the first show to a huge crowd!!

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How long have you been based in Bushwick?

I have had my studio in Bushwick for about 7 – 8 years.  I had a space first in 2006 at 119 Ingraham for 6 months and then had a space at 56 Bogart for 6 years.  Last August we moved it to the new Ridgewood building. 16-23 Hancock st.

Nao had a studio right across from the Navy Yard in Brooklyn for 10 years and also moved his studio to Hancock building last summer.

We will be moving into our apt above our studios & gallery very soon and are very excited to live within the Bushwick/Ridgewood community.

What is your favorite aspect of starting a gallery space in Bushwick?

My favorite part is that all of the artists are right here.  Since I was coming from 56 Bogart (a big building full of artists) where I could chat with people everyday, I didn’t want to lose that by moving a bit farther out without any other studios in my building.  Having the gallery is a way to maintain a dialog with many artists.

So many people complimented us on the work and the space and that felt amazing.  We also feel like our neighbors on the block have been very supportive.

Do you have any advice for other artists who might be thinking about starting a gallery?

It’s a lot of work but also a lot of fun.  We take it seriously but like to have a good time too! Things will always take longer that you think. From renovations to coordinating artists.

What projects are on the horizon for Lorimoto?

We have been so focused on just getting our doors open we are just now catching our breath.  But for sure some more curated shows.  We also would like to host some type of Sunday dinners for artists in our backyard maybe once a month or two.  Kind of like a networking or really just a meeting of like minded people in a relaxed artistic environment.

 What are some of your favorite artspaces in Bushwick?

Interstate ProjectsEnglish KillsAnd Deborah Brown’s new space at Storefront Ten Eyck is quite impressive! I am excited to see what all she does with it!

New Space Alert: Underdonk in 1717 Troutman

by Talia Shulze

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Underdonk is a project space located in room #201 of 17-17 Troutman Studios. It is an artist run collective dedicated to showcasing the work of emerging and established artists, as well as providing a platform for realizing creative projects. Their inaugural show, Invincible Host opened on June 8th. JJ Manford, one of the members of Underdonk answered a few questions about the new space for me, and offered some tips for other artists looking to do the same. 

Tell us a little bit about the genesis of Underdonk?

Underdonk is an artist run collective. We founded it as a vehicle for thinking through ideas and promoting the work of the artists we believe in. Many of us have organized a handful of shows in recent years, and enjoyed it enough to want to create a platform for us, and other artists, to do this-indefinitely-into the future.

“Invincible Host” is the inaugural show at Underdonk, featuring the work of Liv Aanrud, Alicia Gibson, and Albeliza Perez.  Underdonk is a recently started collective space comprised of artists Chris Bertholf, Tryn Collins, Nicholas Cueva, Laura Frantz, Osamu Kobayashi, Jaeeun Lee, Nicholas Moenich, Peter Park, Linnea Paskow, David Wilson, Elisa Soliven, and myself (JJ Manford).

What is your favorite aspect of starting a gallery space in Bushwick?

As far as art is concerned, I consider Bushwick as a living and working environment for artists of all ages, and stages of their development, rather than a commercial area. As a result, there is a higher sense of (the potential for) discovery that I am attracted to. The stakes are lower, and therefore more risks can be taken.

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Do you have any advice for other artists who are interested in starting a gallery?

Keep it small. If you want to run a larger space, make sure it’s a collective; running a gallery can be a full time job, and artists need a lot of time to make their own work, as well.

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Albeliza Perez

What projects are on the horizon for Underdonk?

Nick Moenich has proposed a small group show of three or so artists for July. I am really excited about the line-up he has put together for it.  

What are some of your favorite art spaces in Bushwick?

Sardine, Regina Rex, Bull and Ram, Norte Maar, Parallel Art Space, Storefront, TSA, and artists Joy Curtis and Mike Olin’s apartment (formerly named Beta Space and Pioneers of Inspiration).

