Galleries

Roaming through Thickets, Fog and Poetry in Williamsburg

Jennifer Lauren Smith, "February" (2011), HD video with audio, 9 min 23 sec loop, audio by Peter Traub (all photos by the author)

This past Every 2:ND Friday in Williamsburg was subdued, perhaps everyone is resting before this weekend’s Northside Arts Festival, but there were still quite a few shows galloping from crisp paintings to detritus-based installations.

I started at Pierogi’s The Boiler for Our Cult’s Classic, an exhibit by twelve recent MFA graduates from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Sculpture and Extended Media. The most interesting art used the former factory boiler room’s industrial characteristics to its advantage, like Jennifer Lauren Smith’s video on the top of the 40-foot ceiling synced with headphones below, or Oscar Santillan’s blurred video of horse running in the fog screened in a low, brick-lined room off the main gallery. The smaller work was a bit lost in the crowd and the space.

Will Machin, "Thicket" (2011), railroad ties, tree, thornbushes, overhead projectors, mixed media, 11 ft x 15 ft x 2.5 ft
Ian McMahon, "Untitled" (2011), plaster, pigments, paint, 27 x 47 x 18

Ian McMahon’s plaster piece coated on one side with yellow pigment that descended down one wall also gave the exhibit some visually scalable height, and Will Machin’s “Thicket” (2011), a makeshift ferris wheel built from natural and manmade debris, was a nice kinetic focal point in a corner. “Thicket” had two projectors at its base that made the jumble of turning materials into a shadow kaleidoscope on the wall, which my friend described as “like running through the woods.”

Our Cult's Classic opening
Detail of photograph by Hannah Walsh
Ana Esteve Llorens, "Imaginary Geography" (2011), plywood, polystyrene foam, enamel paint, 70 x 70 x 70

With the only connection between the artists in Our Cult’s Classic being their graduate school, the exhibit was haphazard in its themes, like almost all student shows. Half of the artists graduated in 2010, the other half this year, so rather than a cohesive presentation, the exhibit was more interesting in thinking about where each artist will go from here, and what they each might do if given an exhibit of their own.

Way Stations II at Causey Contemporary
Alan Binstock, "Chapel," glass, resin, stainless steel, 102 x 96 x 50

My next stop was Causey Contemporary for a solo show by Alan Binstock entitled Way Stations II. We seemed to have just missed a dance performance, which would have made good use of the space and mosaic structures that were begging for some interaction. I feel like these colorful glass works would be more interesting out in the sun of a garden, where their vibrant colors would be less muted and their forms less empty.

Live With Animals
Work by Timmy Vulgar at Live With Animals.
Foggy Notion opening at Live With Animals

Violet Times was presenting Foggy Notion over at Live With Animals, which is hosting music performances along with the exhibit. It was an odd mix of sinisterly scrawled drawings reminiscent of what kids might sneakily do inside their math books, and standard oil paintings. Even if none of the art particularly grabbed me, the show had an endearing DIY aesthetic and, from the curator’s statement, it seems the artists are also musicians and will be performing in Live With Animals during the exhibit, which is a cool concept.

Mimi Yin, "Hangman's Jig"
Jack Kalish and Yonatan Ben-Simhon, "Illumination"

At Ventana244, we saw what was my favorite exhibit of the night: Intensity, a “fresh selection of interactive projects that use code to experiment with sound, poetry and movement.” When we first entered the gallery, I thought I was mistaken on the date and that there was no art. But suddenly the unassuming lights by Mimi Yin hanging on the wall came to life in an abrupt, swinging dance, and I realized the desk in the back of the room was the staging area for “Illumination” by Jack Kalish and Yonatan Ben-Simhon. Their piece “discovered poetry” in a block of text by using an optical script to find words, locations and poetic structures. Around the corner was the “Skittish Tree” by Martín Bravo, where a little tree that looks to be made of light acts like a nervous creature, cowering at loud noises, or relaxing at gentle sounds. It was all very charming, but also well-executed.

Glen Einbinder, "Dreamcards, Science Times, 2000" (2010), laser print (from original pencil or ink), silver and gold ink, paper, found printed paper (two sided)
John O. Smith, "Currency Exchange: Volume Five" (2010), handbound artist's book with cloth covered case binding, 48 pages
Listening to Chuck Jones' "Send A Traveling Band To Stay With Your Friend" (2011), handwritten letter on back of color laser print with audio CD

Fuse Works had a solid showing with its Alarums and Excursions exhibit at Front Room Gallery. Not as frantic as its title suggests, it instead had thoughtfully done editions like John O. Smith’s currency books and Glen Einbinder’s “Dreamcards” based on news stories from 2000 in the Science Times section of the New York Times, making a modern mysticism out of technology and scientific curiosity. The piece with the most “alarums and excursions” was Chuck Jones’s “Send A Traveling Band To Stay With Your Friend” (2011), which offered exactly that. You can ask Jones to send a package to anyone that will contain photos, a CD and a letter saying that a “group of itinerant musicians” will be coming to their home. After listening to the exuberantly off-key CD, that could be alarming.

Fascination opening at graphite.

Our last gallery was Graphite. to see Fascination, a solo show by Lisa Alisa. Whimsy and horror mixed in paintings of nude young women (I read that they are mostly self-portraiture), where glimpses of fierce animals lurked. The sharp, clean paintings by Alisa reflecting her fascination with the beauty and grotesqueness of life and nature were a good way to end the night, a sweet digestif tinged with a whiff of sharp bourbon.

Every 2:ND Friday takes places, as the name suggests, every second Friday at various galleries throughout Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Participating galleries stay open late and welcome visitors, who wander the streets of the hippest neighborhood on earth to explore art.

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