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Thoughts on Bushwick Open Studios 2012

The long version Bushwick Open Studios 2012

The long version Bushwick Open Studios 2012.  The world has changed in a generative way and they are  on the forefront of defining a new American culture.

By Sean Alday


I think I’m going to write a story about how the common thread tying the show together was ‘ego.’

-Sean Alday

An artist without an ego is a corpse.

-Michael Kronenberg

The thing that struck me as I wandered from place to place during Bushwick Open Studios was the field day Freudian psychologists would have with the percolating ego in every direction. Some obvious, some subtle, some well-intentioned, some well-executed and some none of the above.

Let’s start with the low hanging fruit as many of us are still holding on to our printed maps. It was large, as Jason Andrew pointed out it was almost the size of the New York Times. There were over 500 studios and galleries this weekend.

“The size is warranted.”

That was my first thought. Until I looked inside.

Something had gone awry with the design. The first page made sense, even if it was a tad sloppy. My only critique would be to have limited the existing text to one page. Following that were two pages filled with what looked like a whole bunch of nothing, two full pages promoting “Seeking Spaces” and several pages of promotion.

Finally a map appears. This is what many will see first when they arrive off of the L train at the Morgan Stop and it’s telling them that four air-conditioned stops ago is where the weekend began. Except for many of them the weekend began at No Name. Which is to say 56 Bogart.

After you make your way into the building a smorgasbord of art madness ensues. Everyone is talking about everything. There are four floors and a basement. You kind of want to take your clothes off. The galleries on the first floor stop you from going through with it. But you kind of want to all weekend. The older gallery directors are wiry and spry. You can feel them reflecting a lot of energy, they are usually artists themselves. The younger gallery directors are bursting with similar energy. The world has changed in a generative way and they are all on the forefront of defining a new American culture.

Peter Hopkins is filming a Bollywood Soap Opera with several of Emtee’s alter egos. Brendan Carney is considering his printmaking business with you. Marco Antonini will talk you through NURTUREart’s maze of videos. John Holt will draw you to C.C.C.P. by both of you haven taken a chance. Nathaniel Lieb will explain that life is fairly simple to complicate.

Once you’ve talked to a few people and get a sense of where to go, you may have spent two to three hours in 56 Bogart. So you might wander down to 117 Grattan where Austin Thomas had curated a show in Sharon Butler’s new studio. Good pieces by Larry Greenberg were found here. I spoke with a friend for a few moments and then wandered around the room, three drawings of incense smoke stood out for the artist’s choice of color. Next to her studio was Jae Song showing dual projections of a conversation between reflections. A building with open spaces on each floor, this will become de rigueur for your explorations.

Next stop seems to be Brooklyn Fireproof. Off the top of my head Holly Shen Claves, Matthew Brennan, Sarah Nelson Wright and Gili Levy were hosting people. The bar was ready for happy hour and the chefs were preparing to enter their zone.

The serendipity of curiosity worked well this weekend. If you’ve stepped into the unexpected places on your route then you’re starting to get a sense of how many artists are in this neighborhood. If you think about how much energy is going in to every single thing to make this happen, the map fades away and you are on your way.

You arrive at The Active Space on 566 Johnson. First of all there is the gallery itself. Deborah Brown made a huge leap in the past year. It felt like the world she painted became less romantic and more urgent. The landscapes matured in the right way and devolved in sublime manners. Looking at the card table makes you realize that her projects are all over. Remember to congratulate Ashley Zelinskie on her curation of this excellent show.

Katarina Hybenova is exhibiting the "Vegan Pizza Party" and the title piece is like a sculpture of a flashing .gif file. Turn around James George has taken pictures of the way a computer might see you. The studios around are fun and full of different kinds of approaches to art from J.R. Larson’s wooden bones on canvas to Cathy Choi’s tasteful resin on canvas works. This building is sunny and the name reflects what it feels like.

There’s the Onderdonk House up the road on Flushing. The Sculpture Garden show is in the expansive backyard. You can get a view of the skyline from the top of the hill and remember that you’re in New York City. There’s a home at the bottom of the hill built in 1709 where a band called Pass Kontrol is the real live session band for an ensemble of performances that can include you.

Head to 1717 Troutman for a wild session of studio hopping. Glass portraits, video, music, and paintings to say the least. Don’t forget to swing into galleries Parallel Art Space and Regina Rex. It was my first time in the building and I felt it. There was good energy touched with enough anarchy and bohemianism to keep the galleries from resting on their laurels. By the way, I’ve seen Rob de Oude’s small works before, but I was blown away by the large pieces in his and Enrico Gomez’s shared studio. There was a wall showcasing the evolution of the simultaneously-linear-and-swirling pieces.

