[AiB] How would you introduce your work to someone who has just walked in off the street, who doesn’t have any prior information or an art background?
[JM] The core of all of this is working on the concept of what is permanent and nonpermanent, and constantly trying to find different ways of doing that. Presently what I have is something on assumptions. I’ve been asking people on the L train about assumptions they make and face on a daily basis, and I write them out. They’re being projected as animated graphics on the ephemeral spices, and that’s creating a kind of sense of “Why should assumptions be frozen?” I want people to have an experience of letting go, so that one part of the video installation is all about that.
by Catherine Kirkpatrick
Scott Dennis (profile) in 2014; all photos by Catherine Kirkpatrick
I first saw Scott Dennis perform at the Metropolitan Bar in 2013. A friend brought me to a Thursday night DRAGnet competition, promising great pictures. But as I settled on a hard chair in front of a dinky stage, I wondered. How much could happen in five feet of space?
Then a purple-haired figure took the mic, and suddenly everything was in motion, white-hot, inches away. Hips swung, Kabuki eyes flashed. Pounding sound flowed into the wild colors of the clothes, the hair, the lights. The audience screamed and was swept away on a rising tide of spectacle-induced synesthesia.
London Girl: Dennis at DRAGnet
Then Scott Dennis appeared and took it to another level. In a short fur, fishnet hose, and classic mini, his character, Madame Vivien V, screamed Mod, Swinging Sixties London. Suddenly we were on Carnaby Street jaunting along with Twiggy (“The Face of 1966”), shopping for clothes by Mary Quant, hoping for a glimpse of the Fab Four. Like a great actor, he made choices specific and so right, stirring my imagination, which is exactly how Scott Dennis would have it, because he is very serious about his art. “It’s not just going on stage and lip synching,” he said of drag. “I am an actor and storyteller.”
[AiB] I’m a person off the street who doesn’t know anything about your work. How would you give me an introduction to what you’re doing here?
[JF] My previous body of work and the newer ones here both began with photo collages on the computer, which I then recreate by hand and oil paint on a large scale. Most of the elements I toy around with involve studying a lot of semiotics in college, and messing around with the notion of signs, origins of meaning, and how you actually come to some sort of derived meaning from viewing a painting.
[JF] All of these paintings have these wet, juicy brushstrokes in them, [which I] recreated on a much larger scale than they could possibly be. So you have what is, to some, the ultimate sign of authenticity and presence of the artist, like de Kooning moving around his canvas. The gestures of him moving in space are recorded in paint, and it’s supposed to be like a connection to him. I’m subverting that by recreating [the brushstrokes] so they’re all facsimiles in a way, or forgeries of what should be a direct linkage to authenticity of presence of the author of the work. Most of the elements in the final product are supposed to carry with them a sort of “suspect” manipulation or mediation to call into question what sort of meaning they’re usually used to signify.
by Sienna Reid
Street view of mural and 17-17 Troutman (at right) during BOS’14
Among the myriad participants in this year’s Bushwick Open Studios were the residents of the 17-17 Troutman building. In addition to the artists and artisans who opened up their private work spaces to the public to showcase their work and to engage with the public, many galleries in the building curated exhibitions for the special opening. This year, poignantly, many of these galleries knew these shows would be their last in this space, as they have been asked to leave by the building manager. Even though some people retain hope that they will be able to keep their gallery doors open, most feel that the end is nigh. For obvious reasons, the mood of the gallery owners was glum. Some people are sad, but others believe it is inevitable and time to move on. Few, however, are surprised, as this pattern fits with the continual gentrification of the area.
Whether a gallerist, an artist, or a light engineer, everyone has to sell. That is the common ground uniting everyone in this building and the hustle that often keeps us apart. But socializing, sharing work, and speaking about ideas are among the most important aspects of artistic development. At least once a year, the entire community has an excuse to engage in such essential bridge-building exchanges. Bushwick Open Studios promotes interactions among artists, neighbors, and strangers. Many of those attending BOS’14 were incredibly inspired, stepping through normally closed doors to shake hands and share some time together talking about work, art, and life.
by Willow Goldstein
Artist Jade Fusco at work with murals by Brandon Sines, Peter Phobia, Mike Garcia, Martha Moszczynski, and Dean Cercone
The Living Gallery, home to a multitude of community activities from yoga, to drink and draws, to youth acting programs, hosted a gathering to unveil the freshly painted walls of its courtyard. From floor to rooftop, muralists wove colors, characters, and forms in their personal vision.
by Etty Yaniv
To My Mougouch (dedicated to Agnes Magruder) by Arshile Gorky; all photos courtesy of Outlet gallery website, unless otherwise noted
In response to Arshile Gorky’s colored drawings exhibition, an ARTnews reviewer back in March 1947 declared that Gorky is in no sense a draftsman and that his drawings “must be appraised as doodlings, for psychological rather than formal interest.” More than sixty years later, an exquisite Gorky drawing from 1946 on loan to Outlet gallery, serves as a starting point for a vibrant dialogue between more than thirty contemporary artists with strong and distinct personal iconography and some shared formal concerns.
