Three Reviews of Three Bushwick Shows

by Paddy Johnson and Whitney Kimball on June 6, 2014 Reviews

NEWD Art Show

NEWD Art Show

Paddy: “Has anyone made any sales?” a friend asked a group of us at the NEWD Art Show talk on gentrification, a topic I’d heard come up repeatedly throughout the weekend. From those I spoke with, it seems sales were happening in studios and at the fair, though sales at the fair seemed light. “I’ve sold some” Sardine’s Jon Lutz told me guardedly, Saturday. When I noted the number of struggling artists at the fair, he told me that the fair organizers had been really good about bringing collectors into the fair for tours.

I liked doing the basic reportage, but for once, the business of the fair seemed less essential than the art on view. I can’t remember the last fair I went to where that was the case. It was a relief.

Looking over my photos, it’s clear what I liked; of the nine art galleries participating, I extensively shot two; Sardine and American Medium. Sardine, a gallery that only launches solo shows, used the opportunity of the fair to branch out. Their show included the work by Holly Coulis, Leah Tacha, and JD Walsh. Leah Tacha’s sculptures were the stand outs here, which paired custom-made ceramic vases with curled prints. Though abstract, the titles of these sculptures tend to reflect how they look; “Firecracker” looks like a firecracker, (or a stove); “Honey” looks like a honey pot (or a flower pot); “Filla” looks like a calve’s hoof (or a platform shoe). Only Firecracker was at the fair, but the body of work as a whole, seems to explore funnels, joints and spouts.

The American Medium booth showcased flat and sculptural work as well with a focus on the digital. “I’m shocked. I’m the only one with a computer here,” Director Josh Pavlacky told me, revealing a little about the neighborhoods focus on more traditional mediums.  The sculpture stood out; Jon Rafman produced a set of shirts with David Hockney pools on them and a pool vacuum cleaner, and Brenna Murphy showed her 3D floor printed sculpture garden. This is the second time I’ve seen this piece by Murphy—the first time was in the Eyebeam show “The New Romantics—and it actually looks better in the fair context because there’s more space to view it. The fair is actually much less dense than the Eyebeam show, which is something of a role reversal for these two venues.

In any event, the piece appears to draw inspiration from hieroglyphs and psychedelia, and naturalizes it. The forms look organic, but also a little like they’re from space, thanks to all the neon. It’s very satisfying to look it.

NEWD Art Show participants include: American Medium, Law Office, Marina T. Schindler, Rawson Projects, Regina Rex, Residency Unlimited, Sardine, Theodore Art.

Jim Herbert at English Kills Gallery

Jim Herbert at English Kills Gallery

Whitney: Jim Herbert’s massive idyllic teen orgy scenes remind me a lot of Lisa Yuskavage. Both painters have mastered the art of displaying genitals everywhere but obscuring it just enough to pique some mystery. In this case, Herbert achieves this through dreamlike mark-making, swirly paint, and suggestive leg lifts.

This was one of the best shows in Bushwick, if only because of the creative energy levels. That said, like Yuskavage, John Currin, and Rachel Feinstein, this feels like whimsy and painting skill as a replacement for depth. That’s okay. Not every artwork needs profound depth, especially if they’re coming from total obsession. And like those painters, I don’t see any of the subversiveness people expect from art here. The only thing that binds all of these paintings together is sex.

Et al projects

Unknown gallery

Whitney: Anybody know who this is? The show was in Et al’s space, but they’d moved out of that space already.

Anyway, Momenta and whatever this gallery is stood out at this year’s BOS because the shows varied significantly from the last trip. Take this set of fragile self-playing instruments/ kinetic sculptures by this anonymous artist, in the toylike “Calder’s Circus” art realm. Small rotating rattles and jittering hollow sticks made sound effects reminiscent of the tree spirits from Princess Mononoke. It was even a little symphonic because the range of movement and speeds, and motion that’s continuous and smooth. It’s made to make people happy, and it does that.

I don’t think this is a helpful criticism, so if you’re really trying to tease out a dialogue, you could take these sculptures as an institutional critique. The show comes with a photo of the artist (I think) wearing one of these and standing in front of the Guggenheim. The contrast between the human scale and Frank Lloyd Wright building is immediate.


Justin Berry "Lorem Ipsum" at Interstate Projects

Justin Berry “Lorem Ipsum” at Interstate Projects

Whitney: I wasn’t crazy about the smart but aloof prints in the main gallery. Berry’s interested in placeholders for meaning, and he makes his point–  video game, photo, and ASCII images of clouds have a perfect, idealized vacancy– but like Paddy Johnson wrote a few years ago, I’m not sure whether it does more than add to the void.

But the installation in the basement injected new life into the whole digital erasure genre for me. A double projection of opposing night and day skies pan to the sound of an epic video game soundtrack, which appears to be coming from a brick-lined hole in the corner. Inside is a screen, playing epic pause-mode footage of a video game character, gazing toward a vast mountain landscape. The spinning shot is hypnotic, and the light shifts smoothly so that days seem to pass without notice. And then you realize that you’re standing in a dark room staring into a hole on a beautiful day. Berry knocks you over the head with the realization that you’re wasting time, rather than just saying that.

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