Set your Bushwick Open Studios expectations low and you’ll not be disappointed. This weekend we saw a flood of amateur artists, craft dabblers, and bad painting. Realizing we hadn’t set our expectations low enough, halfway through the event we even started wishing for an Industry City Open Studios. It didn’t take long to conclude, though, that an event there likely wouldn’t look much different. If Dumbo Open Studios and Bushwick Open Studios both turned into a venue for hobbyists to sell work out of their studio and craft beer purveyors to bring in customers, certainly, we could expect all those coffee shops IC has been incubating to be central to any event they’d launch.
It’s perhaps not surprising then, that high profile artists who own property in Bushwick like Diana Al-Hadid, Jules de Balincourt, and Josh Smith didn’t opened their studios this weekend. Countless other artists we consider friends either opted out this year or chose to participate only in the context of a show. To do otherwise, is quickly becoming ill-advised.
In this edition of Bushwick Open Studios in Review, we look at what happened in the 17-17 Troutman building. We cover Onderdonk, Harbor Gallery, Roll Call, Ortega y Gasset, and Parallel Art Space.
This is a large studio with precious few professional artists remaining in it. Don’t let our highlights fool you; there wasn’t much reason to visit this building, and next year, when all the galleries are gone, there will be no reason to visit.
Corinna Kirsch: Onderdonk’s a collectively run gallery that, like all of the artist spaces at Troutman, is getting pushed out by Troutman Business Zone, the building’s landlord. For BOS, the gallery held a fundraiser to help fund their next move. I asked one of the artists, JJ Manford about what’s next for the gallery. They’re still looking for a space, but ideally; it doesn’t matter which part of the city they land, but they’d prefer being in a studio building. Dumbo was tabled as an option. “It’s the displacement of an era, “ Manford mentioned, in contrast to the end of one.
Paddy Johnson: For what it’s worth, I thought this was one of the most effective uses of rented space in the building. When I was there on Saturday, nearly all the work had bids placed. I got the feeling this was an effective fundraiser, and given the real estate costs in this city, they’ll need the money.
Corinna: Harbor Gallery’s moving, too. One of the gallery’s directors, Craig Poor Monteith mentioned that they’re very likely moving into a new space at 299 Meserole Street. That space is currently home to Rita Ackermann’s studio, but not much else; at the moment, the building’s being divided up into 2,000 square foot studio spaces.
Their current show, Lil’ Artworld, was a pretty nice way to break up the manic art-seeing in the Troutman building. All the work was small, some the size of a fingernail. Handheld magnifying glasses were provided, which seemed gimmicky; you didn’t really need them. They were just there to drive the point home that, hey, this art might require some extra attention.
Though most of the work you’ll see at BOS is meant to grab the attention of cheery, beer-guzzling Bushwick transplants, there were a handful of awfully melancholy works. Bruce Monteith’s doll-size rooms were straightforward depictions of domestic interiors, and with “One Man Show” (1981) a blue-chip sculpture installation. In the 1980s, his art career was halted temporarily by a series of events standard to any artist (the closure of his New York gallery, starting a family); I couldn’t help but see “One Man Show” as evidence of the different path his life could’ve taken. (In case you didn’t pick up on the connection, Bruce Monteith is Craig Poor Monteith’s father.)
Paddy: Anyone who’s spent any amount of time at 17-17 Troutman knows the toilet paper situation is dire. I was there two weeks ago, and was forced to repurpose a trodden upon napkin I found lying on the ground. It’s for this reason that Roll Call, struck a chord with me; it’s show printed on toilet paper and made in direct response to the fact that the management does not provide TP.
It’s impossible to know what artist made which roll, but my favorite one included a line drawing of a circle connected by hands that alluded to the anus in one square and a butt plug in another. In each case, the images were sandwiched inside the paper, so you had to separate the two ply to properly view the art. That kind of forced economy of toilet paper—presumably this encourages the use of one ply at a time—seemed an appropriate response to the context.
Baris Gokturk organized the show which includes the following artists; Bill Abdale, Caity Berndt, Georgia Elrod, Allison Evans, Baris Gokturk, J. Grabowski, Merkx & Gwynne with Typaldos, Scott Penkava, Sarada Rauch, Claudia Pena Salinas, Gabrielle Vitollo, Brian Wadford, James Weingrod, Witts.
Ortega y Gasset
Paddy: Bushwick may be the largest home for the making and showing process-based abstraction, so it’s both a surprise and a relief to see anything else. Enter artist and AFC friend Sheilah Wilson, the curator behind Body as Omen, a showcase of performance art exploring the idea of body as portal or location for altered states of being and one of the few conceptually-based exhibitions we saw this weekend. I wasn’t able to catch an enormous amount of Baker Overstreet’s performance due to his late arrival (apparently there was a cab snafu), but I liked what I saw. As part of Overstreet’s performance as June Fagely the audience watches Fagely prep for his performance; he rifles through a suitcase for cherry bombs and tins he can light on fire, he arranges silver hoops around a larger hoop, and he applies white face make-up, all while backed by ambient art noises.
Once prepped, the lights dim and the performance begins. I missed much of the song and dance for this, but if you want to get a flavor of what he does, YouTube’s got a clip. At the very least, he’s got a great voice.
Parallel Art Space
Paddy: In the context of this building, Parallel Art Space’s OFF LINE ON MARK looks fucking fantastic. It’s competent hard-edge abstraction in the form of small paintings, and it avoids the more formulaic patterned abstraction made by co-founder Rob de Oude has displayed in the back. That said, I’m not sure I’d be all that interested in this work anywhere else. It’s hard to get too excited about geometric abstraction, which at this point is a well-trodden path. This work seems to be adding little more than another footprint.