Last weekend worked out well. Navigating 500 Bushwick Open Studios (BOS) wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought, once I decided it was alright to skip most of them. There’s no way to cover enough ground to give an accurate impression of what’s out there anyway, and it’s not even productive to try and do so; no matter how broad your taste, the effort will never bring back enough work to match it. You’ll end up depressed by the results if you try.
It may be generational, but this year’s BOS reminded me of Hunter Open Studios circa 2003-2005. Then, just as now, the appearance of a few gallerists and curators acted like an electrical current running through the event. You could feel the excitement amongst the artists and participants. Then, just as now, painter Jules de Balincourt drew a great deal of attention; then as a Hunter MFA student showing at LFL Gallery (now Zach Feuer), now as the host of Bushwick Basel. And then, just as now, visitors were about as likely to find artists making fairy art as artists with gallery representation.
At the time, though, I remember thinking that based on what’d I’d seen, Hunter was vastly overrated as a school. I never got that impression from BOS, perhaps because the event seems more community- than career-driven, even if there’s plenty of ambition to go around.
What follows is a loose recap of our Bushwick tour, complete with reflections and large heading text. First up, first prize.
BUSHWICK BASEL: BEST IN SHOW
We can’t claim to know what a matching foam anus and vagina perched on top of wrapped formica means, but we liked it anyway. The whole booth had a 70’s bondage feel to it, even with that Nicole Kidman poster under fogged plexi [pictured above left]. Unexpectedly, the acrylic droplets Smith uses on the steamy plexi take on a strange glizty glow, and a finger mark runs through the mist right over the actress’s mouth. It’s a very dirty head shot.
BUSHWICK BASEL: HONORABLE MENTIONS
Mike Ballou is probably most famous for his work with the now-defunct Four Walls, a project space, collective, and hub for art discussion that persisted, in various forms, for nearly twenty years. We’re guessing this rabbit head won’t change that, but we still found it compelling enough to shoot. Unfortunately, we can’t come up with any discernible reason why; the piece looks like a castaway from a Bat for Lashes video.
This raccoon has no hands. That’s not really a problem, though, relative to whatever else is going on here. Thick goopy paint swirls fill the raccoon’s eyes, indicating that the animal’s either on acid or has rabies. The white paint frothing over the cabbage-covered eyeball doesn’t rule out either option.
We didn’t know what to make of this painting, so we asked an Interstate dealer for a little guidance. “Yeah, I dunno,” the dealer told us, before offering that it had hung in their office for a very long time. Best. Salespitch. Ever.
We took this picture because we liked the way Clinton King’s work had been hung, but it’s the
dealer’s artist’s face that gets this show an inclusion. Very funny.
Pizza artwork is totally trending. There’s the pizza city, the pizza shirt, the pizza video featuring the pizza shirt and now The Vegan Pizza Party show at Bushwick Gallery. This works relies a little heavily on the appeal of its smallness, but it’s okay… for a pizza.
STUFF WE LIKE BETTER THAN MOST MANHATTAN GALLERIES
What a contrast to Regina Rex’s booth at Bushwick Basel—and at NADA New York, for that matter—which was far too cluttered to be memorable. This show included only four paintings, each by a different artist. Britta Deardorff, Jackie Gendel, Juan Gomez, and Eric Sall each share an affinity for exuberant brushwork and loud use of color. The juxtaposition of Gendel’s Matisse-like figures, Sall’s abstract painting anchored by a large black oval, and Gomez’s swooshes was particularly compelling, just on sheer painting skill alone. It’s rare to see painting this good.
Someone needs to give Tatiana Berg a show. These paintings just get better in person, and part of that is experiencing in person the textural qualities of the paint she lays down. She’s got a great wrist, and I like that the studio looks like she bathed it in paint. It looks like she’s working a lot. (Berg was an AFC recommended studio)
Looking good isn’t the only reason we’ve listed this work, but it’s not a bad start. Williams bucks the trend of making pre-existing posters uglier in some way. His alterations are simple yet transformative, a skill that takes no small amount of time to develop.
Note: We can’t claim objectivity about this work, since Aaron Williams and I are friends, but when every AFC contributor who went to Bushwick brings his studio up as amongst the best, it’s probably safe to add him to our highlights list.
Oh, this was by far our favorite WTF. The scene: 1717 Troutman. A loud booming eminates from a studio nearby which was so brightly lit we were afraid to enter. Here a man opens his doors to the public, but hoards so much material it’s impossible to enter. Instead visitors are forced to watch from the hall, where he twists twisty things without his shirt on. Special effort was made to make sure his process was exposed at all times; he was never outside the narrow range of view above for more than a minute or two.
It’s unclear what kind of educational program is needed to rid the general populace of the idea that contemporary performance art isn’t just dressing up in a wacky homemade outfit, but the survival of a few may depend on us coming up with this answer. We’re only half-joking. That guy’s coat may have been made out of matchbooks, but when a friend suggested that that might be an enormous fire-hazard, no one turned to check.