The Brooklyn art scene saw both surging highs and submerging lows this year. Its mixed arts initiatives of the winning variety ran a healthily engaging gamut: greatly successful open studios events in Bushwick, Northside and Gowanus; another Art Walk in Bay Ridge; an Art Basel in Bushwick; and a disarmingly fun sand-sculpture contest at Rockaway Beach (which, yes, is technically Queens). Yet there was also the Brooklyn Museum’s awkwardly pitched, geographically implausible and logistically deflective Brooklyn GO, an all-thumbs attempt to tap into Brooklyn’s creative energy that was panned both before and after the fact—making the greatest virtue of GO its past participle, GONE. Mixed fortunes turned to true misfortune this fall, though, as Superstorm Sandy compromised art studios and spaces from Greenpoint to Gowanus. While such losses paled in comparison to those suffered elsewhere in the city and region, they were nonetheless harrowing for those who confronted them. Thus for Brooklyn art, too, although Sandy did not define 2012, she did sweep breezily through the end of the annum to summarily redefine it.
Speaking of defining moments—although here quite differently definitive—the following Brooklyn art shows were among many others worthy of recollective note. To narrow things down a bit, however, a Best 12 of 2012 list seemed fitting enough. (In chronological, as opposed to qualitative, order—and ignoring a priori all the ‘Ridgewood is Queens’ commentary, because whatever.)
Matt Freedman, The Golem of Ridgewood, at Valentine Gallery.
Freedman deployed concoction, adoption and ambiguous forms of parody in the creation of the vast historical narrative The Golem of Ridgewood, a research project of sorts that the artist fleshed out with films, creepy arcana and mixedly gnomic sculptures. Sound eerily intriguing, perhaps? It was. And then some. (Still scratching head.)
John Almanza and Dave Hardy, at Regina Rex.
A clever, space-befitting pairing of Almanza's carefully reductive abstract paintings and Hardy's hefty, materially severe sculptures. The latter grounded the former, the former leavened in return, their relationship one of inorganic symbiosis in the midst of six planes of nearly absolute white.
Out Side, Michele Araujo, Lisa Sigal and Elana Herzog, at Studio 10.
Sigal's sculptures incorporating screens and other objects of a differently structural, less porous sort appeared nearly stoic alongside Herzog's wooden concatenations, which appeared simultaneously sound and precariously collapse-bound. Surrounding all these sculptures, then—and intermittently visible through them, too, in their resonant vibrancy—were Araujo's color-splashed paintings, whose chromatics radiated out as their subtractive textures lured eyes back in.
The Brodmann Areas, a Norte Maar production at Center for Performance Research.
From Beat Nites in Bushwick to the blowout To Be A Lady exhibition in midtown, Jason Andrew's directorial energies channeled through Norte Maar were more impressive than ever this year. Exemplary of his juggernautal drive was The Brodmann Areas, a polyphonically theatrical, meta-collaborative ballet he produced in tandem with choreographer Julia K. Gleich for a four day run at the Center for Performance Research. It was, in a word (or two), a mind-bendingly mesmerizing probing of the brain's housing of mimesis, creativity and uncertainty. Yes, et cetera.
Andrew Hurst, at English Kills Art Gallery.
The artist's collages and assemblages have become increasingly sculptural in recent years, and this time they were very literally off the wall. Moreover, those that did yet pend from the walls expressed the extent of their relief at a reach of two feet. Murally adhered or not, the works appeared commonly ambered in a dusty past, aged in an attic, lorded over by time's heavy seep. (Full review here.)
Grounded, group show curated by Rico Gatson, at Airplane Gallery.
Rudimentary, resourceful, heady and harmonious were but a few germane terms to describe this exhibition of indoor and outdoor sculptures by nine artists. Curated by Rico Gatson, the show featured works incorporating mostly found or repurposed materials—from furniture legs to repurposed fabrics, from art books found to Skittles browned, from dirt and dust to posts ridden with rust. (Full review here.)
Andrew Ohanesian, The House Party, at Pierogi's The Boiler.
Known for astounding verisimilitude with his often large-scale, space-challenging installations, Ohanesian allegedly threw in all his chips for this ultimately ragingly realized endeavor. His suburban home built to specs—functional plumbing and all, master(batory) bedroom and all, Twinkies (RIP) and DVDs and all—inside the gaping, post-industrial space was bunker-like at a remove yet cozily festive within, and the destructive effects of its unveiling were crucial to its christening. (Full review here.)
Cheon pyo Lee, Medium is the Same, at Interstate Projects.
Truly bar-setting was this more or less inaugural exhibit in Interstate's then quite new space. Lee's solo investigation of currency-spawned and energy-expending (and vice-versa) cycles of mobility and futility (and vice-versa) featured various sorts of mechanized sculptural amusements in a send-up of supply in the absence of demand—the vices of our versas, in a sense. (Full review here.)
Guido van der Werve, at Luhring Augustine Bushwick.
Physical feats of idleness on an icecap, meditative ponderings stemming from chess, the hoisting of a Steinway Baby Grand into a small second floor apartment to equip an orchestral concert therein, and various other sometimes amusing, sometimes melancholic narrative conduits steeped in anecdotal curiosities and classical music formed the visio-aural thrust of the Dutch artist's suite of eight films in Luhring Augustine's Bushwick outpost. The musical scores throughout, by the way—performed and at times composed by the artist himself—were by and large barely short of divine.
The New Brutalists, at Parallel Gallery.
This group show of works in two and three dimensions by Samuel T. Adams, Frank Zadlo, Leah Raintree and Guy Nelson referenced not brutality per se but rather Brutalism—a mid-20th-century architectural trend that fostered structural legibility through self-revelatory implements and layouts—by bringing together artists whose process-heavy practices are themselves processed before yielding eventual products, whose methodologies disclose underlying forms while obscuring traces of manually generative modes. It was also possible that a certain hindmilk-fed bloat of quasi-organica on the floor held the conceptual key to its surroundings, but that question was never settled. (Full review here.)
Ira Eduardovna, That. There. Then., at MomentaArt.
A probing of family ties and sociopolitical histories alike via a polyptych of variable-POV videos, all narratively bound in the same modus of inquiry: a recast and recontextualized parody of a Soviet-era TV game show. (Full review here.)
Allison Somers, Ellipsis, at Microscope Gallery.
Film and video pieces accompanied by a series of black and white photographic objects were the spare yet nonetheless immersive visual mediators of Somers' quiet, contemplative realm of longing, recollection, ruin and self-reflexive restructuring. (Full review here.)
And if we may, perhaps not of strictly artistic interest but of aesthetic pleasure nonetheless was the revelation of the simple, classy, rather minimalist black-and-white uniforms of the Brooklyn Nets. Score. Moreover, our team will long enjoy an extra edge of home-court advantage thanks to the sharp herringbone patterning in the arena's handsome hardwood.
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