Meryl Meisler / Vanessa Mártir: Defying Devastation: Bushwick Then & Now

by Etty Yaniv

Even for viewers who are only slightly familiar with Bushwick history over the past 30 years, Meryl Meisler’s exhibition title would most likely conjure images of urban decay followed by images of gentrification. Yet, there is nothing stereotypical about Meisler’s iconic portraits of Bushwick inhabitants, going about daily life in their urban environment, whether around crumbled buildings in the 80s or in a more upbeat scene at the present.

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Another refreshing element in this exhibition is its inclusive nature: besides an array of texts by authors with Brooklyn roots, two walls are designated as a place where residents of all ages are invited and encouraged to install their own artworks. Meisler is particularly moved by a group of drawings by children from El Puente Bushwick Center and the dedication of their teachers, Marina Kharkover and Jason Sital:  “They showed my work to the kids and look at this,” she utters, gesturing at the beautiful artwork with shiny eyes.

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Viewers who enter the space should not expect typical products of a long-term art project with a documentary flavor. Meisler, a Bronx-born, illustrator and photographer who taught art in the Bushwick public schools from 1981 to 1994, happened to be there and with her camera made this visual diary an inseparable part of her life. “Walking to and from the subway everyday was an adventure,” recalls Meisler in an animated tone, “I took pictures in my mind but wasn’t so quick to carry a camera because the previous year, an intruder came to the classroom threatening to use his gun if I didn’t hand over my beloved medium format camera.”  By 1982 she could no longer resist and started carrying an inexpensive plastic point and shoot, loaded with cheap transparency film and started using it on her “rhythmic and limited” route from the Myrtle Station up Palmetto Street. She has been obsessively portraying her environment ever since not only as a persistent by stander with a camera, but rather as an active extended member of the Bushwick community.

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Within Meisler’s visual narratives, Vanessa Mártir’s story is particularly far reaching. Martir, now a writer, found herself thirty years later in one of Meisler’s photographs and they consequently collaborated for an exhibition in 2012. “I want to tell you about the Bushwick of the before and the in-between. The picnics we had in the junk-yards,” writes Martir in her direct yet poetic style.

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This collaborative effort yielded texts by Martir’s circle of Brooklyn writers. Each writer responded to an image of his or her choice and the results offer thought provoking viewpoints which counterpoint the visuals. Emanuel Xavier, a Bushwick based poet, who ran away from home because of his difficulties as a gay teen, responded with a poem to “Boy Running – Palmetto Street,” a 1985 diagonal composition depicting a frozen moment of frantic action: a running boy with old cars in the background. In his poem, “Runaway”, Xavier writes:

These empty lots left behind where I know deep

In my heart that there is innocence in playing

With dolls, reaching for rainbows, books, even mami’s

Pretty dresses. I will not be alone in this world….

 ­Next to “Runaway, “Fallout shelter“ of 2013 presents a poignant juxtaposition of Then and Now from a current view point: Merrie Cherrie and Untitled Queen, two drag queens in a newly found safe haven.

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The most unusual pair of images in this series is two self- portraits, dating from 1983 and 2013.  Both resemble layered collages and portray a reflected image of the photographer in action. While the older picture depicts a gritty surface of a wooden board, broken mirror, abandoned cars and Bushwick High School, the current image shows an alluring storefront eatery, with smooth glass, LED sign and a row of handsome apartment buildings. “I recently found that self-portrait in a pile of all the images from the eighties,” she says with a bright smile. Only in 2007, when approached to submit a proposal to The Brooklyn Historical Society for an exhibition, she revisited this extraordinary body of work, and started a long process of scanning, restoring and cataloging.

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When asked what she wants to do next, Meisler answers without hesitation that this series belongs in photography collections, a book, and museum show. A petite, energetic woman, Meisler says whimsically that she sees herself like Voltaire’s “Candide “with a camera. Viewing urban Americana like a Norman Rockwell with a twist, she evidently adapts the optimistic philosophy “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, ” while constantly looking for connectivity between generations, neighbors, and recurring events. And as Martir concludes: “All the while, we built community. We made love in and out of the wreckage. That is how we defied devastation.”

