A selection of standout art exhibits and events from around the borough. The list is carefully considered, of course, but please note that keeping it to eight means it’s far from exhaustive. Note also that it’s in no particular order.
The Sea Is a Big Green Lens
David Henderson and Douglas Henderson at Studio 10
This exhibit, a collaboration between sculptor David Henderson and his brother, sound artist Douglas Henderson, began to sing its evocatively echoey, sometimes seafaringly sonorous, always acoustically interferometric song of meta-spatial surge and solitude as one year transitioned into the next—a matter of merely calendric convenience, perhaps, but also one that was well befitting of the exhibit’s inherent material and conceptual liminalities. While David’s tiers of variably scaled, uniformly shaped sculptures trumpeted about with nearly comic visual presence throughout the space—as if scores of oversized golf tees were frozen at a moment of most energetic invasion or egress—Douglas’s sound score swirled around, intoned and skipped about among a dozen or so painstakingly placed speakers. Inspired by “Whitesounds,” a poem by Paul Celan, this ocean of a great show, complete with its sonically implied ‘green lens’ in the middle, was a superbly wavy way for Studio 10 to ring in the new year—and to set it quite positively aripple.
Off Line On Mark & Lil’ Art World
Parallel Art Space & Harbor Gallery
Parallel, Harbor and the several other galleries that used to carry the 1717 Troutman Street address weren’t planning to move out of the increasingly galleriphobic studio building with great immediacy, so finding out around midyear that their time was basically up was a programmatic bummer for all evacuated parties—even if not exactly a total surprise, given the landlord’s cantankerousness that not even his offers of questionably fresh refreshments during Bushwick Open Studios (call it Cookie-gate) could obscure. Parallel and Harbor, even without planning their final shows as farewell exhibitions, put together some excellently serendipitous swan songs all the same. Parallel tapped into collective memories personal and formal alike to put together a show that might well have functioned, at some later date, as the space’s own on-site retrospective. Harbor, meanwhile, assembled a show of variably art-space-reflective pieces in the various spaces of their space. One of those pieces happened to be a wall-bound fabrication of the 1717 Troutman building itself—hanging in the metaphorical balance, as it were, well before trails of cookie crumbs would litter the incipient summer.
Bay Ridge Storefront Art Walk
5h Avenue, Bay Ridge
With so many mediums represented in such a casually public way, and with so many artists and entrepreneurial agents involved as site-specific creators and art-friendly hosts, Bay Ridge SAW would be a highlight among Brooklyn-based arts initiatives even if it weren’t particularly piquant, as far as aesthetic interventions go, given its not-quite-art-neighborhood environs. Fifteen artists collaborated with everything from bakeries to tuxedo stores in this year’s iteration, and Bay Ridge SAW once again emphasized a very important point: Neighborhoods needn’t necessarily be taken over by resident artists to occasionally enjoy the fruits of their labors. As such, we suggest that a few artists collaborate with some of 5th Avenue’s many produce stands next year. All those price signs poking up out of bins of tomatoes, pears, peaches and the like are kind of wasted real estate as potential paintings, after all, right?
Photo above by Michelle Hernandez, courtesy Norte Maar. (C) Michelle Hernandez.
The Brooklyn Performance Combine
Norte Maar at The Brooklyn Museum
Neither secret nor ultimately incendiary, albeit definitively sneaky and cheekily rebellious, this performative mash-up of dancers, artists, musicians, writers, and critics—with a handful audience members thrown into the mix as well—was Jason Andrew’s Norte Maar-powered vehicle for underscoring how The Brooklyn Museum’s Crossing Brooklyn exhibition was a mammoth ball-dropper in terms of being inclusive enough—aesthetically, numerically, organizationally—to merit its own title. Tepid though not totally bad—there were some great artists on the roster, after all, and a few excellent works—Crossing Brooklyn could’ve, indeed should’ve been so much more. Well, Norte Maar came in through the back door to prove precisely that point. In the historic Beaux-Arts Court, no less. (Disclaimer: This writer factored into the show in a very minor manner. But his self-ascribed role as garbage-target was fundamentally throwaway, and he lost a piece of his knee in the process, so please let the sleeping dog lie.)
