This past March, Bushwick Art Crit Group had its inaugural meeting led by local artist and organizer Christopher Stout in the gallery of Brooklyn Fire Proof East. On Wednesday, May 16, the gallery was again filled with artists and art lovers for a unique event within the Crit Group. 16 artists had 3 minutes each to introduce the audience to their work and what they will be showing during Bushwick Open Studios, followed by a 3 minute Q&A per artist.
With Bushwick Open Studios a mere 10 days away, many galleries are preparing for openings set for that wild weekend. But as we all know, Bushwick never sleeps and never takes a break from art happenings. Here’s a handful of creative events happening in the next couple of days…
On Saturday, March 23, 2013, Redbull sponsored the first ever MiniDrome fixed-gear bike race in New York at the Bushwick Church. The schedule for the night consisted of a series of competitions. First, 100 qualifiers each raced to make 10 laps around the track in the quickest time possible from 5-9 PM. Then the top 32 fastest bikers competed against one another. Then the top 16 of that group, then 8, then 4, then 2. Each spectator was given four drink tickets upon entering the event (free Redbull vodkas/cognacs until they ran out!) and over 1,000 people had already RSVP’d before the day of the event. Free T-shirts and Animal grips were being thrown out to the crowd sporadically. Ninjasonik performed. The MC was hilarious. Clearly, the night was an enormous success, if the constant roaring of the crowd was any indication And the occasional biker flying off the track added even more excitement…
Bushwick Art & Shipping Inc. just moved into town. Sure, there are already a few stores that sell art supplies in the neighborhood, such as SoHo Art Materials on Gardner (which operates only during short weekday hours), Better Than Jam at the Loom , and Low Brow Artique on Central. But this addition to the wide array of small businesses popping up in the ‘hood is one that was sorely needed. Bushwick Art & Shipping Inc. brings together all of the art supplies that previously were spread out, scarce, or just plain inaccessible all under one roof. With a very convenient location (on Flushing, just steps from the Morgan L stop), this diverse store houses art supplies, a shipping center which is FedEx, USPS, and Postal Service certified, and a vintage boutique, making it a one-stop-shop for many locals. (Fun fact: well-known gallery Factory Fresh was here before closing in 2012.)
Do you like bikes? Do you like abandoned churches? How does being in an audience of thousands of people watching 100 fixed gear cyclists speeding around a track inside of an abandoned church in Bushwick sound? (more…)
Occasionally, attending a Bushwick gallery opening can feel like stumbling into a hidden garden of rare and enchanting foliage amongst a barren and lonely landscape. That’s the experience TSA New York tends to provide, given their location of a studio on the third floor inside an unmarked factory building on Stewart Avenue. TSA opened their doors in Bushwick in November, but the members (all artists as well) have been curating exhibitions in their Philadelphia location, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, since 2009.
The gallery of The Active Space is large and unusual. To hang any sort of cohesive show might propose a challange — just imagine, one of the long walls consists of 10 foot wide sections interrupted by partitions. However, The Quantum Effect curated by David Gibson has successfully conquered this task. The overarching themes that link all of the works in the show are mysterious familiarity and otherworldly perceptions.
In the days since Sandy severed all subway service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, many residents on either side of the East River have had to find alternate routes to get to work, or to do really anything at all. If even after this week-long absence of public transportation you’re still unaware of how convenient, independent, cheap, quick, and fun riding bikes is…this is my attempt to convince you.
By Jen Hitchings
Jane Fine and James Esber, invited me up to their Williamsburg rooftop to discuss GO! Brooklyn Art, the borough-wide open studio event/contest for a show at the Brooklyn Museum stirring criticisms, excitement, and curiosity. One reason for skepticism is that 1,806 artists registered for it, while 4,500+ did for Bushwick Open Studios. The most compelling reason for interviewing them was that Jane is participating in GO! and James is not, despite having been collaborating under the alias J. Fiber for years, sharing a studio, and being married. Jane and James have both been working artists in Brooklyn since the late eighties.
Jen: So Jane, why did you choose to participate, and James, why not?
Jane: After thinking about it, I ended up feeling like if I didn’t participate and I saw whoever got the show and felt like there work was awful, I know I would’ve been kicking myself for not doing it.
James: I feel like at this point in my artistic career, my studio is not really the best representation of my work. To some artists it’s less attractive. Plus we’re not in a building with a bunch of studios in it so not many people are going to come through. You also have to walk through mine in order to get to Jane’s anyway, so I guess it’s not all that bad.
Jen: I remember you mentioning the fact that you didn’t know about GO! Brooklyn Art until the deadline had passed, and you were curious about that.
Jane: Yeah a Canadian friend of ours knew about it, and she asked if we were doing it and I said “what are you talking about?” Then we were in Bushwick later that day and I guess they had flooded Bushwick with the fliers, and that’s when we saw the deadline had passed. A week later she emailed me and said the extended the deadline, so we had about 3 days to decide. The strange thing about it is that James and I and the Pierogi artists and those who have had reasonably professional careers didn’t even know about it. It seems so professional now. It’s beautifully organized, and it’s not that we should’ve been a priority, but it was just a bunch of emails, and why didn’t anyone get some of us on the phone instead? Is their intention to make it a success and then in the next years everyone wants to be a part of it?
