Three Parallel Worlds at No. 4 Studio

Monica Lorraine Bernal, Heather Merckle and Sabrina Barrios, the three artists featured in Ground Control currently at No. 4 Studio through May 14, draw on physics, cosmology and symbolism to create three distinct bodies of work, which altogether pose engaging questions on the way we perceive reality.

Sabrina Barrios’ outstanding site specific installation “The Earth Experiment” consists of white strings of different thickness which are arranged in a web of geometric patterns, multiply in a mirrored backdrop and glow under ultraviolet light. Once you enter this linear maze, you are locked inside a convincing matrix which alludes to the cosmos and to the collective unconsciousness. Outside of this bubble, and totally out of our reach, floating linear hieroglyphics in a totem shape represent the forces beyond our control which are manipulating our perception. This linear totem may read as power, collective memory, or blind fate among other possible interpretations.

Sabrina Barrios, The Earth Experiment strings, fishing wire, UV light, dimensions variable, 2017 , Brooklyn, NY
Sabrina Barrios, The Earth Experiment strings, fishing wire, UV light, dimensions variable, 2017, Brooklyn, NY

By utilizing relatively simple means like string, fishing wire, mirror, and light, Barrios creates an engaging experience of a parallel universe which is both hermetic and full of possibilities, evoking a Borges parable or Plato’s cave allegory. “I use visually simple symbols (sacred geometry) to tell a story. I like to compare it to a dream, in which you can’t always verbalize your experiences, but you often remember their feeling,” says the Brazilian born, Brooklyn based multimedia artist who moved to NYC eight years ago for an MFA at Pratt. Barrios says that traveling and spending longer periods of time in places like Southeast Asia and Europe inform her work in substantial ways. “I visit places of ancient ruins, pyramids, temples, tribes, to understand the knowledge that is passed from a generation to the next. I combine ancient knowledge with conspiracy theories,” says Barrios.  She start her projects with research on quantum physics, mythology, and ancient civilizations like Mayan, Egyptian and Sumerian, along with internet pseudo news, overall aiming to create  portals which are open to alternate realities and hidden dimensions.

Heather Merckle, This has no sensible dimensions” 2017 Acrylic on canvas, plexi, ribbon, foam and paper 144” h x 78”w x 24”d
Heather Merckle, This has no sensible dimensions” 2017
Acrylic on canvas, plexi, ribbon, foam and paper
144” h x 78”w x 24”d

Heather Merckle, who lives and works in Brooklyn, is also fascinated by the intersection between art and science, posing the question what happens when you give elusive ideas such as black holes, vacuums of space, and quantum fields a physical presence. In “This has no sensible dimensions” installation, a black matte canvas acts as the background for the exploration of multi-dimensional space. Merckle imagines the curvature of space and time, questioning “how it slows and sags, gravity and its presence, black holes and surface tension.” Using materials like polyester ribbon, acrylic cut-outs, foam, and paper, she created an installation that measures hundred forty two inches high, but feels monumental in scale.

Monica Lorraine Bernal, installation view, No. 4 Studio
Monica Lorraine Bernal, installation view, No. 4 Studio

On a smaller scale and with a more surreal bent, Monica Lorraine Bernal also references in her drawings cosmology and optics through playful and imaginative forms. Her white abstracted linear marks and abstracted forms on black surface evoke a sense of a microcosmic world with an enigmatic set of rules, vast and confined simultaneously. Bernal, who was born in Bogota, raised in Los Angeles, and moved to NYC in 2009 to earn an MFA from Parsons, explains that in these drawings she envisioned invisible light, referencing our evolutionary inability to see radio, infrared, ultraviolet, X-ray, and gamma-ray. “Here, invisible light and its color spectrum is reinvented and translated into a meditative, yet energetic imagination of an unearthly existence, whether brightening up a parallel universe, teetering on a black hole, or hazily shining through a planet’s moon. And this was a response to Heather’s black holes and Sabrina’s parallel worlds,” says Bernal. Overall, “Ground Control” builds an engaging thematic show which invites the viewer to reflect on the limitation of human perception and the uplifting possibilities in creative imagination.

Ground Control is open April 14th – May 14th at No.4 Studio

Exhibition hours are Friday through Sunday 1-6pm and by appointment

No.4 Studio, 361 Stagg Street, #204

Loading Map....

