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Ellen Hackl Fagan is Immersed in Blue

Ellen Hackl Fagan_ Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue_studio_2016
Ellen Hackl Fagan, Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue, studio, 2016

Ellen Hackl Fagan, the artist, gallerist and curator who runs ODETTA, is having a show at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT. It is curated by David Borawski, and runs till Feb 19th. AIB interviewed her by email about her diverse roles, exhibitions, and overall vision.

AIB: How long have you been associated with Bushwick and in what forms?

EHF: I’ve been working in Bushwick since late May 2014. Prior to that I had my studio in Harlem, mainly in the barrio. From the moment I registered for Bushwick Open Studios, other artist/curator/gallerists have invited me to work with them, and we exchange opportunities often. There’s a strong sense of community here, about raising the quality of our galleries by supporting one another.

AIB: Tell me about the genesis of ODETTA.

EHF: I’ve been organizing, hanging, creating exhibitions of art since 1982. I’d been looking for the right space to both live and work, for several years. I wanted a gallery space where people could see the work from the street and then walk right in. Also, I was looking for a space that could handle exhibiting large-scale sculpture and painting. Finding that combined use space proved impossible in my price range. When I decided to look at leasing strictly commercial spaces instead, I walked into this building the very first day. My landlord loves the arts and had put in the glass front, hoping to attract a gallerist tenant. So I can’t live here, but it’s definitely where I’m getting some good work done.

3 ½ weeks after signing the lease, I designed and built out the space, incorporating my studio into the back of  the gallery space, and opened ODETTA the day Bushwick Open Studios_2014 weekend started with a four-person show titled Opening Day. This featured the work of artist/gallerists Joe Amrhein, Rob de Oude, Enrico Gomez, and artist Marcus Linnenbrink. The place sang with color and artists and the culmination of 30 + years of art and practice was launched in its new home. That was one of the most fun evenings of my life. The neighborhood welcomed me completely.

AIB: You are an artist, gallerist, curator. How do these roles inform each other and how do you prioritize?

EHF: I think it’s difficult to prioritize, but these sides all support each other. I’d like to believe I’m an interesting curator because I see things from an artist’s perspective.  If I’m working for myself, rather than the gallery, I try to give that some attention mid-week every week. Multiple roles have all always been a part of my overall practice. I’m one of 8 children, and married into a family of 12 kids, so I’m used to chaos.

Ellen Hackl Fagan_Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue_Spacecraft_Detail_ ink, pigment, acrylic on museum board, 108 x 60 inches on wall, 2016
Ellen Hackl Fagan, Seeking the Sound of Cobalt Blue, Spacecraft_Detail_ ink, pigment, acrylic on museum board, 108 x 60 inches on wall, 2016

AIB: You are having now a big exhibition in CT at Real Art Ways. What can you tell me about it ?

EHF: Since mid-November, Into the Blue Again, curated by artist David Borawski, has been running concurrently with Kurt Steger’s solo exhibition, Scribing the Void. Real Art Ways www.realartways.org, is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year. They’re a remarkable institution. Paving the way for interdisciplinary arts as early pioneers in experimental music and film, along with solo exhibitions of some of our best contemporary artists. David placed my works in a solo exhibition in one of their longer, narrow gallery spaces. My 9’ tall blue painting found its home on a singular wall that soars 18’ x 14 ‘ wide. I have experimented with the orientation of my blue paintings, sculpting them while drying in order to amplify their dynamic patterns and to create a humming sort of tension with them just lifted off the ground. Along with large works on paper, the viewer is immersed in this blue environment, creating a joyful space to connect in a full body experience with this gorgeous blue.

AIB: ODETTA is remarkable for incorporating poetry, performance and dance in dialogue with the visual art exhibitions. What is your vision for that in future programming?

EHF: I plan to continue introducing the community to innovative artists who want to share their talents with our enthusiastic audience. Expanding the programming into other genres builds the gallery’s audience. Coming up: Creative Tech Week in May brings the tech world into the gallery setting, integrated into an exhibition about healing systems created by Nature to restore and regenerate itself in the wake of human intervention.

Ellen Hackl Fagan, Into the Blue Again installation, courtesy John Groo photography
Ellen Hackl Fagan, Into the Blue Again installation, courtesy John Groo photography

AIB: What is your vision for the art exhibitions in 2017-18? 

EHF: I plan to have some exhibitions revolve around major themes in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake like our next show, River Woman, featuring works by Nancy Cohen, Fritz Horstman, Ellen Kozak, and Kathleen Vance. A special guest event will an introduction/reception to Riverkeeper. Future exhibitions this year are mainly focused on healing. I feel we’re all in need of that. 2018 is the Year of Color for ODETTA. Programming is going to be all about my favorite topic, color.

AIB: Can you give an insight on how you pick the artists?

EHF: I think, in many ways, the artists pick me. Through studio visits and regular interactions, I get to know their work. If I see a high degree of craftsmanship and intention, and they seem easy to work with, then it’s a matter of how to fit their work into the puzzle. Right now, I’m still in the introductory phase of getting to know artists. I’m looking for quality, a subtle humor and intelligence, compassion, and beauty.

AIB: How does the change in the neighborhood affect the art scene and can you share any concerns and hopes for the near future?

EHF: I see the neighborhood as prime for becoming another extension of Williamsburg. As in other areas, artists and galleries will get pushed out ultimately to luxury brand stores. But artists have always challenged the wisdom of a business model in favor of experimentation. So, a constant migration to affordable space is part of the process. ODETTA is a project that can move around if necessary, and I will continue to develop satellite opportunities for artists’ works to be seen by wider audiences.

 AIB: The country has gone through a political quake. Will that affect your art program or your own artwork?

EHF: For our current show, the elegant black works of Thomas Lendvai, Janet Passehl, and Esther Podemski transmit a funereal hush to the exhibition. Our upcoming show River Woman has a strong message of healing the earth and one another. As we continue through 2017, every exhibition is directly offering messages of hope and loss as the artists themselves experience the ramifications of this new administration’s tactics.

AIB: Where can we see your work next?

EHF: I will be showing my work at A.I.R. in an exhibition titled Space Craft, curated by  Liz Surbeck Biddle, featuring works by Tomoko Abe, Liz Surbeck Biddle, Ellen Hackl Fagan, and Jackie Welsh. Opening reception Friday March 17, 6-8 pm. This exhibition runs thru April 16, 2017.

