Bushwick Open Studios in Review: 17-17 Troutman

by Paddy Johnson and Corinna Kirsch on June 2, 2014 · 12 comments Reviews

Landlords giving away free lemonade and cookies to visitors. My review: The lemonade tasted like poison, and the cookies like sawdust. So much for that gesture of magnanimity.

Landlords giving away free lemonade and cookies to visitors. Paddy’s review: The lemonade tasted like poison, and the cookies like sawdust. So much for that gesture of magnanimity.

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.


On Sunday, after Onderdonk's benefit.

On Sunday, after Onderdonk’s benefit.

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.

Harbor Gallery

Harbor Gallery

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.)

Roll Call

Roll Call

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 

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

 Alain Biltereyst

Alain Biltereyst, one of seven artists in OFF LINE ON MARK

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.


J. Robert Feld June 2, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Paddy, long-time reader and first-time commenter here. Big fan of artfcity and totally appreciate what you do.

Far be it from me to sympathize with landlords–but isn’t this piece is a little heavy on the favoritism toward the soon-to-be-evicted galleries, at the cost of the non-represented artists in the building?

Don’t get me wrong–I love Regina Rex and am a big fan of Enrico Gomez and Oude. I just think to say that there is, once the galleries are gone, “no reason to
visit 1717 Troutman” is kind of hyperbolic and an unintentional disservice to unknown working artists.

Granted, there are a lot of hobbyists in the building, and a
heavy amount of it is generic; but can’t that be said of Bushwick in

BOS is, ostensibly, a platform for overlooked, unrepresented artists to showcase their work. To minimize that and simply focus on the galleries strikes me as a tad unfair. It means all of their effort was for naught, as struggling-to-emerge artists continue to be overlooked, pre-BOS, during BOS, and now post-BOS.

This was my 3rd year in Open Studios. Being on the periphery of the map is very, very challenging. I was luckier than most to have a spurt of publicity beforehand (a mention in artnet, a profile on AIB’s website), yet despite that, the turnout was very, very weak. Imagine scrolling through twitter and instagram to see 99% of the people at 1% of the spaces, while being planted in an empty studio for 14 hours.

I’m just saying, it’s a crowded field enough as it is–let’s put the focus back on the artists! We need all the help we can get.


Paddy Johnson June 3, 2014 at 1:41 am

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your feedback. Appreciate your words, yes, “no reason to visit 1717 Troutman” was a bit hyperbolic. I focused on the galleries in this building because I thought they were the stand outs here. In other locations we focus more on the artists. My hope is that in the end, it will all even out.

Anki King June 2, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Sounds like you got overwhelmed early and gave up really looking. I saw a lot of fantastic work this weekend. Much of it hidden in between less than great work. These are artists studios, and even if some people are bold enough to try to sell stuff (and thereby get labeled hobbyists), these are the places artists practice, play, experiment and make lots of bad work on their way to become great artists. This is not where curators rule and you get ready made presentations as you do in galleries. If you can’t muster up any excitement over this treasure hunt, just stick with going to pre-judged and pre-approved gallery shows.

PS – Deborah Brown has great commentary on this article on FB.

Paddy Johnson June 3, 2014 at 1:38 am

I’ve read and responded to her commentary. Honestly, I’m surprised there are so many artists who disagreeing what’s been said in this post. The art shown in this building, as a rule of thumb, is terrible. Everyone I spoke to acknowledged this. Now suddenly, we all think it’s great? Huh? I don’t get it. There are plenty of great artist studios to visit, I do that often, and some of them are even in that building. Unfortunately, very few of those were open during BOS.

Talia June 3, 2014 at 10:18 am

The thing is Bushwick is a very large arts community, and there’s a bit of a career ladder here. The full time professional artists making a living off their work are generally too busy to participate in an open studio, or are here during the week. We should all be so lucky.

Paddy Johnson June 3, 2014 at 10:25 am

Even artists who are able to work on their art full time have weekends off. I’m a little confused by this comment.

Talia June 3, 2014 at 10:29 am

I didn’t see you at my event 😉

Margaret Mead June 3, 2014 at 11:15 am

Oh yes let’s cut in to our weekend time off from the studio, when we catch up with our families and friends so that Paddy can finally see what the inside of a commercially successful artists’ studio looks like, instead of checking out the work of emerging artists, who do Bushwick open studios in order to connect and engage with more people about their work and boost their careers.

Beau Toutant June 3, 2014 at 8:52 am

Wow, even the gratis lemonade and cookies get ripped. No joie de vivre here.

chocoamilk June 3, 2014 at 1:28 pm

” It’s perhaps not surprising then, that high profile artists who own property in Bushwick like……..Jules de Balincourt,”

Talk about lowered expectations.

Rumpolano Artist June 3, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Visit INA NoHo boutique 15 Bleecker street for my new summer tank top design’s, keep shining!.

Paddy Johnson June 3, 2014 at 11:26 am

The rationale here works the same as curating any group show; including a few better known names helps give exposure to some of the lesser known artists.

Margaret, it seems like you’re mad that I didn’t see enough emerging artist work or report on it. That seems weird to me though, because I spent Saturday and Sunday at Bushwick Open Studios looking studios as well as galleries, and we have four posts on the subject – this is just one of them.

I didn’t see a lot of good work at 17-17 Troutman. That’s a fair observation to make.

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