A ‘Mixtape’ of Art at No. 4 Studio

by Etty Yaniv


Installation view A of MIXTAPE! at No. 4 Studio; all photos courtesy of Sophia Alexandrov and the respective artists, unless otherwise indicated

Although the painting and sculpture pop-up show, MIXTAPE! at No. 4 Studio was up for only three days, its genesis, caliber, and well-deserved warm reception throughout the hectic Bushwick Open Studios weekend may mark the beginning of a new Bushwick art venue. Initially, Sophia Alexandrov, who co-curated the show and is currently working toward her MA at Hunter College, envisioned a modest show that would run during BOS and would also include artists such as Todd Bienvenu, whose studio in Williamsburg was off the map. But shortly after Bienvenu sent her a massive list of his favorites to be considered for the show, the exhibition scope evolved from 6 to 18 artists, and Bienvenu became co-curator. 


Yellow Building by Lauren Luloff

Alexandrov said that their curatorial approach was purposefully loose and inspired by Bienvenu’s notion that “all you need to put on a show is good art and some walls.” Bienvenu explained that first he visited his favorite artists’ studios to pick out works and only later the concept came along. “It is a painter’s curation,” he explained in his easy-going manner, “as tempting as it would be to pick a bunch of ‘painty’ painters, I wanted to show a bit of range.” 


Untitled by Joy Curtis

Indeed, the show presented a wide range of media and a diverse group of artists. Besides paintings, it included three-dimensional pieces, such as the three sculptural artworks by Joy Curtis, Dwain Thomas Walters II, and Emily Noelle Lambert, as well as a couple of textile artworks by Lauren Luloff and a particularly rich and layered wall-piece titled Patricia Hall Revealed, representing an engaging mixed-media work by Meg Lipke. Overall, the works in the show were varied in both mood and scale. 


The Loved and The Lover by Dwain Thomas Walters II


I Am of Two/Warrior Two by Emily Noelle Lambert


Patricia Hall Revealed by Meg Lipke; photo courtesy of Patricia Hall

Sangram Majumdar’s  haunting larger-scale painting Two Rooms depicts a dilapidated room in dominating green hues and bold diagonals, which create a strong sense of place and time. This masterful and self-assured painting resonates a dystopian Matisse-like interior. It yields a nagging memory of a once inhabited space of art and life, with a subtle balance between despair and hope.


Two Rooms by Sangram Majumdar; courtesy of the artist and Steve Harvey Fine Art Projects, New York

Next to Majumdar’s brooding atmosphere, Gili Levi’s vibrant Icebergs  emitted electric vibes. Like a raw nervous system, her saturated canvas conveys a psychedelic landscape with pulsating bursts of rich blue, green, and orange hues, inviting and repelling at the same time. Without crossing the threshold of hermetic closure, the painting dangerously exists on the very edge of the viewer’s capacity to absorb.


Icebergs by Gili Levy

In a much darker color scheme, Kyle Staver’s painting Saint George and the Dragon defies categorization. Hovering between abstraction and cartoonish narrative, her bold composition evokes a mythological space that submerges the viewer in a murky pool of collective memory, with some refreshing humorous references to the personal. Like a dark-haired Renoir nude with a linear triangle for pubic hair, the chained female on the bottom right gesticulates her hand diagonally upward, forming a figurative foreground for an abstracted battle. 


Saint George and The Dragon by Kyle Staver

The diversity of the show was also reflected in a generational range of artists. Bienvenu said that he had invited Katherine Bradford and Margrit Lewczuk, whom he considers “two fantastic pioneers of Williamsburg.” He added that he found a lot in common with Mark Peterson, another veteran painter from Oakland. 


River Boat by Katherine Bradford

imageUntitled by Margrit Lewczuk


Lick by Mark Petersen

Lauren Collings and Alexander Nolan are two painters who walk the line of abstracting figuration with ease and humor. Adding other humoristic flavors is Bienvenu’s text-based painting Hold My Dirty HandJason Mones’s Missing Guston further contributes to this theme.


Pink Flamingo Still Life by Lauren Collings


Untitled works by Alexander Nolan


Hold My Dirty Hand by Todd Bienvenu


Missing Guston by Jason Mones

To host this show, No. 4 Studio was temporarily converted from a design and architecture shop to a gallery space. Steve Gavino, who runs the shop, explained that  a portion of the proceeds for the exhibit is reserved for the Art and Abolition campaign and added that he would like to couple future shows with similar arts-based programs as a way to provide opportunities for social responsibility. If the rest of the art ventures at No. 4 Studio are like MIXTAPE!, I am a fan.


Steve Gavino; photo courtesy of Mark Petersen