Bushwick Open Studios 2014
It seems almost beside the point to say that BOS was a bigger beast than ever this year, because that’s what it’s generally been from one year to the next since its inception nearly a decade ago. Its organizers at Arts In Bushwick don’t want ever-bigger to override consistently better, though, so although that latter qualifier held true this year as well, the beloved festival’s participants and visitors alike might have seen the last thusly gargantuan BOS in 2014. If that’s true and next year’s affair is reined in somehow, BOS in all its stretched-out sizes will have always been a remarkably successful blast—from its earliest flickers and sparks all the way to critical mass. No matter what it form it might take in 2015, rest assured that meltdown is not in the cards.
It Ain’t What You Make, It’s What Makes You Do It
The almost rhythmically chaotic din of variably vocal and loudly kinetic bric-a-brac could nearly be heard from across the street while this show was up from latter spring to early summer, such that visitors could be led to believe they might be entering a carnival, a fracas, a flailing concert, a circus. Featuring a dancing centerpiece by Dennis Oppenheim alongside whirring, buzzing, spinning, and singing accoutrements by a crew of more or less self-proclaimed Oppenheimians—Gregory Barsamian, Charlotte Becket, Guy Ben-Ner, Mark Esper, Jon Kessler, Jeffrey Allen Price, Jude Tallichet, and Mary Ziegler—this exhibit was tons of fun in many poly-sensory ways. It was quite immediately funny, too, especially if you happened to walk in when gallerist Fred Valentine was there by himself, milling about with contained erraticism, arms crossed, giggling beneath the noise, basically unfazed.
Collaborative Pageantry & So Forth
QWERTY & Franks Bobbins Institue at Brooklyn Fire Proof
Danish arts collective QWERTY and UK-based Frank Bobbins Institute (a.k.a. F.B.I.), geographico-spatial partners in crime thanks to the organizational aegis of Exchange Rates: The Bushwick International Expo, came all the way over here to fill a nether-nooked room at Brooklyn Fire Proof with enough creative verve, energy, range of skill and unabated mirth that their tireless troupe of artists, performers and sartorial wizards might well have taken over the whole borough—if only they’d been around a wee bit longer, or if only their suitcases were a wee bit larger. And what a maniacally happy, chromatically soaring, exuberantly clad borough our County of Kings, under their rule, would be! The Swiss Guard would finally have real competition, we reckon, and this writer would be happy to play the role of village idiot to round out the imaginable mix of trumpeters, squires, flag-bearers and town criers they might require to discourage order in their realm.
We said we’d try hard to keep our list of Brooklyn art highlights from getting too long or unwieldy—or whatever, we said we’d keep it to a good mix of eight shows and events. But if we could go on a bit longer, some items we’d certainly include are Danh Vo’s deconstructively Statue of Liberty-inspired sculptures around the Brooklyn Bridge; the open studio events in Greenpoint, Dumbo and Gowanus; Henry Sanchez’s far too short-lived exhibit at Momenta Art, which amounted to a deeply researched installation proposing eco-friendly ways to beautify and cleanse Newtown Creek; NurtureArt’s Multiplicity show that bridged various venues from Bushwick to Manhattan via urban-aesthetic issues and thematics; Norm Paris’s and Vince Contarino’s strong solo shows at TSA; the prepositionally pliable Of Landscape at Reverse; Art Helix’s spatially clever, spiritually pacifying empty-lot enlivenment fenced in, both literally and figuratively, by the moniker Appalach-wick; and A Lot of Sorrow, the six-hour, endurance-heavy video collaboration between The National and Ragnar Kjartansson at Luhring Augustine Bushwick. This latter show, by the way, is still on view (through December 21st). Take note that its endearing sadnesses, however blatantly stated and repeated, are of the sort that will likely lift, rather than dampen, your holiday spirits. That musically leavened mood might even ripple along, like certain items echoed in lists, to carry you quasi-cathartically into 2015.
You can follow Paul D’Agostino on Twitter @postuccio