April 4- June 29, 2017, What Does Blue Sound Like?, solo exhibition featuring my web based phone app, The Reverse Color Organ, at the New York Public Library, Mid-Manhattan Library Windows. Artist dialogue with guest artists Joseph Celli and Hap Tivey, April 29, 2017 fromj 2:30-4:30 pm.

Ellen Hackl Fagan 

Into the Blue Again

Real Art Ways

Hartford, CT

November 17, 2016 – February 19, 2017

David Borawski, Curator

 

 

Trans-cen-der, a Salubrious Push in Bushwick

On Tuesday, January 31st, on a cold winter evening, the Temporary Storage Gallery space in Brooklyn Fireproof was heated up by a lively dialogue about art. Trans-cen-der Art Group launched their first meeting, featuring six speakers: Sharilyn Neidhardt, Christopher Stout, Cibele Vieira, Tim Gowan, Luis Martin, and Meer Musa. The second meeting will take place on Feb 28th at 7PM, featuring artists including Mary DeVincentis, Thomas Burr Dodd, Heidi King, Kurt Steger, Dan Romer, Susan Carr, among others.
AIB interviewed by email the three founders of this initiative: Meer Musa, Sharilyn Neidhardt, and Tim Gowan.

Cibele Vieira, part of the series "The Thread Has a Finger" , exhibits at "We need to talk.." at Petzel gallery until February 11
Cibele Vieira, part of the series “The Thread Has a Finger” , exhibits at “We need to talk..” at Petzel gallery until February 11

AIB: What is the genesis of Trans-cen-der Art Group?

SHARILYN: Christopher Stout ran a very similar group for three years called Bushwick Arts Critique Group. The three of us all attended and/or presented at some point and found it extremely enriching. When Christopher decided to focus on running a gallery, Bushwick Arts Critique Group stopped meeting. I started bugging Christopher about re-starting the group, and eventually he relented, so long as we called it something completely different. Christopher was ridiculously supportive in putting everything together. I quickly realized that I’d need help, and Christopher put me in touch with Meer and Tim, who had also asked about getting the group going again. I had met both Meer Musa and Tim Gowan before, through Arts in Bushwick and other arts-related events. We started meeting in November for a January launch.

TIM: I received an email from Christopher Stout announcing that he was turning over the reins of BACG to Sharilyn, and extended an invitation to me to be a part this great program. What I loved about BACG is that it a community event bringing artists and other like-minded people together.

AIB:  How long have you been in Bushwick / or associated with the neighborhood?

MEER: I have been living in Bushwick since 2010 and I have started to participate as soon as I was aware of the Bushwick Art Scene, which was the following summer during Bushwick Open Studios. My main medium is painting. I have shown my paintings in Storefront Ten Eyck, David and Schweitzer Contemporary, Studio 10 and, Parenthesis Space in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

SHARILYN: I’ve lived in East Williamsburg since 2008 and have had a studio (with Cibele Vieira) at Brooklyn Fireproof since 2015. I participated in Bushwick Open Studios from 2011 and served on the Arts in Bushwick core committee in 2016. I’m a painter who has shown with David & Schweitzer, Friday Studio Gallery, and Parenthesis, among others.

TIM: I was born in Queens, grew up on Long Island. In 1999 I decided to move within the City with the intention of moving to Astoria (affordable at one time).  But, as things should turn out, I unexpectedly moved to Ridgewood.

AIB: What are you aiming to achieve in these events ?

MEER: We are aiming to have artists share their work with other artists and curators, and speak about their works in front of a supporting crowd. It is a great opportunity for artists to expose their art work to a room full of audience, build an artist community, and support one another.

SHARILYN: It’s so easy for artists to get isolated, alone in a studio setting for hours at a time. My work transformed from an engrossing hobby to a serious practice once I started painting at Brooklyn Fireproof. Suddenly there were other artists in my space looking at my work, involving me in their projects, asking for my feedback. Feeling part of a community was not only healthier for me, but moved my work forward immeasurably. Now I just want to grow and enrich that community in any way I can, hopefully providing a similar salubrious push for other artists.

TIM: Community, community, community.  There’s nothing worse than walking into a gallery opening or social event where it appears that everyone knows each other except me…painfully awkward.  And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s ever felt that way.  So with Trans-cen-der, we want to foster community and create an environment that encourages social connection.  For example, at the end of the evening, we all go out to dinner and EVERYONE is not only welcome, but encouraged to join us.

Christopher Stout, upcoming solo at Lichtundfire Gallery in the Lower East Side April 2017
Christopher Stout, upcoming solo at Lichtundfire Gallery in the Lower East Side April 2017
Luis Martin, America Is My Sister, Collage 14 x 17 inches, 2016
Luis Martin, America Is My Sister, Collage 14 x 17 inches, 2016

AIB: Are you scheduling ahead?

MEER: The next slide presentation / Art Talk will take place on Tuesday, February 28th.

SHARILYN: Current plan is to meet the last Tuesday of the month for the foreseeable future. We are taking turns putting each evening together. In addition, we will be hosting smaller side-projects. I am hosting an informal chat session for artists who want to discuss the materials and techniques they use in their art practice, it’s scheduled for Thurs Feb 16.

TIM:  Meer will host this month (February), I will host next month (March), Sharilyn will host April, and then back to Meer for the month of May.

AIB: Can artists apply, is it invitational, or both?

MEER: Artist can apply. At the moment we may have a few space left. It will be eight artists maximum. If the space gets filled, we can keep them in mind for the following event.

SHARILYN: It’s both, and it’s up to the host of the evening to decide who presents.

TIM: We strongly encourage artists to apply, and not only local artist, but artists from all over are welcome to submit their work for consideration.

AIB:  What are your criteria for presenters?

MEER: Nine minutes talk and maximum 10 jpg (RGB) images from a series.  Images need to be 72 DPI at least 15” to 18” width and however in length. Artists can send JPGS to: transcenderartgroup@gmail.com   with WeTransfer or Dropbox storage space art file link.

SHARILYN: Currently we are considering only visual art that can be conveyed in still images. We can’t support video at the moment, but that’s something we are actively looking to change in the future. I don’t want to discourage video artists, but you might have to help us with the technical details!

AIB: I assume you are all artists? Tell me briefly about your own practice and if you are involved in community activity.

MEER: I am a painter, my other practices are drawings and photography.  Besides my involvement in Trans-cen-der Art Group I helped out during the Bushwick Open Studio opening events, set up and dismantle benefit art shows.

SHARILYN: I’m a painter and I also dabble in photography and printmaking.

