‘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 Using historical documents, Kathleen Vance traced the tidal flow of the Super Fund creek from its tributaries – Dutch Kills, Whale Creek, Maspeth Creek and English Kills, and redirects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

 

‘Cracking Up, Breaking Down’ Alludes to Angst, Excess and Emptiness

Cracking Up, Breaking Down (December 11, 2016 through January 08, 2017) was a group show at The Parlour Bushwick located in south Bushwick on the border of Bedstuy. Featuring New York-based artists Ben Pederson, Jack Henry, Nicholas Cueva, and Alex Yudzon, this body of work alluded to themes of angst, excess and emptiness. The show, recently closed, was curated by Rachel Phillips and Janice Sloane, both of whom are artists. Phillips works in a Surrealistic style, allowing the unconscious to guide her practice. The shapes in her drawings and paintings oscillate between abstract and recognizable forms. Sloane utilizes photography, painting and found objects to construct works of art that suggests themes of aging, sexuality, and healing. 

Cozy couches lined a thoughtful selection of eccentric work dynamically arranged in two rooms on the first floor of a townhouse on Bushwick Avenue. Mirrors decorated the walls, and beautiful crown molding adorned the doorways, arches, and ceilings. This setting created an intimate and endearing atmosphere. Using diverse materials and divergent techniques, this body of work suggested a precariousness and unease that reflects the collective state of mind of our generation.

Ben Pederson’s colorful sculptures exude a frenetic quality because of his use of overlapping, bright and contrasting colors, the irrational placement of tiny dots, and the inclusion of uneven, tilted elements. When these elements are combined, they invoke the sensation of being on a precipice. Hollywood Nights is composed of cardboard, plaster gauze, and Epoxy clay. Pederson uses acrylic and vinyl paint to create the brightly colored base, which has solid black triangular structures that jut out from it. In Both Times at Once, it appears the sculpture is trapped inside another work. The surrounding bars are painted black at the bottom and vibrantly colored at the top. This work is more suggestive of architectural elements than of an otherworldly form, contrasting to Hollywood Nights. As viewers walk around these works, colors shift and forms re-shape as if they have caught them in a state of transformation or transition. Is it growing or shrinking, contracting or pulsating, transmuting or putrefying? The sculptures suggest organic and synthetic elements, something of this world yet far beyond it.

Ben Pederson, Junkfood Trees, 2015

Also on view by Pederson are tiny bronzes, dubbed Junkfood Trees. They have hand-painted pieces of food at the edges like pizza, chicken wings, ice cream and other fatty foods. These works suggest the success of the fast food market and the excessiveness in which we consume and unconsciously waste.

 

 

These themes also could be discerned in Jack Henry’s sculptures, column-like structures composed of rebar, Hydrocal, ink, and found objects. A contemporary scavenger, he collects items that are man-made from buildings, ripped billboards, and the side of the road. He collects cultural debris from the places on the peripheral—the places people see but never truly look at. By utilizing the discarded and banal, Henry’s work suggest issues of mass consumption and Post-Industrial America.

Jack Henry, Untitled, 2016

Henry’s sculptures appear to be in a state of deterioration akin to a dilapidated or abandoned building. For the works in this show, the artist assembled dried flowers, straw, plastic tarp, and other pieces of detritus to construct human-size monuments reminiscent of tombstones. The shape alludes to ancient Roman and Mesopotamian burial shrines, calling attention to how the past informs the present and how objects come to stand in for memories. The sculptures are described in Henry’s artist statement as “monuments or memorials to cultural disaffection.” A sublime beauty is found in the castaway, things that no longer serve a purpose but have a past akin to people.

Jack Henry, Sheer 1, 2016

Nicholas Cueva uses a traditional medium to express a contemporary mindset. His oil and acrylic paintings utilize gestural brushstrokes to create playful abstract shapes that contrast to the areas of raw, unpainted canvas. This technique refers to how we create our own narratives about situations and must fill in the gaps when missing information. Cueva often uses still life and portraiture as a departure point. In American Une, some objects can be discerned; for example, a bent hand in the upper left, a green parrot with a gold chain in the upper right and a glass of wine in the bottom right. An eye and a shape of a face appear to be at the center of the canvas, although the artist has scraped oil and acrylic paint off to make a large void at the focal point. It’s as if the face has been effaced by time like a torn advertisement on the street.

