This is the second in a series of posts documenting Bushwick’s 5th Beat Nite, which took place on Saturday, February 18, 2011.
The Bushwick art community celebrated Beat Nite last Friday, and the all-night event was a great way to showcase all the good things going on in this burgeoning region of Brooklyn. Ten art spaces, ranging from more formal gallery spaces to converted living rooms, all stayed open late to welcome the roving bands of art fans interested in seeing a variety of visuals with a healthy mix of music, food and surprisingly mild weather.
The bi-annual event, organized by Jason Andrew and Norte Maar and sponsored by us here at Hyperallergic, celebrated its fifth outing by putting together an exciting circuit of group exhibitions hosted in the nooks and crannies of Bushwick. With a dedicated map in hand, viewers walked (sometimes subway’d) between the gallery spaces, providing an opportunity to explore the neighborhood and spot some outstanding street art along the way.
At Norte Maar, artist Austin Thomas organized a show composed mostly of clean and enchanting pieces that fit perfectly in the small (and crowded) space. Some of the artists included in the exhibition were Paul D’Agostino, Lars Kremer, Aron Namenwirth, Cathy Nan Quinlan, Julie Torres, Audra Wolowiec and Brooke Moyse,whose abstract works are delightfully vibrant and fresh.
Across the street, Alexa Hoyer and Walsh Hansen showed side-by-side at The Laundromat, in what it was the gallery’s first show in their new location. Both artists have an affinity for very clever works. Hansen’s installation, featuring a video populated by animal cut-outs projected on a hanging screen surrounded by sculptures of the same forms, was a good expression of the duality of urban space and wildlife. Hoyer presented a group of different artworks that in my opinion was a little disjointed and lacking in unity. Together with some drawings and photographs, she exhibited transcribed texts of conversations she overheard on the subway. During opening night, she directed a performance with a group of actors, who reenacted and interpreted these documented dialogues.
Over on Troutman, Arch Collective threw together a terrific show with the artists of the Bluetan Art Collective and others. The exhibition started in the street with a video projection that shot out from the gallery onto a building across the street. Inside, variety was the name of the game; the impressive metal sculpture of Clark Russel shared space with the photography of Grover Watts, who seems to have an obsession with people who put things in their mouth. Joseph O’Neal displayed some of his stark pieces on wood and across the room the installation by Jeremy McDaniel seemed like a Poltergeist movie set done by Marc Jenkins. The altar-throne-toilet room intervened by Alex Chaplin was a lot of fun with all the walls and ceiling wallpapered with crazy notes, photos from porn magazines and portraits of Charles Manson that included the slogan “Charlie says Chaplin.”
The paintings by Brendan McNally and the collages by Joe Strasser were the highlights of this particular show. McNally knows how to paint, and you can tell he really enjoys using different techniques on a canvas in order to elicit expression from his subjects. His portraits are a well-balanced mix of serenity and strength, highlighted by a great use of light and color. Strasser pieces are powerful and well rounded. His works are made on found pieces of wood that he plays with textures and materials in a way that reminded me of the rawness of mid-20th C. French artist Jean Dubuffet.
Walking from Wyckoff Ave. to Johnson Ave. there are numerous blocks of factory buildings covered with large and impressive murals. It’s easy to get lost in these streets.
The night — no matter how mild — wasn’t helpful in appreciating the quality of the street art and graffiti around, but the orange-tinged light from the lamp posts and the element of surprise did help to make the visual discoveries rather special. Street artists, including the American Chris Stain, the German ECB and the Italian PEETA, had all left their marks on the walls of Bushwick.
After passing by these outdoor displays, I ended up at the brand new Curbs & Stoops, which I discovered was a 6,000 square feet space with five smaller exhibitions, three open studios and a large decentralized party, all running at the same time. The Curbs & Stoops Active Space is a collaboration with Welner Associates and an attempt to create a progressive cultural center designed to promote community through art. It will house artists studios, a residency program, exhibition spaces, and the headquarters of the Curbs & Stoops blog and curated publication.
The exhibitions on view had a large range of works, mostly on canvas and paper. One problem that I found here, as well as in several of the other art spaces during Beat Nite, was the lack of information about each piece. Sometimes it wasn’t even easy to find the name of the artists. It’s true that in all the galleries the staff was very close at hand and everyone was open to casual conversations about art, so there was always somebody ready to answer any questions I had.
My favorite room-sized exhibition was found here. Titled Gritty City Rockin Pretty, it featured the work of Hector Hernandez, UR New York Collective, the Lapiztola Collective and the photographs of Pep Williams. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Williams’ images have been widely reproduced in fashion, music, sports and entertainment magazines the world over. His images have also been shown in galleries stretching from Japan and Europe to South America and the United States. The work devles into the underground world of tattoo culture, gangs and street life.
Live from Oaxaca
Also included in the show was Lapiztola, which is one of the most interesting urban art collectives in Mexico and it is composed of three artists from Oaxaca: Yankel, Rosario and Roberto. They started during the Oaxaca political conflicts of 2006, creating art works on the walls as a sign of support for the revolutionary movement. The name itself, Lapiztola, is a play on words, combining the Spanish words for Pistol (pistola) and pencil (lapiz). They are also known for the detail of their stencils and the enormous size of their works. Somebody at Curbs & Stoops happened to mention to me that they are preparing their first solo show in San Diego.
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All in all, Beat Nite: Bushwick Art Spaces Open Late was the perfect setting for a late winter night of art and parties. Sure, there’s always the risk that the “do it yourself” attitude of emerging art scenes can lead to some disappointments, but who doesn’t like the adventure of sorting through the art to separate the wheat from the chaff. DIY art demands DIY criticism. I, for one, was up to the challenge.
Bushwick’s 5th Beat Nite took place on Saturday, February 18, 2011.