James: I think whether or not it’s a success isn’t really going to determine the quality of the show. It should be more a celebration of artists working in Brooklyn. The idea of having a Brooklyn group show that takes place across the whole borough over two days and it just happens to take place in people’s studios, that’d be a really interesting idea. Then you’d also be showing art in a different context, because it’s in studios.
But the whole “People’s Choice” award thing, a curated show, is a bit bogus and isn’t going to work, because not everyone gets the same foot traffic.
Jen: I kind of feel like the foot traffic issue of the event is going to be centered on “hubs” like Bushwick, where all the condensed studio buildings of young artists are.
Jane: Oh yeah Bushwick is going to get the most foot traffic for sure. And then whoever can get the most people to come to their studios is more likely to ‘win’ the show.
Jen: Yeah, I noticed on the website they suggest having snacks and beverages, which makes it seem all about presentation and wowing the crowd. Did anything similar to this happen in say, the 90′s or early 2000′s?
Jane: Well there was Open House in 2004 at the Brooklyn Museum. Charlotta Kotik, the curator, it was her idea and in the beginning she said it wasn’t going to be a big salon show. As the months went by, we were lucky to each get two pieces in the show.
Over 200 artists ended up being in it, and that was really a celebration of Brooklyn.
“What produced this charged atmosphere would be hard to define… but there is certainly the sense of community and camaraderie here, so rare in the competitive arena of the art world.” Charlotta Kotik and Tumelo Mosaka, Open House catalogue.
James: There was also the Salon of the Mating Spiders exactly 20 years ago in 1992 curated by Annie Herron, over on North 1st between Berry and Wythe. It was just an open call to come bring your work and hang it yourself. By the time the doors opened, the line was around the corner. There was literally not a square inch of room from the floors to the ceiling that wasn’t covered with art.
In addition to these shows, the introduction to the Open House catalogue mentions the Gallery for Living Artists, “an exhibition space devoted to the work of those living and working in Brooklyn” in the 1930′s, exhibitions in the early eighties in the Gowanus Canal Art Yard, the All Fools Show which featured over 200 artists, many from the East Village, which happened in a 32,000 square foot loft in Greenpoint. Another bring-and-install-your-work show happened at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park in 1983.
Nowhere is it mentioned that any sort of juried open studio event or direct competition ending in a curated show took place.
Though GO! Brooklyn Art is a very unconventional approach to a curated museum show, maybe it takes something this rewarding and accessible to open the closed doors of the thousands of Brooklyn artists to the public. Maybe some are refusing participation out of principle. All in all, no one will be harmed by an open studio weekend, or a show at the Brooklyn Museum. And it does provide an amazing opportunity to all those underrepresented artists out there. So if you are an aesthetic individual, make sure to stop by Jane Fine’s studio, and say hi to James when you walk through his.
By Jen Hitchings
- Rachael Pazdan, the Vis-a-Vis founder herself
The festival celebrating DIY culture in Brooklyn, Vis-a-Vis took place over the course of 3 days in 3 different DIY venues (Vaudeville Park, BK Fire Proof, House of Yes). Each night was filled with entrepreneurs and creatives alike, each contributing in their own way throughout a variety of artistic outlets. Many got a chance to meet others who had similar goals and achievements. Some of the participating DIY collective members or founders had years of experience, and others were just starting out as little tadpoles in the overwhelmingly artistic sea of Bushwick. We couldn’t miss it, and these were the moments that won’t be forgotten….
The first night of the festival was held at Vaudeville Park. Ian Colletti moderated a panel discussion, which included a skype conference with members of Spread Art (Bushwick and Detroit), the founders of Morsel Gallery (Bushwick in the early 2000′s), Esther Neff and Brian McKorkle from Performancey Forum, and other collective participants who focused on theatre, experimental music, and performance. The discussion informed the audience of the various stories, trials, and tribulations which come with running (oftentimes illegal) spaces and events in run-down city neighborhoods.
The second night at Brooklyn Fire Proof was filled with live music (including one incredibly talented and upbeat drummer/DJ that Rachael met while he was busking on a subway platform), artwork curated by Jen Hitchings (that’s me), a discussion about the functionality of the contemporary art world, and a very intimate and encompassing dance performance put on by Co-Lab (we reviewed the performance separately here).
The last night of the festival took place at the House of Yes. Performers in flashy garb danced while waiting for a drink at the bar. You couldn’t tell if someone was sincerely trying to engage you in a conversation or if they were performing and you were unknowingly participating in their fantasy world. There were smoke machines, loud beats, masks, glitter, and lots of skin.
By the end of the festival, I’d realized I had not been exposed to such a variety of performances and discussions at any single event since living in the city. Vis-a-Vis left me hoping that more events like this one would sprout up in Brooklyn.