With Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Bushwick, North Brooklyn may be the borough’s largest artistic enclave. But artists live and work in South Brooklyn, too, and Gowanus — with its Superfund canal and its romantically industrial landscape — is one of their primary neighborhoods. This weekend, 302 artists and arts spaces will open their doors for Gowanus Open Studios (GOS) 2014, running 12–6pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Knowing how intimidating open studios events can be, GOS has smartly lined up a number of curators to give thematic tours of the event on Saturday. Standouts include Ben Sutton’s tour, focused on patterns; Jason Andrew’s, focused on artists working in collage, textile, and craft; and Sonia Simões’s erotic art tour. They’ve also put together some self-guided thematic tours you can follow on your own.
But if tours aren’t your thing and you just want to figure out where to start, here is our handy guide. You’ll probably want to pick up, pull up, or print out a map, at any number of spaces starting on Saturday or in mobile or PDF version on your phone.
If you want to curate your GOS experience a little bit, rather than leaving it to chance, here are some artist studios I recommend checking out.
- Elbow Toe/Brian Adam Douglas (183 Lorraine St, #71) – You may know him as the street artist Elbow Toe, but Brian Adam Douglas has been working indoors more often lately, making absurdly intricate cut-paper paintings that tell mysterious and mystical stories. You’ll definitely want to stop by and see what he’s working on — plus word has it he’ll be selling limited-edition prints.
- Crystal Gregory (183 Lorraine St, #319) – Gregory likes to combine materials that don’t typically go together. The most successful of these pairings involve fabrics — such as handmade lace and textiles — and cast concrete, resulting in restless pieces that ask intriguing formal questions.
- Andrew Smenos and Helena Parriott (126 13th St, #2B) – Smenos’s two- and three-dimensions renderings of animals are technically impressive and unsettling in their quiet eeriness. Parriott makes highly textured paintings that will deceive you in the best way.
- Janice Everett (280 Nevins St, #33) – Everett’s trippy photo collages look promising: kaleidoscopic visions of NYC’s towering architecture (calling to mind Sanaz Mazinani and James Bridle’s Rorschmap). According to her bio, Everett has lived in Gowanus since 1979, so you should definitely stop to talk.
- Erik Hougen (165 7th St) – Hougen’s prints and watercolors tend to be devoid of people and full of atmosphere, showcasing his masterful ability to capture and shape light for his own purposes.
- Susan Newmark (94 9th St, #13) – Newmark’s collages are compelling for their dense layering and detail. Each one seems to contain a story, like unique Where’s Waldo pages obliterated by paper and paint.
- Sara Jones (98 9th St, #14) – Using thread in the creation of geometric paintings isn’t exceptionally new (see: Regina Bogat), but Jones does it in a lighthearted way that evidences an interest in pattern, texture, form, and where and how those three interact.
- Katrina Makjut (400 Third Ave, 2nd floor) – Speaking of thread, four words: cross-stitched birth control.
- Rene Murray (472 Baltic St) – Murray’s clay creations are insanely, impressively intricate. They’re also funny.
- Dale Williams (295 Douglass St, #2r) – A figurative painter in the vein of Philip Guston and Peter Saul, with cartoonist R. Crumb in the mix, Williams offers up fairly miserable-looking, misshapen figures, and it’s on us to find the moral.
- Emma Fague (543 Union St) – Her GOS page has only one image, a still from a video on an iPhone. Not much to go on, but a welcome counterpoint to all the painting, printing, and generally very tactile art happening in Gowanus. And if her collages are any indication, you can expect good things.
What’s that? The studios aren’t enough, and you want more art?! OK, well happily, there will be quite a few exhibitions on view around the neighborhood too. Here are a handful that look especially good.
- Common Ground Gowanus (Old Stone House, Washington Park/JJ Byrne Playground, 3rd St & 5th Ave) – Curated by Abby Graf Subak, director of Arts Gowanus (the organization behind Gowanus Open Studios), this show will highlight nine artists who’ve been in Gowanus since long before the Whole Foods. Get back to your roots.
