Artists Do It Themselves: Julie Torres' Sprawling Curatorial Project at BOS 2014
Material. That's the word that resonated throughout the rooms of the newly renovated Livestream offices during Bushwick Open Studios, where Julie Torres' latest curatorial project "Do It Yourself" was housed. Hailed as the larged curated exhibition of BOS, this was actually a collection of ten exhibitions of Bushwick artists, each curated by a visiting artist. Within each room, from offices to performance spaces, a clear aesthetic emerged - one where the artist's touch reigns supreme, with the line between painting and object left purposefully unclear.
This was Torres' third year organizing a group of international artists to travel to Bushwick during the BOS festival. She started the project in 2012, inviting artists she had met and admired on Facebook to travel to Bushwick for a collaborative group exhibition. The second year, visiting artists picked a local artist's painting to pair with theirs, drawing comparisons across geographical borders. This year, visiting artists were given their biggest challenge yet: to curate their own exhibition of local artists. With this ambitious plan, Torres' team took over the ground floor of 195 Morgan Ave, creating a sprawling labyrinth of abstract painting and sculpture.
"If you know how to make work, I really believe you know how to curate and show work," says Torres, a veteran artist-curator. She notes that this it the smallest group of visiting artists she has organized, perhaps because of the fear of traversing the border to curating. "When I say 'do it yourself,' I really mean it," she adds, noting that each visiting artist-curator did all of the work to research the Brooklyn artists they reached out to and to organize coherent mini exhibitions in the unusual spaces. In this sense, Torres believes the project has come full circle, and therefore "Do It Yourself" serves as its conclusion.
Bushwick has gained a reputation as a hub of abstract painting over the years, and the artists in "Do It Yourself" are at the forefront of this movement in its most deconstructive form. It is for that reason, perhaps, that the works throughout these exhibitions seemed completely at ease amongst power outlets and furniture. Polly Shindler's silvery hedron painting greets visitors at the building's entrance, resting on a stairway step in the front window of a room curated by Justine Frischmann. From room to room, the artworks seem to communicate peacefully with their converted surroundings, instead of fighting for attention - or a white wall.
The trapezoidal room curated by Julie Alexander and Sean Montogomery was a standout of the ten exhibitions, featuring works such as Esther Ruiz's neon and cement sculptures in conversation with Jay Henderson's seemingly living wall constructions. With Benjamin King's floor assemblages harking of found objects that had encountered a paintbrush, the collection of works in this room ranged from roughly hewn to highly hand-finished, yet came together harmoniously. The combination of wall mounted and free standing works defined the room as a narrative space, alive and interacting with visitors.
Around the corner, David T. Miller of Pennsylvania had curated a corner space of works which mainly displayed aggressive interaction of the stroke with the substrate. Jen Shepard's neon orange drawing seemed to vibrate with a life of its own, paired with an wiped-away painting by Will Hutnick.
Following the turn of the cooridor, one found a show curated by Brian Edmonds hanging amongst wooden beams and windows. Two local artist-curators, Jason Stopa and Todd Bienvenu hung near each other in this nook.
A large room curated by Ian White Williams and Julie Torres herself showed an unexpected use of space: artworks were hung on a raw wooden board on one end, and stacked upon a counter on the other. The large, permanent table in the center seemed to lead the viewer around the space rather than get in the way. Maria Walker's shaped canvas stole the room with its fluid look.
The only thing the exhibitions as a whole seemed to want for was a greater variation of scale, with many works seeming like they could naturally grow to fill a wall. While Torres works primarily with painters, it is clear through this exhibition that the painterly concerns of these artists have spread beyond the traditional wall format. The freestanding and wall mounted sculptures spoke to these new tendencies, alluding to an emergence of painterly sculpture in Bushwick's abstract art scene.