From there I went to Wyckoff Avenue. If you’re hungry there are two good options: wait for a table at the Northeast Kingdom or wait at the tortilla factory and restaurant. Afterwards, it may be time for an iced coffee. Just to top off the great weather (including the quick rain shower on Sunday) stop by the Wyckoff Starr where Paul Rome and Roarke Menzies were set up on the sidewalk doling out coffee and water. If you go inside have a Grasshopper.

There is a studio belonging to an interesting artist named Myles Bennett. His painted canvases hung like shawls without a mannequin. This place reminded me of why it’s good to talk to the artist. He made these pieces to be worn, there was a look book, and there were canvases stitched into abstract figures of what it would look like to wear them.

Down to Norte Maar for original collages of Pass Kontrol posters by Oliver Ralli. Two that stuck out were a Warhol and Basquiat imagined conversation and a “Cut a hit record with Pass Kontrol” flier from Bushwick Open Studios past.

If you were even slightly cynical about Bushwick art before the weekend began, after that show it was hard to maintain that irony.

When I wasn’t running around I was around the corner at my space 950 Hart Gallery for our final gallery exhibition. We made a lot of new friends, sold some prints and wrote the showing artist’s names on the wall.

Down to Starr Street and stop at quite a few places along the way. The first stop was the huge warehouse with Julie Torres’s cooperative show ALLTOGETHERNOW and another several rooms of art. I could not figure out who was behind each room but there was always something around the corner. Mind your eyes and loose clothing; sculptures are coming out of the wall. From there it was off to the building that houses the Bushwick Starr. A collective that showed work featuring Christina De Roos and sculptures made with tenacity out of milk cartons and canvas. I even spotted a former roommate in one of the photographs. I recognized him looking right at home naked in the midst of a throng of moving people.

I stopped at Olivia Swisher’s home. She stood at the refrigerator with the door wide open when I walked in. I was puzzled. She offered me a beer and a series of poems by Chiara Di Lello written on eggs and milk cartons and packages of butter. I read everything in her fridge.

On Bushwick Basel, that was a name game and many people fell for it hook, line and sinker. But let me say that I enjoyed visiting NURTUREart, AIRPLANE, Studio 10, and Storefront Bushwick’s booth in that order. Norte Maar’s booth had a collage that summed up everything that I felt: “I am having such a good summer.”

Up to Wilson, past Miles and Cain’s Tavern. Two drinking spots with unique flavors that both appeal to me. I stopped at Storefront Bushwick to see what was happening. In the project space I saw celestial patterns by Paula Overbay and two new pieces by Matthew Mahler. This made me reflective as one of his older, angular pieces hung in my gallery. He is cornering his style, this is a part of the artist’s hunt.

From there I went to the arena that spoke to me more than anything else this weekend. It began in English Kills. First of all, Chris Harding puts on some of the best new exhibitions in this city. This show was no exception. David Pappaceno’s sculptures were arranged to give you a center of gravity and the bases were excellently arranged. The wall was a mind warp of colorful patterns and frames enclosing drawings similar to the sculptures. And don’t miss the paintings in the next room. Influences that are maturing shine through the originality of the compositions.

Across the street Don Pablo Pedro sat cross legged and conducted a court of Bacchus. His work is quite good. I hope that you didn’t miss the Dirty Little Cunt.

Next door I found myself in awe of Jim Herbert’s enormous paintings. I climbed to the second level for a different perspective. I can’t wait to see what he unveils for the next solo show. These pieces need light and their own company.

From there you’ll stroll up to Bush Gardens for a view of Centotto’s “Charting the Not” curated by Paul D’Agostino. Here you’ll run into Austin Thomas’s work and Gili Levy’s for the fourth or fifth time. Next door is Tim Kent’s studio. There was a piece entitled “Leviathan” made with charcoal and paper that I had been wanting to see for a long time. This studio did not disappoint. It’s hard to appreciate the masterful technique of his paintings of European Homes online. It’s instant gratification in person.

After all of that, I was a bit tired and went home to nurse a whiskey bottle and feel good about the world.

If the trend continues I’ll have to be fitter than Jason Andrew and his dog combined to see everything next year. In the meantime I’m keeping my eye on you Bushwick. Stay classy.


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