TIM: I’m a painter and I also play with mixed media, street and guerilla art. Over the past three years, I have volunteered for numerous events associated with Arts In Bushwick, which includes Community Day, Open Studios, and other events where I am needed.

Meer Musa, ‘Indian Eyes’
Sharilyn Neidhardt ‘I Hit a Wall (Milwaukee)’ 2016, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 in
Tim Gowan (Untitled installation view)

AIB: Tell me about the first presenters: how did you put these artists together.

SHARILYN: I thought it would be easier to curate and invite other artists if we put ourselves through the process first. It became a way to practice putting the evening together and to focus our message. We included Christopher as the creative progenitor of Trans-cen-der, and he helped us get many details in place. Cibele Vieira and Luis Martin are supportive fellow travelers well-versed in creating and maintaining art communities.

MEER: Our first presenters included the team that started Trans-Cen-Der art group. We included Christopher Stout, who started Bushwick Art Crit, Sharilyn invited her studio mate Cibele Vieira, and I invited artist Luis Martin.

AIB: Anything I did not ask and you would love to share?

MEER: My sub group for “Artists who meditate” will soon have a place to meet and speak about how their practice helps them stay centered in order to make time for creativity.

SHARILYN: Our first night of presentations was an overwhelming success! I was excited by all the people who showed up not only to be supportive on a cold winter Tuesday, but also asked pointed questions, and were eager to participate. I’d also like to mention that we are indebted to Thomas Burr Dodd and Hazel Lee Santino of Brooklyn Fireproof for not only providing a space for us, but also for guiding our organizational process. We definitely could not be without their enthusiastic support.

TIM: I also want to thank Christopher Stout, Thomas Burr Dodd, and Hazel Lee Santino for their support.

Trans-cen-der Art Group

Temporary Storage Gallery space in Brooklyn Fireproof,  119 Ingraham Street Brooklyn, NY 11237

Instagram

 

 

 

Underdonk, A Community Fixture

Underdonk started in 2013 as a small experimental project space and later evolved into a vibrant artist-run gallery located at 1329 Willoughby. Underdonk’s eleven members operate an ambitious exhibition program such as the notable 2015 exhibition “Paul Klee,” which featured work by twenty contemporary artists who referenced  the 20th century modernist master.  AIB interviewed Underdonk artists via email and they responded as a group:

AIB: How do you know each other?

Underdonk: Some of us are alumni of Hunter College, although at various times; a few of us met at openings or through other art channels.

AIB: How did you form the group?

Underdonk: Underdonk was founded in 2013 as a means to focus our separate curatorial interests into one sustainable project. Some of us were relatively fresh from graduate school and the gallery felt like a way to stay connected to the artistic community we had established there. Some of us have past experience working with artist- run gallery spaces, or have been otherwise involved in the Bushwick art scene. It started in the studios of some of our original Underdonk members at the 17-17 Troutman building as a small experimental project space and then later grew because of the enthusiasm that was started there into our larger space.

AIB: Where did the name come from?

Underdonk: It derives from the street name Onderdonk which is next to the Troutman building where we originated, and means under the hill in the Dutch. It’s catchy, and was the only name that stuck.

Onion by the Ocean, Group Exhibition, Installation image, 2016
Onion by the Ocean, Group Exhibition, Installation image, 2016
Sophie Grant and Jenna Westra, Right of Window, Installation image, 2015
Sophie Grant and Jenna Westra, Right of Window, Installation image, 2015

AIB: What made you chose Bushwick/Ridgewood as a hub?

Underdonk: Underdonk began at 1717 Troutman, where a few galleries like Regina Rex, and Ortega y Gassett, were also operating. Bushwick was attractive because of its open, industrial architecture, proximity to the L, and affordable rents. The last factor turned out to be unreliable, when in 2015 our landlords at 17-17 Troutman gave the boot to all of the galleries leasing space in the building. We moved to a temporary location in Williamsburg, while hunting for our current home at 1329 Willoughby.  We have found a great landlord and are lucky to again be in the vicinity of other artist-run spaces such as Transmitter, TSA, and Microscope.

AIB: Tell me about your organization and mode of operation.

Underdonk: In curatorial and administrative matters we pride ourselves on our flexibility. We accommodate and respect one another’s individual interests and scheduling constraints. That said, we meet no less than once a month, and we email all the time. Keeping membership at eleven allows each of us to curate around one show a year, with room for our annual benefit auction. That is happening soon, in late February/early March, via Paddle8. We are also always happy to hear proposals for visiting curator exhibitions, performances, and readings.

AIB: How do you see Underdonk in context of other artist groups in the area?

Underdonk: We feel that professionalism is an important aspect of what we do. For instance, we recently acquired both fine art and liability insurance. We also believe, however, that in certain spaces, like our own, professionalism can be overemphasized, to the detriment of experimentation and openness. We hope to remain broad-minded and open to new ideas, regardless of any shifts in the character of the neighborhood and New York at large.

Osamu Kobayashi, "Woogie", Solo Exhibition, Installation image, 2016

Osamu Kobayashi, “Woogie”, Solo Exhibition, Installation image, 2016

AIB: Do you share an aesthetic vision for your group and curatorial projects?

Underdonk: No, not officially! Members are unrestrained when it comes to organizing shows. Most of us turn to one another for feedback or suggestions on artists to include, so there ends up being a sense of continuity.

 Patrice Renee Washington, "Rags and Rinds", Solo Exhibition, Installation image, 2016
Patrice Renee Washington, “Rags and Rinds”, Solo Exhibition, Installation image, 2016

AIB: Do you do collaborative work?

Underdonk: We often co-curate shows, and we have participated in several exchanges with other galleries. We sometimes invite guest curators to put together shows in our space, without the exchange component. Whenever we organize large scale events, such as our annual auction, it is a huge group effort. All of this we consider as collaboration. On an individual level, many of us have collaborated with other artists outside of Underdonk.

AIB: What are your goals for the next few years?

Underdonk: One major goal is to bring more people living in the Bushwick neighborhood into the gallery, as viewers and as participating artists. We would love to be a community fixture, not just an insular art world fixture. We also hope to participate in more gallery exchanges and art fairs.

