When I walked into Apostrophe Gallery this past Friday night, I was instantly hit by déjà vu. I’ve been here before, I thought, trying to put the place into context. Finally it came to me–this was the venue of a crazy late night dance party where partygoers were dancing to underground DJ beats until the sun came up one cold night last December. This is the magic of Apostrophe: forever shifting and always an adventure, the space is a chameleon in the sense that it shifts focus, theme, and art, depending on the needs of the space. Its most recent iteration, If You Trust Us–exhibition opening/concert/birthday party–brought together an incredible night of gritty underground wonder as both the art and the music possessed an edginess and authenticity not seen everyday in the Bushwick scene.
I’ve heard many a reluctant hipster wax sympathetic to the classic Bushwick plight: we live in an amazing cross-cultural neighborhood; we want our stained-wood bars and coffee shops and love that new art galleries and vintage shops that seem to pop up daily, but we hate to add to the overgeneralized box of a neighborhood characterized as being in “mid-gentrification” mode. We are in an authentic neighborhood full of interesting and diverse individuals, from the people who were born and raised here to those who have drifted from other New York neighborhoods, to newbies like me. No one wants this to disappear, which is why Apostrophe is so refreshing. The apartment houses a motley gallery and bunker like basement that keeps music in with heavy blankets and foam to dampen the sound. Once you walk into the space you immediately forget that you are in an apartment and are truly transported to a time in New York that most of us have never experienced.
One of the first noticeable things about Apostrophe is that you have to pay to get in. Surprising for many a gallery goer who loves the fact that a gallery night means hopping from place to place, sipping on free cups of wine and beer. I had a nice chat with the two handsome bouncers, Keith and Karl, an aspiring actor and his “agent,” who gladly let my friend and me in (as long as I mentioned them in this post!) and headed into the semi-packed space. Trust me, the $10 cover is completely justified for what you find inside.
This past weekend the gallery presented the work of Keith Mackie for the exhibition, If You Trust Us. When I first met Mackie, I was struck by the fact that he, a young artist, would first and foremost identify as a painter. Rarely today does one find a self-proclaimed “painter” as very few people want to put their art into a definitive category and prefer to jump between mediums. Nevertheless, Mackie is a painter and a gifted one at that. Large canvases and works on paper covered the walls of the space; each one inhabiting its own space yet also drawing your eye to the next one. Expressive and dynamic, Mackie’s work clearly conjures the memory and energy of Jean-Michel Basquiat in its style, color and large format, yet is not simply a re-creation of that signature style. Mackie’s voice, like Basquiat’s, is of the street, of power dynamics, of youthfulness, but in an updated fashion that is all his own. Rather than being purely derivative of Basquiat’s work, Mackie’s paintings are clear homage to it, yet he brings his own contemporary spin and direction. Without directly alluding to it, Mackie has created his own persona in his work; a similar super-hero protagonist-slash-martyr response to Basquiat’s “star child” (referenced in Mackie’s work) that reaches out to the viewer expressing a true and real sense of rebellion, yet tinged with a hope and understanding for his contemporary time. Lacking the sheer rage and frenzy of Basquiat, the work invokes a sentiment more akin to that of our time. We are equally filled with resignation and distrust of corruption in the one percent, yet our generation still strives to become better, push farther and expect more of ourselves. Mackie’s characters, like his red hooded figure, which I was told served as tribute to Trayvon Martin, confronts the viewer directly, not violently, but with purpose.
After looking around the gallery space, I noticed I was one of the only people upstairs. I headed downstairs through the deeply padded curtains, where a concert was in full swing with the music of Gabriel Garzón-Montana. He and his drummer completely inhabited the space with soulful, funky and incredibly catchy jams. The duo ended their set to loud cheers from the audience, insisting on an encore. The two looked at each other, exchanged a few words, and began playing the coolest rendition of Erykah Badu “Didn’t Cha Know” that I think I have every heard, made better by everyone in the audience singing along. Loudly.
The second set brought All Natural to the stage, and where Garzón-Montana had plenty of room to spread out, All Natural’s members spilled out onto the space in front of the stage. Bringing just as much dancing and energy as the first set, with the added panache of their two lead singers kept the audience moving and clapping along through their entire set.
The amount of energy and fun brought together Friday night was truly amazing. Standing in the basement, on the border between Ridgewood, Queens and Bushwick, Brooklyn, clapping to the incredible All Natural, all I could think about was how lucky I was to be where I was, in this moment.
Apostrophe Gallery (usually) has events every weekend, so check their facebook page for upcoming art exhibitions and shows!