Nicholas Cueva, Pick Nick, 2016

The voids are important elements in Cueva’s work and function as psychological and emotionally charged spaces. In Pick Nick, the perimeter has recognizable objects like a bowl of fruit, bananas, glasses, a vase, a table, and the middle has been unpainted or erased. The scattered gaps in form and voids at the center become portals, allowing viewers to navigate through the surface of color. The paintings thus become a vehicle for contemplation. The breakdown of the picture plane into fractured shapes suggest the fragmented nature we perceive reality and recall memories—the splintered way we see the world, ourselves, and how we choose to remember it.

Alex Yudzon’s photographs are meticulously arranged and draw inspiration from Classical compositions by Old Masters. Yudzon studied painting and art history. The latter informed his artistic practice. He was most interested in iconography, 16th and 17th Old Master paintings and still life, particularly the vanitas paintings. The artist explains the genre “combined semi-rotting food with symbolic objects to emphasize the ephemerality of sensual experience.” He often stages fruit and objects, arranging them in front of a backdrop of hand-painted scenes or reproductions of works by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. He then photographs the installations straight on. This juxtaposition of the present and past show how the two are inexplicably intertwined. Yudzon’s photograph is a contemporary work of art now—but in time they will be viewed as work of the past. His art will be situated within an art historical context and he will become part of a genealogy of artists. Unlike the human body, works of art and artists can be immortalized; they do not ossify and deteriorate with time.

Alex Yudzon, Papaya Mountain, 2016, Edition of 6

Yudzon creates centralized, triangular arrangements of objects in his photographs. In Campfire, burning candles are staged in the front of a woods scene. The dark, smoky background recalls the Renaissance technique of sfumato. In the foreground, the wax has melted into a sticky web that is repulsive yet mesmerizing. In Papaya Mountain, the semi-rotting fruit is arranged in a pile on a plate that sits on a brilliantly patterned cloth. It is displayed in front of a mountainous backdrop and the shape of the fruit mimics the form of the mountains. The vehement pink-orange color of the papaya contrasts to the subtle blues and grays in the background. He typically photographs an excess of objects as exemplified in Papaya Mountain and Campfire. The artist described his work as having “an anxiety of collapse through overabundance.” The excess thus becomes a means to the breakdown. In Cocktail, Yudzon places a lobster arm into a cup. In this work, he chose to focus on a static, singular object, instead of creating a mis-en-scene of objects in a transient state akin to the aforementioned photographs. Light dramatically shines on the lobster vase positioned in front of an endless, faded background. The objects the artist chooses are ephemeral or in a state of decay. The decomposition of the things alludes to the fragility of our body, the entropic nature of life, and the transience of each moment.

Cracking Up, Breaking Down is a stimulating show that touches on contemporary issues and collective anxieties related to an unstable American sociopolitical climate. Several galleries in the area, such as Underdonk’s Sister Outsider or Knockdown Center’s Nasty Women, have had exhibitions of work that directly allude to the uncertainty and vulnerability our community feels after the shock of the 2016 election results. Social trauma lingers–a term coined by Mary Kelly when discussing difficult experiences and feminism during the 1970s-80s; however, she had come to find a rupture in the continuity of feminism and the avant-garde. This chasm correlates to the social division that both Democratic and Republican parties face within their organizations. This show is particularly important because it a poignant reminder that only after things fall apart can we begin to build something new. The fractured pieces of ourselves will not be the same size nor fit in exactly the same place, but it will be come together and be more durable, stronger, and resilient. Some say there is beauty in the breakdown, but, as I see it, there is a greater beauty in what lies ahead—what we cannot foresee or fathom yet, what is just out of sight.