Underdonk at ESX LA, Group Exhibition, Installation image, 2015

Underdonk at ESX LA, Group Exhibition, Installation image, 2015 Underdonk artists: Aleta LanierAshley GarrettChris BertholfDanielle OrchardElisa SolivenEssye KlempnerGeorgia ElrodJJ ManfordLaura FrantzTryn CollinsNicholas Cueva

1329 Willoughby Ave #211
Brooklyn, NY 11237
L train to Jefferson St

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Video: Making History Bushwick Panel Discussions

These discussions took place at David & Schweitzer Contemporary gallery at 56 Bogart Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn on the afternoon of October 16, 2016 as part of closing night of Arts in Bushwick’s 2016 Seeking Space Exhibition, the official show of Bushwick Open Studios.

The Making of MAKING HISTORY BUSHWICK

Arts in Bushwick collective members Cibele Vieira, Nicole Brydson and Aniela Coveleski, editors of the book MAKING HISTORY BUSHWICK, discuss how the book was published independently by our volunteer arts collective with Hyperallergic’s Hrag Vartanian.

Making History Bushwick is a first-of-its-kind document, presenting a contemporaneous snapshot of a vital and growing arts community in the heart of New York City. With more than 400 artworks, essays by noted writers, critics, community activists and members of the thriving Bushwick scene, the book presents an alternative, inclusive, present-tense model for history making. The handsome full-color hardcover volume is the first publication from Arts in Bushwick, 488 pages with a limited edition of 2000 copies, available on amazon.com.

Making Art History Outside of the Mainstream Art World
Moderated by Lisa Corinne Davis, featuring panelists Deborah Brown, Loren Munk, James Panero, Krista Saunders Scenna, and Cynthia Tobar.

Lisa Corinne Davis has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States and Europe, and are included in many collections: The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Lisa’s work has been reviewed by The New York Times, Art in America and ArtNews. She is the recipient of numerous awards including The Louis Comfort Tiffany grant, a National Endowment for the Arts’ Visual Artist Fellowship, and two New York Foundation for the Arts, Visual Arts Fellowships. In addition, Lisa has taught art for the past twenty five years at Parsons School of Design, Cooper Union School of Art, Yale University, and is currently a Full Professor at Hunter College in New York. She is represented by Gerald Peters Gallery, New York, NY, Zolla/Lieberman, Chicago, IL, Galerie Gris, Hudson, NY and The Mayor Gallery, London. Lisa lives and works in Brooklyn and Hudson NY.

James Panero is the Executive Editor of The New Criterion, where he writes monthly on art and culture and serves as the magazine’s gallery critic. His “Gallery Chronicle” column has been praised by writers, artists, and collectors for its coverage of the outer boroughs of New York and their alternative art scenes. As a curator he has organized several exhibitions, including “The Joe Bonham Project” at Storefront Gallery, “Joe Zucker: Armada” at the National Arts Club, and—in partnership with the photographer Meryl Meisler—”Bushwick Chronicle,” on view at Stout Projects in October 2016.

Cynthia Tobar is a conceptual media artist, oral historian, and archivist interested in documenting and preserving community-based stories of social justice and activism. She uses video to restore voices of collectivity, juxtaposing them to counter an overly individualistic view of history, casting a critical lens on political and societal norms surrounding identity, space, and community. Her latest work includes a community-based storytelling project in my neighborhood of Bushwick, “Cities for People, Not for Profit”: gentrification and housing activism in Bushwick that is capturing artist, activist, and local residents stories of displacement. She is the recipient of the 2016 Create Change Residency from the Laundromat Project and the 2016 Engaging Artists Residency which focuses on housing justice.

Deborah Brown is an artist who works in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She received a B.A. in Art from Yale University, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and an M.F.A. from Indiana University She has had one-person shows at galleries and museums around the country. Her work is represented by Mike Weiss Gallery. Her public art projects include mosaics commissioned by the MTA for the Houston Street subway station in Manhattan and roundels for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Terminal at the Port of Miami for Miami-Dade Art in Public Places. In addition to her practice as an artist, she founded and directed Storefront Gallery from 2010-16, and currently serves on the advisory board of NURTUREArt, the artist advisory board of BRIC and Community Board #4 in Bushwick.
Loren Munk since establishing his studio in New York in 1979, the painter Loren Munk has constantly pursued a commitment to painting and the artistic community. Conceptual street works in the early 1980’s lead to his arrest by the New York City Police Department. The subsequent notoriety contributed to a string of successful exhibitions of paintings in Soho and internationally. His unique and innovative use of materials such as mirror, gold-leaf and glass mosaic affirmed him as a founding force of Kitsch Art and a leading member of New York Neo-Expressionism.
As a means of entering the critical and theoretical discourse, Munk created the persona James Kalm in the mid nineties. Publishing hundreds of essays and reviews under this pseudonym, most notably in the Brooklyn Rail, Munk became fascinated with the history and associations of the New York art world. These developments led to a reassessment and the current series of works, which aestheticize art history and document the local art community. YouTube’s Kalm Report exemplifies Munk’s blurring of criticism, historic documentation, journalism and performance art and began a new mode of art reportage on the internet.

Video by Misfit Media

 

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.

—————–

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

 

Bauhaus Babies Spin at ODETTA

Sylvia Schwartz at ODETTA, photo courtesy: Jeanette May

The Bauhaus impacted the way we perceive fine art’s relationship to craft, design, architecture, and industrial material. Founded in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius in Weimar, the Bauhaus’ vision was both radical and utopian: a union of art and design into a single creative expression, creating useful and beautiful objects that fit modern industrial life with particular emphasis on designing for mass production; thus paving the way to later 20th century artists. “Bauhaus Babies” at ODETTA brings together three contemporary artists, whose works relate in some way to the Bauhaus spirit; altogether their work is peppered with a 21st century spin on randomness and chance.

Richard Bottwin’s wall sculptures draw most directly upon Bauhaus architecture and functional objects. His reductive plywood surfaces, laminated or painted with acrylic, are configured to invite the viewer to reinterpret the modernist vocabulary of simple constructions. “Blue Beam,” an elongated narrow sculpture stands out. This predominantly blue structure surprises the viewer with unusual angles and stretched form, on the whole evoking a sense of disorientation, floating, and implied physical gesture.