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The Living Gallery 1094 Broadway, Brooklyn till June 30th

Meryl Meisler / Vanessa Mártir: Defying Devastation: Bushwick Then & Now

by Etty Yaniv

Even for viewers who are only slightly familiar with Bushwick history over the past 30 years, Meryl Meisler’s exhibition title would most likely conjure images of urban decay followed by images of gentrification. Yet, there is nothing stereotypical about Meisler’s iconic portraits of Bushwick inhabitants, going about daily life in their urban environment, whether around crumbled buildings in the 80s or in a more upbeat scene at the present.

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Another refreshing element in this exhibition is its inclusive nature: besides an array of texts by authors with Brooklyn roots, two walls are designated as a place where residents of all ages are invited and encouraged to install their own artworks. Meisler is particularly moved by a group of drawings by children from El Puente Bushwick Center and the dedication of their teachers, Marina Kharkover and Jason Sital:  “They showed my work to the kids and look at this,” she utters, gesturing at the beautiful artwork with shiny eyes.

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Viewers who enter the space should not expect typical products of a long-term art project with a documentary flavor. Meisler, a Bronx-born, illustrator and photographer who taught art in the Bushwick public schools from 1981 to 1994, happened to be there and with her camera made this visual diary an inseparable part of her life. “Walking to and from the subway everyday was an adventure,” recalls Meisler in an animated tone, “I took pictures in my mind but wasn’t so quick to carry a camera because the previous year, an intruder came to the classroom threatening to use his gun if I didn’t hand over my beloved medium format camera.”  By 1982 she could no longer resist and started carrying an inexpensive plastic point and shoot, loaded with cheap transparency film and started using it on her “rhythmic and limited” route from the Myrtle Station up Palmetto Street. She has been obsessively portraying her environment ever since not only as a persistent by stander with a camera, but rather as an active extended member of the Bushwick community.

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Within Meisler’s visual narratives, Vanessa Mártir’s story is particularly far reaching. Martir, now a writer, found herself thirty years later in one of Meisler’s photographs and they consequently collaborated for an exhibition in 2012. “I want to tell you about the Bushwick of the before and the in-between. The picnics we had in the junk-yards,” writes Martir in her direct yet poetic style.

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This collaborative effort yielded texts by Martir’s circle of Brooklyn writers. Each writer responded to an image of his or her choice and the results offer thought provoking viewpoints which counterpoint the visuals. Emanuel Xavier, a Bushwick based poet, who ran away from home because of his difficulties as a gay teen, responded with a poem to “Boy Running – Palmetto Street,” a 1985 diagonal composition depicting a frozen moment of frantic action: a running boy with old cars in the background. In his poem, “Runaway”, Xavier writes:

These empty lots left behind where I know deep

In my heart that there is innocence in playing

With dolls, reaching for rainbows, books, even mami’s

Pretty dresses. I will not be alone in this world….

 ­Next to “Runaway, “Fallout shelter“ of 2013 presents a poignant juxtaposition of Then and Now from a current view point: Merrie Cherrie and Untitled Queen, two drag queens in a newly found safe haven.

image

image

The most unusual pair of images in this series is two self- portraits, dating from 1983 and 2013.  Both resemble layered collages and portray a reflected image of the photographer in action. While the older picture depicts a gritty surface of a wooden board, broken mirror, abandoned cars and Bushwick High School, the current image shows an alluring storefront eatery, with smooth glass, LED sign and a row of handsome apartment buildings. “I recently found that self-portrait in a pile of all the images from the eighties,” she says with a bright smile. Only in 2007, when approached to submit a proposal to The Brooklyn Historical Society for an exhibition, she revisited this extraordinary body of work, and started a long process of scanning, restoring and cataloging.

image

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When asked what she wants to do next, Meisler answers without hesitation that this series belongs in photography collections, a book, and museum show. A petite, energetic woman, Meisler says whimsically that she sees herself like Voltaire’s “Candide “with a camera. Viewing urban Americana like a Norman Rockwell with a twist, she evidently adapts the optimistic philosophy “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, ” while constantly looking for connectivity between generations, neighbors, and recurring events. And as Martir concludes: “All the while, we built community. We made love in and out of the wreckage. That is how we defied devastation.”

image

/ / /

The Living Gallery 1094 Broadway, Brooklyn till June 30th