There’s a ritual to the daytime gallery visit: a cup of coffee at Cafe Grumpy if I’m in Chelsea, a mid-afternoon stop off at Vanessa’s Dumplings if I’m on the Lower East Side. I’ve come to relish these experiences because of their contemplative nature, the solitary walks and long time spent with only art for company. I developed this tradition after years of unhappily trying to see paintings over drunken shoulders at openings. Thursday nights in Chelsea are like mediocre cocktail parties that happen in front of art. For those of us who want to connect with an artistic community but resist openings with curmudgeonly fervor, there is hope: Greenpoint Gallery Night.
The Greenpoint circuit is a hodgepodge of galleries in storefront spaces, basements, studio buildings, and bars. They lack the polish, geographical proximity, and uniformity of Bushwick, but this is a good thing. Though Greenpoint Gallery Night involves a lot of walking, there’s an enjoyable, scrappy scavenger-hunt quality to the pace of the event. I was pleased by the lack of glamorous crowds and couldn’t help smiling at the number of young families who were making the rounds. Several bars, including Coco 66, had one-night art shows. I relished the opportunity to relax, kick back, and have a beer in between stops.
My first destination was the 67 West Street building, which contains several spaces. Greenpoint Terminal Gallery had Poster, an interesting two-person exhibition featuring Jeremy Jansen and Jesse Harris. I particularly loved one of Jansen’s trash sculptures — a hulking, desiccated log resembling driftwood from the river that was covered in rusted brown staples. Down the hall, the new and exciting Dose Projects was showing Laura Splan. Dose has a small exhibition space whose profits go to the upkeep of its website; an iPad mounted to the wall allowed gallerygoers to explore the online project. The basis of the website is a store where visitors can browse and buy art. Fifty percent of the proceeds go to the artist, and the other 50% goes directly to a nonprofit of the artist’s choosing. It’s a nice concept, and fun to search art based on nonprofit causes.
Next I went to Booklyn, which was showing terrific work by Mike Taylor. His comic-inspired works on paper immediately call to mind Raymond Pettibon but have their own quirky, knowing humor. The walls are slammed with Taylor’s punch-you-in-the-face, all-over-the-place imagery and weirdo witticisms. Most impressive, though, is the huge, ultra-limited-edition artist’s book published in conjunction with the show. My favorite print in it was a black-and-white rendering of riot police that reads, “Overwhelming public support / budget surplus / Nirvana on the radio.” I also fell in love with face-to-face images of a blue-haired boy labeled “No future” and a brown-haired girl labeled “No feelings.”
As I lingered at Booklyn, I got to talking with the staff, and they ended up showing me a number of handmade artist books with drawings by Bay Area greats like Barry McGee and Chris Johanson, among others. This is what sets the Greenpoint experience apart — the eclecticism and comfort level that come from being off the beaten track. The sense of community and collaboration is palpable. It took me a few minutes on my way back Bushwick to realize what made the experience unique: people were actually smiling.
Greenpoint Gallery Night, of which Hyperallergic was a media sponsor, took place at various venues around Greenpoint, Brooklyn, on February 7.
Poster was on view at Greenpoint Terminal Gallery (67 West Street, #320) from January 10 to February 8. Laura Splan: Meta Static was on view at Dose Projects (67 West Street, #215) from February 7 to 9. No/Future: Mike Taylor continues at Booklyn (37 Greenpoint Ave, Suite E4G) through March 30.