Richard Bottwin, Blue.Beam, 2016, Maple Veneer On Birch Plywood Acrylic Paint, 48x6x8
Richard Bottwin, Blue.Beam, 2016, Maple Veneer On Birch Plywood Acrylic Paint, 48″x6″x8″

Sylvia Schwartz uses a series of hand-made paper sheets to create a fragile yet bold, large-scale composition with an intense color scheme, predominantly rich in subtle red. Her surfaces create a meditative space which is both tranquil and stirring. Schwartz’s wall installation commands the space and at the same time keeps growing on the viewer the longer they spend time with it. Her process is elaborate. She mixed the red pigments together with the pulp and made paper sheets, then she worked with pigmented cotton and abaca pulp that could be layered into silicone molds she had made from seaweed on the beach over many years in her native Australia.  Her molds cast seaweed and clay, capturing finger prints along the way. These textures and color schemes allude in subtle ways to the Australian landscape, its red clay soil, desert and blue-green ocean. “I wanted the piece to ultimately be itself and not about nature, about the balancing act between life told and life lived,” she concludes.

Sylvia Schwartz, Red Plane. 2016, Hand made paper, cast hand made paper, nails and painted fiber board, 124 "x 230"x 7"
Sylvia Schwartz, Red Plane. 2016, Hand made paper, cast hand made paper, nails and painted fiber board, 124 “x 230″x 7”, photo courtesy: Jeanette May

Ryan Sarah Murphy also aims to stay away from direct narrative content. Her vivid collages form “Pages”, a Jazzy wall installation which suggests fragmented architecture and landscape with distinct rhythmic play between shapes, colors and lines. Marked by a horizon line, each image offers an entry point and a sense of grounding. “What I’m interested in is shifting these constructed forms into more unfamiliar territory, where you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at,” Murphy says. For this ongoing series of collages, from about 2014 to the present, Murphy tore out the front and back pages from her collected used hardcover books and pasted the cut cardboards on top. Her collage process is highly intuitive too but unlike Schwartz’s mixed use of hand-made and found material, Murphy exclusively manipulates found objects.

Ryan Sarah Murphy, Pages Installation photo courtesy: Jeanette May

Ryan Sarah Murphy, Method, 2016, found cardboard on torn book page, 12.5″ x 9″, photo courtesy: Ryan Sarah Murphy
Ryan Sarah Murphy, Practice, 2016, found cardboard on torn book page, 10” x 7.25 “, photo courtesy: Ryan Sarah Murphy
Ryan Sarah Murphy, Practice, 2016, found cardboard on torn book page, 10” x 7.25 “, photo courtesy: Ryan Sarah Murphy

“UTA Bauhaus UTA,” an energetic performance by Uta Bekaia, Uta Brauser, with dancers and music, compliments the exhibition, bringing to life Geometric archetypes through movement , gestures, spins, and poses in wearable sculptures. Costumed in sculptural shapes, the performers animate and merge geometry with the human body, counterpointing female and male energies to express the power of procreation.

Overall, “Bauhaus Babies” lays out an elegant, playful and at times deeply engaging array of artworks and performance, tying this group of contemporary artists to the reductive aesthetics of the Bauhaus with an aim to create new dialogues.

UTA Bauhaus UTA
UTA Bauhaus UTA

Bauhaus Babies, featuring works by Richard Bottwin, Ryan Sarah Murphy and Sylvia Schwartz. @odettagallery

 

Exploring Perception in Minimalist Reflections at Fresh Window

Three British Artists in their 70s at Fresh Window featured a body of minimalist work that explores perception, recognition, and spatial experiences. This show was organized by Bartha Contemporary Ltd. for the Exchange Rates Expo and was on view from October 20 to November 20, 2016.

Douglas Allsop uses reflective materials that echo the room where the artworks are placed. Reflective Editor, Two Horizontal Rectangular Holes, Parallel Pattern, Horizontal Division (2010) is hung prominently on the main wall of the square-spaced, white-wall gallery. The four rectangles, each cut in half by a black line, are made of cast acrylic frames. They outline a frameless view—we don’t see a straightforward reflection of ourselves, just the wall on which the work hangs. These angular, linear works show a skewed reality, warping the reflection of the viewer and the space in which they stand.

Adam Baker Mills explores the characteristics of light and shadow, an artistic investigation that he began in the sixties. The works have been meticulously crafted to dupe the viewer’s perception. Their experience of the work changes as the viewer walks from left to right. New colors are discerned, substances are redefined, and shapes are reformed. When viewing Shadowgap 2 (2016) straight on, it appears that two pieces of MDF have been hung parallel on the wall with a gap between them. Upon close inspection, the edges reveal a white paint that gives the illusion that the pieces are cut out. In Red Box (2016), pink and purple tones illuminate from the center. Depending on the viewer’s vantage point, the intensity and tone change as light and shadow overlap, giving life to new shapes of color.

Alan Johnston considers his practice to be a collaboration between art and architecture, as well as Eastern and Western aesthetics. In his Mies van der Rohe Haus Series, the artist utilizes Titanium White acrylic, pencil, charcoal, and beeswax on plywood to create different shapes and textures on black-and-white square panels. The surfaces have architectural references like windows, doors, and walls. Johnston’s abstracted works allow for meditation on line, color, and form.

Though these artists follow in the Minimalist tradition and utilize hard-edged, geometric shapes, they respond to the space in which they are exhibiting and thus transform it. Three British Artists in their 70s is engaging and witty, challenging visitors’ expectations and what they believe they are seeing.

‘Bushwick Tales’ Exhibits Urbanism through Art and Artifact

The group show Bushwick Tales exemplifies a Bushwick urbanism while conjuring up whimsical tales.

Bushwick Tales was a gallery show curated by artist and writer Etty Yaniv, a contributor to this blog, featuring sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, collages and a performance the night of the opening, which was opened at 117 Grattan Street over the weekend of Bushwick Open Studios and closed October 16, 2016.

Yaniv explained that since the show took place during BOS weekend, she decided to go with a large group and diverse work. After several conversations with various artists she selected artworks from Fanny Allié, Nancy Baker, Dasha Bazanova, Noa Charuvi, Jaynie Gillman Crimmins, Ashley Garrett, Michal Gavish, Peter Gynd, Liz Jaff, Amy Mahnick, Anki King, Eliot Markell, James Prez, Evan Reehl Ryer, Bob Seng, Patricia Satterlee, Natalie Simon, Fedele SpadaforaTrish Tillman, Jeanne Tremmel, Brian Wood, Mary Ivy Martin and included one of her own. All these artists are staples in the Bushwick arts community in some way. She said she wanted to avoid a salon style exhibition and made an attempt to provide each artist a distinct presence, “opting for a mélange of sculptural work and wall work to engage the whole space.” 