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Precarious Constructs – A Dance with the Maelstrom

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

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

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

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

Subsequent, artist Uta Bekaia. Photo by JenJoy Roybal

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

Unintended Archeology, artist Levan Mindiashvili. Photo by the artist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Searching for the Meaning of Art: ‘Thomas Lendvai: 10’ at ODETTA

Photos by Etty Yaniv unless otherwise indicated

For Ellen Hackl Fagan, ODETTA’s gallerist and curator, titling the current sculpture show Thomas Lendvai: 10 was a no-brainer. When artist Thomas Lendvai came up with the title “Ten,” which marks the first time in ten years that the sculptor has been given a chance to show his large-scale sculptures in a New York gallery, Hackl Fagan embraced it willingly. Serendipitously, it also marks the tenth show at ODETTA.

Gallerist Ellen Hackl Fagan and her dog in front of a sculpture by Thomas Lendvai
Gallerist Ellen Hackl Fagan and her dog in front of a sculpture by Thomas Lendvai

 

Hackl Fagan recalls how Lendvai, an artist who also works as a carpenter in a shop near the gallery, has been coming to ODETTA since it opened during Bushwick Open Studios in 2014. When she realized he worked with wood and had access to tools, she asked him to help with small projects, and ultimately last summer, she asked the artist for a studio visit. Seeing his work, Hackl Fagen made a mental note that Lendvai knew how to build large-scale sculpture. She notes, “I began to think that summer would be an ideal time to take bigger risks at the gallery and asked Tom to create a proposal.” Two months later, Lendvai showed her a scale model of the gallery with a sculpture placed inside the space.

Installation view of Thomas Lendvai: 10; photo courtesy of ODETTA
Installation view of Thomas Lendvai: 10; photo courtesy of ODETTA

 

After discussing different editing ideas, Lendvai came back to Hackl Fagan with a final 3D sketch of his proposal for the sculpture. “Close to installation time, I began panicking because I’d never worked with an artist from models, so I brought him back to pace the floors with me and demonstrate roughly how large it would be. That gave me renewed confidence that we wouldn’t have a redux of the Stonehenge debacle in the movie Spinal Tap!,” Hackl Fagan recalls with a wide smile. Having worked with the artist numerous times by then, Hackl Fagan felt she should trust him to use the space as his “residency” at ODETTA. With some help and fully at his own expense, Lendvai built the sculpture on site in two weeks.

Visitors engage with <em>X Never Marks the Spot</em> by Thomas Lendvai; photo courtesy of ODETTA
Visitors engage with X Never Marks the Spot by Thomas Lendvai; photo courtesy of ODETTA

 

The resulting form is striking and ambitious. Lendvai utilizes colossal and boldly tilted geometric forms to create a physically immersive site-responsive installation made of the same materials as compose the gallery walls: sheetrock and wooden beams. A huge structure in the form of a plus sign or the Roman numeral X, sections the gallery space into four quadrants, but upon entering the gallery, a viewer can perceive it only in fragments by walking and viewing it from different vantage points. In the process of navigating their way around the sculpture, visitors are constantly aware of their own body in relation to the structure and in relation to the gallery space at large. This experiential interaction with the work prompts meditation on the relationship between self, art, and architecture. Lendvai says that he wants the sculpture to be architectural but not architecture, a sculpture that references its surroundings: “Instead of a volume of mass, it’s more like a volume of space; it’s the negative space made visible,” he explains.

<em>X Marks the Spot</em> by Thomas Lendvai
X Marks the Spot by Thomas Lendvai

 

Influenced by the reductive aesthetics of Minimalism, X Never Marks the Spot plays with the constructs of space, time, and gravity, yet independent of any particular narrative. Its solid elegance is countered by a whimsical sense of suspended dance-like movement, echoing both an architectural form and a corporeal gesture. Lendvai notes that the internal structure is intentially visible underneath to allow the piece to “flip-flop between abstraction and representation.” This representational detail may read as a Dadaist wink but not exclusively. Lendvai adamantly says that he is searching for the meaning of art and concludes that he sees art as the experience that a visitor takes away after leaving a gallery. As she reflects on her successful experience with Lendvai’s site-specific project, Hackl Fagan is confident that she will offer other artists a similar opportunity in the future. As those who experienced Thomas Lendvai: 10 already know, visitors will benefit from her ambitious decision.

