Photo Essays

Islands of Art at Northside Open Studios

The Ugly Art Room in Fowler Arts Collective's studios (all photos by author)

It’s difficult not to compare the Bushwick Open Studios (BOS) of two weeks ago and Northside Open Studios (NOS) this past weekend. Where BOS felt like a small, tightly knit group of art world wanderers, NOS was more dispersed; more approachable, yet also more isolated. Still, there were some great shows to see and studio buildings to check out. Here are my impressions through a photo essay and commentary.

To fully explore Northside Open Studios, you kind of had to know what you were looking for and where you were going. I checked out a Williamsburg gallery, a studio nestled inside a Greenpoint home and larger group studios up on Greenpoint Avenue. A zine fair was a treat to find outside. There were oases in the hubbub of the rest of Williamsburg and Greenpoint — there’s a lot going on, and the art is hiding just under the surface. This is what I found.

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New media gallery Ventana244 hosted a show of interactive installation pieces. Mimi Yin’s “Hangman’s dance” was an animatronic composition made of lightbulbs on cords swung and pulled on mechanical arms. The machines created an accompanying rhythm for the dancing bulbs.

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Jack Kalish and Yonatan Ben-Simhon’s “Illumination” scanned any block of printed text and turned it into poetry by projecting light to highlight specific words.

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This McCarren park piano may have been an exercise in relational aesthetics, but I think people just enjoyed playing it throughout the entire weekend. It hosted many a late night jam session.

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I visited photographer Rachel Sussman’s Greenpoint studio and had a great chat with the artist. Her current series documents the oldest living things in the world, plants that are over 2,000 years old. The trips have taken her to the ends of the earth. At left is La Llareta, a relative of parsley found in Chile that is over 3,000 years old. Part scientific expedition, part typology, part beautiful image-making, the series has a particular poetry given the journeys it took to create.

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This spruce tree in Sweden is over 9,500 years old. Sussman researched extensively and consulted with biologists to find the particular specimens she shoots.

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In a group show at Janet Kurnatowski Gallery of artist collective Temporary Antumbra Zone, pairs of artists collaborated on objects, but every artist participating went by a pseudonym. This energetic show was a fun display of what’s possible given a bunch of artists and some time — an explosion of colors, textures, shapes and forms that’s invitingly playful and had some real stand out pieces.

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I particularly liked Mat Curtain’s “Deer Creek 1995”, a string of pastel-painted bits and pieces of frames, like the bones of dead paintings. The piece was shamanistic and weird, plus totally fun to look at.

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On Greenpoint Avenue, binding atelier and book-making studio Booklyn had a display of zines and printed matter.

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I liked Michael Stewart’s Almost Perfect Forms, a collection of constellations made by connecting words instead of stars. Booklyn’s blank notebooks were also really beautiful if you’re in the market for a new sketchbook or jotting pad.

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A selection of zines from Pen15 Press.

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Ashley May and Tanya Goel share a studio on Greenpoint Avenue. Tanya Goel’s work, seen above, includes these luminescent abstract paintings in acidic colors. A pretty intense viewing experience.

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Ashley May works with vintage postcards. This stack of surfer postcards is offset so the image repeats itself, becoming an abstracted visual tick, like a computer glitch.

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May’s other works included iron-on transfers of vintage postcards in similar stacks, creating rectangular prisms of refracted imagery.

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Fowler Arts Collective’s Paint It Now exhibition was a collaborative group mural featuring 19 artists that work in the space. The mural filled the front gallery room of the studio, covering any open wall surface. Styles mixed, merged and changed, but the overall effect demonstrated the breadth of styles in the building.

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A cute illustration by Aya Kakeda, part of the Fowler Arts Collective’s studio.

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Eerie photography by Chris Mottalini captures architecture in a state of mysterious decay.

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Elana Adler’s punky needlepoint captures catcalls that the artist has been the target of during her time in New York. The traditional medium gave the project a DIY air and the phrases she captures are hilarious, turned into parodies of themselves when hemmed in by yellow flowers or depicted in curly handwritten script.

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Related:

  • For Northside Open Studios, Hyperallergic hosted an opening party for our Presents mail art exhibition on Friday June 17. Check out photos of the opening and the exhibition here.
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