Attending the invitational exhibition reminded me of morning walks through the neighborhood. One of my favorite paths takes me past the small manufacturing district along Waterbury Street then over to Newtown Creek. When the metal garage doors are open I get a glimpse into the mysterious going-ons of each business. When the doors are rolled down, it’s the remnants along the curbs, the stains on the concrete and the things stuck in the gutters that provide hints about what happens inside. For me, this show captured the industrial-urban essence that surrounds Bushwick, through forms, choice of palettes and overall aesthetics.

For instance, in The Carrier Series, the silhouettes created with black plastic bags, hand-sewn on fabric by Fanny Allié, looked like the familiar and unfamiliar figures carrying their burdens along Morgan Avenue. As you stared at these figures the feelings oscillated between lonely and heroic and then each became dark compositions that engaged one’s sense of structure. Even though pieces were static, a lenticular approach also projected the quality of breathing.

James Prez showcased several sculptures from a larger body of work called Booktures. The artifacts from these artfully composed objects could have easily been taken out of a waste bin from one of the nearby toy distribution centers. Some are fastened atop old books. All of them strike your imagination and random narratives begin to build – or memories of familiar toys, like horses and ducks, quickly flash by. Unlike the narratives implied by Prez’s work, Amy Mahnick manipulates industrial found objects, like tissue boxes and egg cartons, for their design affect. How they are situated in space is also important.     

Fanny Allié, Woman Wheel (TheCarriers), plastic bag hand-stitched onto fabric, 2014-15, 14" x 19"
Fanny Allié, Woman Wheel (TheCarriers), plastic bag hand-stitched onto fabric, 2014-15, 14″ x 19″

 

James Prez, Composites from Booktures, 2016
James Prez, partial installation view
Amy Mahnick, Quatrefoil, carryout coffee tray, 2016, 7.5”x7.5”x2”
Amy Mahnick, Quatrefoil, carryout coffee tray, 2016, 7.5”x7.5”x2”

The little ceramic creature, Misunderstood, by Dasha Bazanova lives underneath the bridge at English Kills, between Morgan and Varick Avenues. It is kind and humble and it’s main job is to bless the tiny school of silver fish that swirl in the creek so that they eventually make their way to healthier waters. Go ahead, go out there one early morning and it might grace you with its presence. Not far from Misunderstood is Pompeii on Parade #1 skiing its way down Flushing Avenue in the winter. Elliot Markell creates imaginary characters from found objects. In this piece, the anthropomorphic shape is wonderfully executed with the use of concrete, rebar, paint, old gloves and found wood.

Michal Gavish goes weird science with Nano Portraiture, creating large petri dishes that capture the biological structures of the polluted creek or the composition  that can be found in the nearby oil refinery. That’s not really the case, but it is, when your imagination is walking through Bushwick.

The day of the opening, guests passed an old Christmas tree with two brown boots popping out of the end. At first glance it looked like a prank but then you realized there was a person embedded in the tree. Mary Ivy Martin stared straight up into the sky that night while people mistook her for trash. Her performance and subsequent documentation reflects on the blurred lines between people and nature in urban environments.

Yaniv explains, “She was lying motionless on the sidewalk outside the space in pouring rain, tucked in garbage bags and a Christmas tree. It was quite amazing to see how passersby were mostly ignoring her presence, at times even throwing garbage at her (accidentally I hope).”

16.Michal Gavish, Nano portrait 2 (Protein); acrylic on fabric and paper; 2015,12" diameter (20X20 framed)
Michal Gavish, Nano portrait 2 (Protein); acrylic on fabric and paper; 2015,12″ diameter (20X20 framed)
Noa Charuvi, Rocks and Drums, oil on canvas, 2016, 14”x18”
Noa Charuvi, Rocks and Drums, oil on canvas, 2016, 14”x18”

The paintings by Noa Charuvri capture construction details, material vignettes that are ever present as a result of the rapid reshaping of the urban landscape that is happening in Bushwick. Jeanne Tremel’s sculpture-installation, “Mindful / Landfill”, deals with displacement directly. According to Yaniv, “Jeanne’s ephemeral sculpture embodies, in a poetic way, the very essence of this Bushwick tale. It’s both sad and life affirming.” It was conceived in the artist’s old studio a few blocks away, dismantled and stored when she had to leave, then re-appeared at Venus Knitting Art Space. The sculpture-installation appears to be loosely constructed with a dense amount of debris, dirt, plant material and found objects woven in an empty mattress wire structure. This metal cloud of debris is propped up approximately 24″ from the floor. Scattered below is a light layer of dirt that seems to have fallen from the cloud. 

All these works captured a kind of Bushwick urbanism. Curator Etty Yaniv further explains, “I definitely wanted to establish an underlying sense of place in this show, particularly of urban spaces such as Bushwick. In my own work I am very drawn to the idea of place and time specificity, so that is inherently part of my thought process when I am curating as well.”  

An Excerpt from Making History Bushwick

Seeking Space Making HistoryCoinciding with the tenth annual Bushwick Open Studios, Arts in Bushwick is releasing Making History Bushwick, a 400 page hardcover book written, edited and published by the collective that facilitates the annual event.

The glossy 9×9 inch hardcover features 400 pieces of art by 405 artists, submitted as part of an open call exhibition in Bushwick in spring of 2015.

Making History Bushwick will go on sale at the book launch September 30, 6-9pm, on the opening night of Bushwick Open Studios 2016.

The book launch coincides with the opening night of Seeking Space: Making the Future, Arts in Bushwick’s official group gallery show featuring our seventh annual open call of work including 305 local artists at David & Schweitzer Contemporary. The book is available on Amazon.

To introduce the art in the context of its geography, Making History Bushwick shares historical ephemera from a nascent and maturing arts organization, following its growth trajectory through a decade of volunteer artist-coordinators and community builders. The timeline turns to the historical record of Bushwick and moves into a deep archive of stories from Arts in Bushwick’s existence and some of the problems posed by organizing arts events that create influence in a rapidly gentrifying community.

While many people were integral to this project happening, the book and exhibition were made possible by the extraordinary organizing efforts of volunteer Arts in Bushwick coordinator Cibele Vieira.


Making History Bushwick Introduction
Edited by Nicole Brydson

The Bushwick neighborhood in northern Brooklyn sits inland alongside the Newtown Creek and directly south of the Queens border in a combination industrial and residential urban corridor of New York City.