Works on view in Thomas Lendvai: 10 at ODETTA
Works on view in Thomas Lendvai: 10 at ODETTA

 

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ODETTA, located at 229 Cook Street in Brooklyn, will reopen on 11 September 2015 with their eleventh show titled Seeing Sound to inaugurate the fall season

Duplicate Meanings: Finding What Is Lost at Storefront Ten Eyck

by Etty Yaniv 

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Eros by Mie Yim, 2013; all photos by Etty Yaniv

 

Typically, crowded openings are not an ideal setting for experiencing the artwork on display. Nevertheless, the current show at Storefront Ten Eyck, featuring Elise Siegel’s ceramic busts paired with Mie Yim’s abstracted figure paintings, thrives in a crowded space. As in a theatrical
experience or a ritual ceremony, the visitors’ presence enhances the
psychological tension that these artworks emit.

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Overview of opening at Storefront Ten Eyck with sculptures by Elise Siegel (front) and paintings by Mie Yim (on walls)

 

Varying in style, scale, and surface, Siegel’s series of ceramic portrait busts are grouped like a chorus in a Greek tragedy or idols in a
prehistoric rite. Handled with expressionistic sensibility, their raw
surfaces convey an urgent sense of emotional flux. Siegel aims to
capture fleeting moments of inner conflict, psychic turbulence, and
emotional uncertainty. The
visceral presence of her clay figurines, particularly as a group,
generates a psychologically
charged encounter for the viewer. Siegel, who lives
and works in New York City, says that she is working with clay precisely because it
is “the most primal, sensuous and sensitive material, recording and responding
to every thought, impulse, and touch.”

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Visitors at Storefront Ten Eyck with sculptures by Elise Siegel (front) and paintings by Mie Yim (on walls)

 

Fascinated by the transformative nature of human interactions with objects, Siegel compares her
role as a sculptor to that of a puppeteer: “Once the puppet comes alive, it’s
not really clear who’s in charge,” she explains. This process begins with a
size or stylistic trope in mind. As the piece develops, she gets a glimpse
of who the figures might be, not as portraits of specific people, but rather as
distinct imaginary individuals.

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Visitors contemplating Tequila Hangover by Mie Yim (painting on wall) with sculpture by Elise Siegel (foreground)

 

Siegel
explains that she is particularly drawn to figurative sculptures that humans
have empowered, such as idols, reliquaries, masks, and even toys. “I have taken
formal cues from the abstracted features and exaggerated forms of the amazing
Jomon dogu figures of Neolithic Japan as well as the hollow window eyes of
terracotta Hawaiian funeral figures from the third to sixth century,” she
elaborates.

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Portrait Bust with Pink Lips by Elise Siegel, 2012

 

Portrait Bust with Pink Lips is one of the most haunting pieces in the series. Covered with matte patina that resembles worn-away skin, with
slightly smeared pink lipstick and closed eyes, this female figurine conveys complex and opposing states of being. “For me, this piece is looking inward,” Siegel reflects.

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Young Boy Portrait by Elise Siegel

 

Another vulnerable and inner-looking bust in the show is Young Boy Portrait. “His head is a bit too big and he is looking slightly
up at you, expectantly, with raised eyebrows and his cut out eyes allow you to
look right in. His big buttons make him look like a child or a sad clown,” Siegel
says describing the work. This sense of an underlying duplicate meaning is also conveyed through her
technique. Contrary to decorative glazing convention, which traditionally implies
overpainting Majolica glaze with tight patterns, Siegel overpaints her
glaze with copper oxide in a gestural way, allowing it to melt and run.

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Mongrel by Mie Yim, 2014

 

Similar to Siegel’s method, Mie Yim’s approach is intuitive, experimental,and deeply personal. With a skill and sensibility of an abstract expressionist, Yim begins by pushing paint. She notes, “Shapes
emerge; the doll-like eyes anchor the form and turn into a portrait…If it’s
all going too swimmingly, I have to ruin it, again. In order to find it, you
have to lose it.” This process of building and erasing is evident in her lush
and layered canvases.