- Art From the Heart (Gowanus Loft, 61 9th St) – The Gowanus Loft has an infectious, DIY spirit that will hopefully be matched by this group show, curated by artist and writer Katie Peyton. The Saturday night opening, 7–11:30pm, will feature a handful of live performances. Attempting a model for “interdisciplinary profit sharing,” all the money made that night will be split between all the artists involved.
- Deceive Inveigle Obfuscate: An X-Files Themed Group Show (Gowanus Print Lab, 54 Second Ave) – In honor of Halloween, Gowanus Print Lab pays tribute to cult TV show classic The X-Files. Thirty-eight artists have contributed, and unsurprisingly, they seem to be thinking a lot about aliens. As it should be; keep art weird.
- Self-Determination Inside/Out (Interference Archive, 131 8th St, #4) – Interference Archive is one of the most underrated art and archive spaces in the city. Their current show is a broad survey of the cultural materials of the struggle for prison justice and reform, including art by prisoners. The goal? To “fundamentally recast the history of the prison-industrial complex” from the inside-out.
- Miska Draskoczy: Gowanus Wild (Ground Floor Gallery, 343 5th St) – Although Ground Floor Gallery is definitely in Park Slope, it’s paying homage to its neighbor with this exhibition. Taken around Gowanus, Draskoczy’s photographs make lush landscapes out of industrial terrain.
Like any open studios event, GOS will involve a lot of walking. In addition to keeping your eyes peeled for street art, if you plan your route right, you can see some public art along the way.
- Arts Gowanus/NYC DOT – Arts Gowanus and the New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program have teamed up for two public art installations at different ends of the neighborhood. Both installations insert nature, of a kind, into the city streets: on Union Street over the Gowanus Canal is Carlton Scott Sturgill’s “Bridge of Flowers,” for which the artist has installed handmade fabric roses in chain-link fencing; down at Fourth Ave and Prospect Expressway is Ruth Hofheimer’s “Greenery” — also sponsored by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce — which we don’t have info on, but will hopefully be akin to Hofheimer’s previous public work.
- Groundswell – This organization brings together local NYC youth and artists to make socially engaged public murals. Four of their pieces are located in Gowanus, and they’ll be offering a tour of them both Saturday and Sunday.
Are you exhausted yet? I hope not, because there’s more to do. Here are a few extra sites that you probably shouldn’t miss while on a visit to Gowanus. Think of them as a kind of refuge.
- Morbid Anatomy Museum (424 3rd Ave) – In honor of Gowanus Open Studios, the weirdly wonderful and wonderfully weird Morbid Anatomy Museum will be free on Saturday and Sunday. Their current exhibition, The Art of Mourning, takes a fascinating look at the art and material culture of mourning, including death masks, spirit photography, and more. And if you have a question to which you’re dying to know the answer, their library will also be open.
- Proteus Gowanus (543 Union St) – Before Morbid Anatomy moved out and opened its own space, it shared quarters with Proteus Gowanus, also a gallery/library home for the meeting of things artist, scientific, and weird. Their current show looks at currency through the eyes of artists, part of a year of creative explorations of commerce. While there, you can also visit the excellent Reanimation Library.
- Ample Hills Creamery (305 Nevins St) – The weather this weekend is supposed to be gorgeous, so take advantage and eat some ice cream outdoors while you still can. This two-floor location is less a parlor than it is a complex, but the ice cream is still damn delicious.
- Four & Twenty Blackbirds (439 3rd Ave) – Twin Peaks is coming back, which means you should be eating pie. Also, this is the best pie I’ve ever had.
- Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club (514 Union St) – It sounds absurd and painfully hipster-ish, I know. But the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club is unbelievably spacious, and has a food truck and board games in addition to shuffleboard. You can’t really go wrong.
- And don’t forget to relax and have a drink — at the GOS opening and closing night parties!
Gowanus Open Studios 2014 takes place Saturday, October 18, to Sunday, October 19, throughout the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. Hyperallergic is the media sponsor.