Around the turn of the 21st century, an influx of artists began trickling into Bushwick’s industrial parts, attracted by wide-open warehouses with inexpensive live-work spaces. By 2016 that trickle became a fire hose on full blast. Where once houses were burned for insurance money as recently as the downtrodden decade of the 1970s, real estate in 2016 is on fire in a different way. In the wake of a troubled past, a shiny upbeat future stands before us. It is literally being built before our eyes in the form of modern condo boxes, stacking high into the sky. That we have watched history repeat itself here, however, means some of Bushwick’s most longstanding and resilient residents have become displaced by the influx of wealth that has followed in a wave that can be described as both post-Chelsea or post-Williamsburg, depending on your generation.

It is within that context that the all-volunteer, artist-run grassroots organization Arts In Bushwick is turning ten years old, and our most well-known arts event, Bushwick Open Studios, will live on in its tenth iteration. The festival’s lifespan, documented in these pages, has occurred alongside, and often encouraged, wittingly and unwittingly, the extreme makeover that is in motion here.

Recognized by art historians, critics, buyers, gallerists, and other artists across the globe who visit over 1,000 art studios, 60 galleries and performance spaces, and myriad murals packed into two square miles, Bushwick has grown to include a highly concentrated community of artists. The creative energy is unrivaled, collaboration sometimes unavoidable – within certain spheres – and the pace of change utterly overwhelming.

More than 1,200 artists registered for, and many more participated in, the 2015 Bushwick Open Studios festival. Arts in Bushwick has also facilitated dozens of exhibitions, community programs, educational events, panels, blog coverage of the neighborhood, and year-round opportunities beyond the visual arts.

As a collective, one of our principal goals is to empower a socially responsible group of intersectional humans to create art and showcase it. We have fallen short of this goal often in our ten year history, particularly while learning the difference between something that is “open” and something that is “inclusive.” The gap between these things is what it means to be intersectional or not.

Our greatest vulnerability as an arts collective appears when we ignore the role that we, and our art plays, whether we like it or not, in how the neighborhood and its economy have changed over time. Often arts organizations like ours have failed to recognize the perils of gentrification until it begins to affect artists’ ability to afford creative communities.

In defiance of our perhaps otherwise aesthetically inclined lives, there is a discomfort that arises when experience reveals the politics of art – whether politics are claimed or not – but it can be evolutionary, and it can and should be used to integrate and intersect the lives of all members in the Bushwick community, past, present and future. It is up to us to individually interpret, and strive for, our place in this hybrid global and local economy of creativity, and our responsibility to recognize the paths of others and our relative privilege.

This book was made not just in celebration of our organizational anniversary, the amazing and creative talent that has associated with Arts in Bushwick and our neighborhood, but as a way to document, question and understand our history, experience, place and current events of our beloved space in context. This book features a variety of perspectives through the written word and visual art of many of Bushwick’s residents, past and present.

This project comes at a pivotal time in Bushwick, where a rapidly growing community means the culture of the neighborhood has shifted the pendulum of perspective in media to mostly newer faces, many from the art world. Through this global visibility, the international, transient art world class renders its privilege by directly increasing the economic strain on residents who are often invisible to them, particularly in sentiments like, “nobody was here before the artists.”

We recognize and lament that residents were propelled from their homes by the price hikes of life in Bushwick, and that now many artists find themselves in the same boat, with rent at unattainable reaches for many longtime residents of the artist and creative classes. To continue working and remain in their homes and studios, artists and residents must reckon with the realities of circumstance, which come as a result of rapid real estate development made possible by our very own aestheticism.

Ultimately this book is our conversation – it represents the many voices and positions that have sprung forth in our dialogue. Arts in Bushwick hopes this book can be used as a reference not only for Bushwick’s community but also within the art world and other creative communities in similar circumstances and conversations, especially in our borough of Brooklyn. We use these pages to explore what is possible when communities come together as well as to make visible what happens when we do not. We seek an examination of ourselves.

We begin with an overview of Bushwick’s shifting economy and populations, from its origins up to what it is today by current Arts in Bushwick blog editor, artist and archivist Aniela Coveleski. What follows are a compendium of five articles chosen by Chloë Bass, a founding artist organizer with Arts in Bushwick. The articles tell us a little about what AiB organizers were thinking, as well problems that are raised in the process of creating an arts community in the framework of a gentrifying neighborhood.

The history of Arts in Bushwick is provided through the testimonies of our volunteers who have participated throughout our decade-long life. These sidebars are little windows into the lives of key Arts in Bushwick volunteers, alongside images from our archives of catalogues and interiors of many artist studios taken by Hrag Vartanian of the arts blog Hyperallergic over the past ten years.

Bushwick native artist and activist Anthony Rosado organized the next chapter, called Ever-Gentrifying New York City: Conversations on Displacement & Community Building. Anthony has experienced the effects of gentrification and displacement firsthand, and as a curator of this anthology, he sought to collect reactions to, and documentation of, displacement and community building in Bushwick and other similarly positioned neighborhoods of New York City. These are voices that might otherwise be invisible to a traditional art world audience.

The anthology starts with a conversation between Rosado and his ancestors. This is followed by Cynthia Tobar, a native Bushwick resident, whose documentation of people on the frontlines of housing activism is essential in our battles against displacement and erasure; Tom Angotti, a longstanding revolutionary who encourages inclusive community planning and whose lens is necessary when discussing anti-displacement methodology in Bushwick; Lauren Raheja, who covers the Secret Garden’s ability to survive through aggressive gentrification, while providing to the community, is an example of community building and sharing resources from which we can all learn; Robin Grearson, a writer who participates in and tells the story of a community conversation called Part of the Solution, involving Arts in Bushwick core organizers; and Meg Sullivan, who struggles with white guilt, revealing and pummeling the apathy of ignorant new residents of Bushwick. The anthology ends with Yazmin Colon, a community organizer introducing her work in Bushwick with the youth group she founded, Educated Little Monsters (ELM). ELM is not just a safe heaven for kids, it is also directed by the leadership of the youth, where they make their own choices on artistic taste and expression through art, fashion, music, dance and theater. Some of the ELM kids are pictured here in culturally relevant clothing of their ancestors to connect the kids with their personal history. The anthology is illustrated by Bianca Perez’s photographs archiving the feeling of exclusivity that gentrification inspires.

The second half of this book features 400 works by 405 artists who responded to Arts in Bushwick’s open call to be included in the Making History Exhibition and Arts in Bushwick benefit, which provided the means for publishing this book and supporting our year-round programming.

The exhibition’s open call asked artists to self select as part of the recent art history of Bushwick. The show was inspired by an eponymous text by the artist and writer Loren Munk, who has graciously agreed to let us reprint his essay here, just ahead of the artwork on display. We feel this is an amazing introduction to the work that directly takes up the challenge Munk makes to us, the artists, to empower ourselves to create and document our own history. Here it is: We made it in the most independent fashion we could muster.