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Cho-cho-san by Mie Yim, 2014

 

As with Siegel’s sculptures, Yim’s paintings convey a sense of fleeting moments, changing moods, and forms in flux. With a winking
nod to traditional Western portraiture, her forms are well defined in
the
foreground, while her saturated palate alludes to “distant cousins of
Hello
Kitty and other Asian pop culture dolls that are having an existential
crisis,”
as she puts it. Yim, a native South Korean who resides in New York,
successfully conveys
in her paintings the intersection between East and West, abstract and
figurative,
cute and aggressive. In other words, “me,” as she sums up.

 

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Storefront Ten Eyck is located at 324 Ten Eyck Street, with opening hours 1-6PM on Saturdays and Sundays. Exhibition with works by Elise Siegel and Mie Yim open through 22 February

With Shared Enthusiasm: Seeking Space Exhibition at The Active Space

by Nicole Durbin; photos by Nicole Durbin and Aniela Coveleski

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Narcissism by Seunghwui Koo, with Datalog spinning in back

Now in its fifth year, the Seeking Space Exhibition, organized by Arts in Bushwick, was held at the increasingly popular gallery, The Active Space. The opening reception held on Friday, May 31, helped jump-start this year’s Bushwick Open Studios. Ready to celebrate, the jubilant crowds often made it hard to view the impressively varied collection of paintings, photography, sculpture, and installations.

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I Eat My Words by Jen Hitchings

How does one curate an event whose only true commonality among the submissions is a shared enthusiasm for our particular neighborhood? Such was the challenge presented to veteran AiB volunteers Julia Sinelnikova and Jillian Salik, who co-curated the event. Despite the potential difficulties of working with more than 60 artists, Sinelnikova explained, “I think our biggest challenge is that Jillian and I are both meticulous perfectionists. I’m happy about the high quality of our production, but sometimes we find ourselves bending over backwards—in a good way.”

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Untitled (US Map) by Dana Kane

The first few things one noticed when moving around the room counter-clockwise were big and moody, with a muted color palate. Works by Grace Troxell and Raisa Nosova made for an engaging pair: The sculptural work by Troxell literally bursts out of and beyond its frame, whereas Nosova’s painting draws you inward, into the darkness. Continuing around the right edge of the room, the mood slowly brightens but retains a certain unsettling feeling.

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(Left) Clytemnestra by Grace Troxell; (right) 27th and 7th, NYC by Raisa Nosova

The left half of the room was divided into several little alcoves, each functioning semi-independently. As Salik explained, “Julia and I decided to treat each nook as its own subdivision or micro-show. The flow between each nook was important, but an easier transition to make.” One group seemed to be composed of introspective portraiture, such as Kelli Thompson’s vivid Self.

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Self by Kelli Thompson

Other sections had a distinct sense of humor.  Lisa Levy continues to congratulate her audience on our personal growth, whereas Robert Servo’s alterations to found photos breathed new light into what must have been musty garage-sale heirlooms.

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You Internalized a Compliment by Lisa Levy

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(Left) Gate Keeper and Key Master and (right) Old School by Robert Sevro

The additional images below offer just a small selection of the bounty that awaits visitors to Seeking Space. Although BOS’14 is over (yet not forgotten), the Seeking Space Exhibition will be on view at The Active Space until June 30. Visitors are encouraged to take their own tour through its myriad nooks.

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(Above and below) Works on view at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

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(Above and below) Visitors at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

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Seeking Space Exhibition will be on view at The Active Space (566 Johnson Avenue) until June 30 

With Shared Enthusiasm: Seeking Space Exhibition at The Active Space

photos by Nicole Durbin and Aniela Coveleski

Narcissism by Seunghwui Koo, with Datalog spinning in back
Narcissism by Seunghwui Koo, with Datalog spinning in back

 

Now in its fifth year, the Seeking Space Exhibition, organized by Arts in Bushwick, was held at the increasingly popular gallery, The Active Space. The opening reception held on Friday, May 31, helped jump-start this year’s Bushwick Open Studios. Ready to celebrate, the jubilant crowds often made it hard to view the impressively varied collection of paintings, photography, sculpture, and installations.