Outlet gallery; photo by Etty Yaniv for Arts in Bushwick
Akin to John Cage, William Anastasi largely draws upon the element of chance in creation and is well-known for his drawing in motion such as his subway drawings, which he produced on the train while wearing noise-cancelling headphones in an effort to exclude his senses from the artistic process. In Untitled (9.28.10 22:48 9.29.10 15:40), a drawing out of this series, his energetic marks form on top of a blank space two concentrated horizontal ovals, made of repetitive black and blue scribbled lines that connect in a delicate web. The image may easily read like a pair of eyes, or two pools of water, but most essentially it emits the sheer energy of movement. Wired and raw, its rhythms resonate the mysterious source of mark making.
by Mary Coyne
On Saturday evening during this year’s Bushwick Open Studios weekend, a loose group of performance artists participated in the first annual official performance evening presented by Arts in Bushwick. The theme of the evening was to meditate on the rapid changes to the community over the past several years. Considering the changes caused by gentrification and the burgeoning art scene, this theme was a relevant premise with the potential for generating an iconic event of the year.
Performance artist completes her work at Being Bushwick
The tone of the event was somber, indirectly mourning the loss of a more radical past, instead of stepping back to reconsider the history of Bushwick as a seminal location for contemporary performance and dance. This was amplified by the space in which the performances were held: In dealing with the former and present lives of Bushwick, the event occupied the space that formerly housed the popular Brooklyn studio and social space, 3rd Ward. Currently the home of studio spaces under the organization Flex Space, the building lacks the sense of purpose felt in its former iteration.
by Etty Yaniv
Installation view A of MIXTAPE! at No. 4 Studio; all photos courtesy of Sophia Alexandrov and the respective artists, unless otherwise indicated
Although the painting and sculpture pop-up show, MIXTAPE! at No. 4 Studio was up for only three days, its genesis, caliber, and well-deserved warm reception throughout the hectic Bushwick Open Studios weekend may mark the beginning of a new Bushwick art venue. Initially, Sophia Alexandrov, who co-curated the show and is currently working toward her MA at Hunter College, envisioned a modest show that would run during BOS and would also include artists such as Todd Bienvenu, whose studio in Williamsburg was off the map. But shortly after Bienvenu sent her a massive list of his favorites to be considered for the show, the exhibition scope evolved from 6 to 18 artists, and Bienvenu became co-curator.
Yellow Building by Lauren Luloff
Alexandrov said that their curatorial approach was purposefully loose and inspired by Bienvenu’s notion that “all you need to put on a show is good art and some walls.” Bienvenu explained that first he visited his favorite artists’ studios to pick out works and only later the concept came along. “It is a painter’s curation,” he explained in his easy-going manner, “as tempting as it would be to pick a bunch of ‘painty’ painters, I wanted to show a bit of range.”
by Peter Hamernick
Youth interacting with the remnants of the performance piece Paper Trail
Bushwick Open Studios brought the neighborhood together as artists, activists, and local organizations met for Community Day in Maria Hernandez Park. With a mission to serve not only the arts, but as a local and sustainable social platform, Arts in Bushwick stuck true to its cause in a carnival of community. In a day of mostly sunshine, the park transformed as people, performances, and the various participating organizations, venues, and institutions converged to make this special day possible.
Painted faces by The Beacon Center for Arts and Leadership
Professor R.G. & JojoSoul kept spirits high as the The Beacon Center for Arts and Leadership painted faces and kids created colorful chalk drawings on the concrete. Interactive performances, such as Paper Trail, took place as the Super Market Fairy pushed her grocery cart around advocating for healthy eating. “NO SOIL, NO LIFE, NO FOOD, NO GOOD” read the sign in front of BKrot’s tent, a compost collection service. The new community space and bar, Mayday, sought recruitment with a signup board: “Have a skill to share? Run a workshop.” Bushwick Abbey appealed to those religiously inclined, their tent marked by the sign, “Church that doesn’t suck. Free bread wine and coffee.”