In epilogue, artist Jen Hitchings interviews Krista Saunders Scenna and Dexter Wimberly, the curators of Making History, which opened on April 19 and closed on May 10, 2015, with a benefit raffling off work to fund the labor of love that is this book that you hold in your hand. Together with the Arts in Bushwick Benefit Committee, they led more than 60 volunteers in putting together the visual experience of the exhibition at Store Front Ten Eyck gallery – owned and operated by the artist Deborah Brown, whose support was immensely helpful through the lead-up to and exhibition of Making History.

Finally, we also asked the writer James Panero to examine Bushwick’s current art scene in the context of art history, and he gave us Paris, one hundred years ago. James is a very present art critic in Bushwick, a connoisseur of Bushwick Open Studios for all ten years, and once calculated that to visit every studio during the event, the visitor must spend less than a minute and a half at each site, travel included.

We have to end this conversation saying that Arts in Bushwick is a patchwork of minds that have and had different opinions and sometimes-paradoxical ideas and opposing viewpoints. We think we are richer because of our differences and our willingness to keep talking. We may not have answers for all of the problems presented by the global arts economy and gentrification, but we are certainly not looking the other way from those problems; rather, we are reaching out to find and facilitate solutions. It is imperative for the future survival of this collective.

The intention of this project is to shift the paradigm that just the colonizers, the winners, the well-offs, write [art] history. Within this book we hope we are writing another, more honest story of our neighborhood and our organization’s sometimes-messy history. We do not know if this is a successful history – it depends on your parameters for success – but we know that this is our history, created with our own work, with love.

Making History

Read more about the making of Making History Bushwick.

A Preview of Seeking Space: Making the Future

In the celebratory spirit of the 10th anniversary of Bushwick Open Studios, on October 1-2, 2016, Arts in Bushwick is producing its annual exhibition, Seeking Space, an open-call exhibition with the theme Making the Future.

Arts in Bushwick seeks to open a conversation about Bushwick’s future as a creative community, asking artists to consider, ‘What does our future look like? What can it look like? How can we manifest the future we want to experience?’

The show will open September 30, 6-10pm, and run through October 16, 2016 at DAVID&SCHWEITZER CONTEMPORARY, a new gallery launched by Michael David and Keith Schweitzer at the former Life on Mars space in the 56 Bogart building. The show is organized in collaboration with Arts in Bushwick and co-curated by David and Julie Torres. The space will host discussions and performances during, and the two weekends following, Bushwick Open Studios.

making-history-bushwick-by-arts-in-bushwickArts in Bushwick will also launch its first publishing effort at the September 30 opening night. Making History Bushwick is a collaborative effort that showcases over four hundred artists living and working in Bushwick, alongside the organization’s history, and a discussion of gentrification and the arts. It will be available for sale at a discounted rate at the gallery during BOS.

David, who has arrived in Bushwick three years ago both as an artist and Life on Mars gallery director says that, “Bushwick is one of the last communities in New York where artists, and the galleries that support them, can still take risks, make mistakes, experiment, and let creativity flourish,” an unabashedly optimistic take on the show theme, Making the Future. Many changes have taken place in the Bushwick art scene throughout the past ten years, and there is a sense among many local artists, writers, and gallerists that this energetic art hub is at a crossing road.

While that might be true, the Bushwick of today is much different than it once was. Loren Munk is a writer and artist whose work Bushwick unfinished 2003-2014 (oil on linen, 84×72″, 2013-16) is the centerpiece of Seeking Space: Making the Future. He has always been interested in the future of art, artists, and how change happens and one day back in 2003 he pedaled out to the Morgan / Flushing nexus to take a look around.

“No one even knew what to call the area…various tags were tried, but Bushwick stuck,” he recalls. Monk says that Bushwick is facing the same pressures and potential over-development that have occurred in SOHO, the East Village, Chelsea and Williamsburg. He foresees larger, more commercial galleries moving in, and smaller, less commercial spaces moving elsewhere.

Shanna Maurizi, who has also been involved in the Bushwick art scene for the past thirteen years, expresses a similar view. Maurizi, an artist, experimental filmmaker and the founder of the artist-run collective space Songs for Presidents, observes that “most young artists can’t afford to live and work here.” She thinks that an art scene will remain, perhaps as a hub for mid-level galleries, but the artists will live and work somewhere else.

Rob de Oude, an artist and gallerist who has been involved with a few different spaces in the neighborhood since around 2008, including Parallel Art Space, and Transmitter, also sees escalating real estate prices as a crucial game changer.

“In the earlier days everyone would see each other at pretty much the same openings. Now several arts communities seem to be operating simultaneously, while at the same time being pressured to scatter due to increased real estate values,” he says.

With a more optimistic view, Paul D’Agostino, an artist, writer, translator, curator and educator who has been active in the Bushwick community even before opening Centotto, a gallery in his loft, in 2008, interprets the change that has occurred in the Bushwick art scene as a process of growth and maturity. “The consistent increase in the number of artists and art spaces in the area has proven to be advantageous for everyone involved, and it has resulted in an ever greater spotlight being cast on Bushwick as a reliably lively, energetic, and in many ways important art locus,” he says.

Lacey Fekishazy who has been involved in the Bushwick art community for the past ten years as artist and gallerist, also feels that “there is still a creative energy that can be tapped here.” After living in five different NYC neighborhoods, she finds that Bushwick by far gives her the biggest sense of belonging to a community. Fekishazy, an artist and founder of the gallery SARDINE, observes that when she started her space in 2011, there were about twenty art spaces, and now there are about sixty two. “My hope is that Bushwick will continue to be an inclusive community supportive of creative individuals who take risks,” she sums up with an open-ended glance at the future.

Whatever the future holds, join Arts in Bushwick at the opening night of Seeking Space: Making the Future on September 30, and Bushwick Open Studios, October 1-2, 2016 to join in this important conversation.

Seeking Space opening night & Making History Bushwick Book Launch September 30, 6-10pm, September 30 – October 16, 2016, in collaboration with David&Schweitzer Contemporary
56 BOGART, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
OPEN THURSDAY THROUGH SUNDAY, 1:00—6:00 PM

Featured image courtesy of Loren Monk, Bushwick unfinished 2003-2014, oil on linen, 84×72″, 2013-16

View the online gallery for Seeking Space: Making The Future