I Eat My Words by Jen Hitchings
I Eat My Words by Jen Hitchings

 

How does one curate an event whose only true commonality among the submissions is a shared enthusiasm for our particular neighborhood? Such was the challenge presented to veteran AiB volunteers Julia Sinelnikova and Jillian Salik, who co-curated the event. Despite the potential difficulties of working with more than 60 artists, Sinelnikova explained, “I think our biggest challenge is that Jillian and I are both meticulous perfectionists. I’m happy about the high quality of our production, but sometimes we find ourselves bending over backwards—in a good way.”

Untitled (US Map) by Dana Kane
Untitled (US Map) by Dana Kane

The first few things one noticed when moving around the room counter-clockwise were big and moody, with a muted color palate. Works by Grace Troxell and Raisa Nosova made for an engaging pair: The sculptural work by Troxell literally bursts out of and beyond its frame, whereas Nosova’s painting draws you inward, into the darkness. Continuing around the right edge of the room, the mood slowly brightens but retains a certain unsettling feeling.

(Left) Clytemnestra by Grace Troxell; (right) 27th and 7th, NYC by Raisa Nosova
(Left) Clytemnestra by Grace Troxell; (right) 27th and 7th, NYC by Raisa Nosova

The left half of the room was divided into several little alcoves, each functioning semi-independently. As Salik explained, “Julia and I decided to treat each nook as its own subdivision or micro-show. The flow between each nook was important, but an easier transition to make.” One group seemed to be composed of introspective portraiture, such as Kelli Thompson’s vivid Self.

Self by Kelli Thompson
Self by Kelli Thompson

 

Other sections had a distinct sense of humor.  Lisa Levy continues to congratulate her audience on our personal growth, whereas Robert Servo’s alterations to found photos breathed new light into what must have been musty garage-sale heirlooms.

You Internalized a Compliment by Lisa Levy
You Internalized a Compliment by Lisa Levy

 

(Left) Gate Keeper and Key Master and (right) Old School by Robert Sevro
(Left) Gate Keeper and Key Master and (right) Old School by Robert Sevro

 

 

The additional images below offer just a small selection of the bounty that awaits visitors to Seeking Space. Although BOS14 is over (yet not forgotten), the Seeking Space Exhibition will be on view at The Active Space until June 30. Visitors are encouraged to take their own tour through its myriad nooks.

Works on view at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

(Above and below) Works on view at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

Works on view at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

Visitors at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

(Above and below) Visitors at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

Visitors at the Seeking Space Exhibition, 2014

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Seeking Space Exhibition will be on view at The Active Space (566 Johnson Avenue) until June 30 

Fame and Viscera at Corporeal Digest

by Nicole Durbin

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Reva Castillenti’s exploration of the human body is simultaneously intimate and grotesque. Her current solo exhibition at et al projects, Corporeal Digest, illustrates the perverse fixation we have with our physicality.

Entering the gallery is a bit like walking into a friendly, brightly-lit morgue. Castillenti has sliced and diced the faux human bodies to showcase the viscera in Barbie-Dreamhouse-pink. Contrasted against bleached-out skin and white gallery walls, the effect is disturbingly sterile.

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Near: JFK’s Scalp. Middle: John Bobbitt’s Penis.


Most interestingly, the “Public Privates” series places sculptures of newsworthy body parts – Michael Jackson’s nose, Nancy Kerrigan’s knee – on literal pedestals for viewers to examine and admire. It brings attention to how the public fascination with the human body can turn a quotidian story into national news- would John and Lorena Bobbitt be household names if she had just stabbed the guy?

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Hilary Mantel’s must-read lecture on Royal Bodies hits similar themes – the monarchs she studies are “all body and no soul.” While we Americans might not have royals to obsess over, we seem a bit jealous when we anoint our King of Pop, our Kennedy Camelot. Hence the same compulsion to stare, to pick our royals apart. As Mantel describes, “…one is compelled to look at them: to ask what they are made of, and is their substance the same as ours.” Castillenti gives us that chance to look, and at the same time forces us to ask why we want to so badly.

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Michael Jackson’s Nose.

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Corporeal Digest is on view at et al projects (56 Bogart St, Brooklyn) through March 2, 2014.

“Hot Mamas” at Associated Gallery

by Nicole Durbin

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What does it mean to be an artist and a mother? This question spawned Associated Gallery’s latest exhibition, “Hot Mamas,” which intriguingly provides the answer of both “everything” and “nothing.”

The exhibit brings together three women who are both artists and mothers: Sharon Horvath, Rachel Hayes, and Caroline Falby. Their works are dissimilar – colorful sculpture, dreamy paintings, and stark-but-emotive drawings, respectively – and that’s the point. While motherhood certainly influenced each artist, it did so in such different ways that it would be nearly impossible for a viewer unaware of the “Hot Mamas” theme to identify that common thread.

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Take Rachel Hayes, for starters. Her abstract sculptures showcase the way form interacts with color, light, and shadow. She doesn’t necessarily consider her work to be about motherhood, per se, but she does seem to feel connected to the concept, explaining,  “When I’m sewing things together, I think that there’s a history with that. If that reminds you of something like tapestries or women’s work, then that’s cool. And if it doesn’t that’s cool too. I just really like working that way with those materials.”

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Motherhood also seems to imbue a kind of focus onto these artists’ work. While men and women have to grapple with how a child can consume your time, today’s woman, on average, still devotes more time to childrearing. Hayes and Horvath both spoke about transforming the constraints of motherhood into fresh opportunities, with Hayes saying, “There are certain materials I’d probably like to work with [but don’t]. I made basketry because I wasn’t going to sit and solder something in my studio and have lots of fume-y stuff….it made me figure out a different way to build what I wanted to.”

Similarly, Horvath spoke about how, “[Motherhood] just makes you really economical with your time and your priorities just totally realign, as everybody knows.” Horvath’s teenage son was in attendance for the Saturday opening, prompting a very “mom” move- she managed to show him off and embarrass him a little at the same time, describing how, “When [my son] was young, like first grade, he used to draw all these amazing drawings of birds playing baseball. I asked him if I could take his idea, and he was like, sure! And later on I made a lot of baseball paintings, and he wished that he had bargained a little harder.”

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Horvath’s otherworldly paintings are more overtly feminine than the others at the show. When viewing one of her pieces – a child atop a large horse that reminds of prehistoric cave paintings – she describes how, “You have lots of opportunities to relive your childhood, but parenting is one of the optimal ones. I recommend it! So that’s a little girl riding a horse. It’s a rocking horse, but it’s real, energy. It’s important to know as an artist what you’re really dealing with, the energy you’re really dealing with. When you’re a parent, you’re kind of close to that mental energy.”

Associated Gallery (formerly Weeknights) has been in existence for about a year, curated by Jen Hitchings, Theresa Daddezio, and Julian Jimarez-Howard. For this show, each curator chose an artist who is also a mother. “The whole model is that we want to show artists who aren’t showing as much as they should be. Mostly people who are not represented and have interesting stories,” explained Hitchings.

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“Hot Mamas” is on view at Associated Gallery at 566 Johnson Ave #27 & #28 until August 18th.

Abroad in Brooklyn: Fanny Allié – From France to Bushwick – Tracing Individual Moments in Public Spaces

by Etty Yaniv

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When Fanny Allié received a polite rejection letter of her public art proposal, she did not despair, instead promptly contacting curator Jennifer Lantzas from NYC Parks & Recreation to find out why. To her surprise, the French born artist, who has been residing in Brooklyn for the past seven years, learned that although her proposal did not fit the requirements this time, the curators not only liked her concept but also were open to discussing other opportunities. Consequently, Allié eventually got an offer to execute her project in a NYC park of her choice. Her decision fell on Tompkins Square Park. A diverse artist with special interest in site-specific public art, Allié says that she chose this location because she was familiar with its intimate scale, visibility from the street, and distinct urban history. “It has a soul,” she explains with a charming French accent and smile.

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She typically approaches public art pieces by first researching the history and characteristics of the site, aiming to connect with people that pass by daily. For this project, she wanted to meet someone who had witnessed the changes in Tompkins Square Park first hand, including its history of violence, homelessness and gentrification. “I was planning on going to the park many times to spot a ‘regular’ but he came to me during my first site visit,” Allié recalls. In fact, just as she was taking a preliminary photo of the location, Christopher, a former homeless man, approached her and a brief conversation with consequent exchange of phone numbers ensued. This resulted in a life size metal silhouette, which depicts Christopher as an everyman, arching backward, face up and hands lifting behind his back like wings. Whether on the verge of flying, or frozen in arrested movement, the man’s lifted face projects an aspiration to reach for something up high.  Her hope is that passersby will stop and look up,  realizing “that there is nothing to see but an elm tree.” Without a hint of sentimentality, “Serendipity,” (2013) as the recently installed piece is called, conjures a dream-like state of here and now with poignant social undercurrents. Allié emphasizes that her consistent interest in temporality is not morose, but rather derives from her reflection on the body as an autonomic entity, separate from the mind.

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photo by Mauro Solmi

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“Serendipity,” 76″ x 24″ x 0.75″, metal, 2013, Tompkins Square Park, NYC, image courtesy the artist

Reflections on temporality and the body as a container are also apparent in the artist’s prolific video work. Allié, who graduated in 2005 with an MFA from Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie, in Arles, had been working on video and performance based projects till 2010, when she started focusing more on sculpture and public art installations. Yet the genesis of her later projects can be traced back to her 2008 video “Bamboos,” for which Allié asked a group of ten people to pose for a few still minutes in Greenpoint Park. Standing close to each other in the sun, heads up, eyes closed and arms floating, she captured the way each individual swayed in subtle and meditative movements, which surprisingly cohered into a unified group rhythm, like bamboos in the wind. This image made a lasting impact on the artist and has clearly inspired themes in subsequent projects.

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still from “Bamboos,” video, 5:39, 2008, courtesy the artist

In her solo show several years later at St. Eustache, an iconic Parisian church, Allié not only presented “Bamboos,” but also displayed neon sculptures that traced her parents, sister, husband and herself in vertical postures. She explains that portraying her family members had nothing to do with religion and was instead based on a pragmatic decision. “They were the most convenient models,” Allié admits, nodding her head. Her process is straightforward: based on photos, she outlines the portraits in a computer program and then fabricates them as neon frames.  The reception was mixed but mostly positive, she says with a shrug. Centrally placed in the church, the video and sculptures attracted a wide range of comments, from “spiritual”, to “video and neon do not belong in a church.” C’est la vie.

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“Silhouettes,” height ranging from 5’.4″ to 6’, neon light and metal structure, 2012, St Eustache church, Paris, France , courtesy the artist

The first time Allié conceived a neon figure was for the 2011 onenight event in Greenpoint, Bring to Light. By using an attractive color, sleek material and neon light to fabricate a figure that was attached horizontally on a wooden bench, she reversed the normal reaction of avoidance towards homeless people. “I don’t usually work with material first,” she states contemplatively, “I fit the material to the project.” Moving from Arles to Brooklyn to live with her (then) future husband in 2005 stimulated further experimentation with new forms, influencing her overall practice in subtle ways.

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“The Glowing Homeless,” neon light, 72″x22″x7″, 2011, Greenpoint, NYC, courtesy the artist

For instance, two years after she has arrived in the states, Allié made  From Above,” a 1:33 video with her own text and no sound.  Depicting herself as a floating figure reflecting on an out of body experience corresponded to her challenges as an immigrant, which included struggling with a new language, making friends, art, and finding her place. At that time, she also started exploring 3-D forms in clay, Papier –Mache, neon and metal.

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“Traces (Pillows),” 16.9″ x 15″x 3.5″, fired clay and acrylic paint, 2012, St Eustache church, Paris, France , courtesy the artist

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“Artifacts,” papier-mâché, gesso and fabric, dimensions variable, 2012 courtesy the artist

Regardless of the various media she chooses, her voice comes across as lucid, poetic, and conveys a disquieting sense of urgency. Allié’s impulse as a storyteller along with her inquisitive restlessness drive her to uncover in her work traces of a fleeting moment, an ephemeral existence and most of all, a narrative that links us to each other in our daily life. Who knows what she may come up with next?