Galleries

Telling the Story of an Art Loft Building

by Howard Hurst on September 22, 2011

Works by Olivier Mosset, Jacob Kassay and Steve Parrino ( all photographs courtesy Spencer Brownstone Gallery)

1107 Manhattan Avenue is the current exhibition at the Spencer Brownstone Gallery. The show, which opened last Friday, is a geographical/historical survey of work produced in an artistically rich studio building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn from which the show takes its name. According to the gallery website:

Originally leased by Steven Parrino more than two decades ago, 1107 Manhattan Avenue studio has housed numerous artists throughout the years. This exhibition is an homage to the legacy of this artist studio and an intimate look at the work being produced by its present tenants.

The exhibition includes artists Steven Parrino, Olivier Mosset, Amy Granat, Chuck Nanney, Jacob Kassay and Virginia Overton. It seems fitting that Spencer Brownstone is in Soho, perhaps the most self conscious, often historicized neighborhood of New York’s recent art historical past.

Like the Soho of yesteryears, Greenpoint has begun to attract the cache that comes with being an artist’s neighborhood. The exhibition itself reads like a Who’s Who of a specific vein of painting and installation. While Parrino (who is represented by Gagosian) and Mosset lend the whole affair a level of credibility it appears at least that the artists have all been selected for a very specific aesthetic. The result is both a recent pseudo-history and a sort of geocached exhibition of big, bold tongue-in-cheek manner of painting and installation.

Works by Chuck Nanney, Amy Granat and Jacob Kassay

At the end of the day I’m not sure what to make of 1107 Manhattan Ave. I think its best taken at face value. Sure the pairing of Steve Parrino and Jacob Kassay’s works look great,and make a sort of satisfying visual sense next to each other. What I doubt though is if these displays have anything more than a sort of super specific visual rebus. The result is helpful and misleading in turns.

Though 1107 appears as a visual ode to the kinds of work being thought about in Brooklyn over the last 20 years, its ultra specificity presents just one slice of the pie. This kind of exhibition, which attempts to historicize a specific geography, building or group of artist, is inevitable, daresay I that it is even healthy in many respects. What makes me uncomfortable is that this sort of thing might be taken as more than it is, as some sort of benchmark or symbol. Rather I think it better to think of the works on display as a reflection on the power of artistic confluence, a meditation on how proximity can spur creative dialogue.

Works by Steve Parrino,AmyGranat and Olivier Mosset

What this kind of display lack is a broader context. Though the premise of the show places this group of artists in direct dialogue there is little commentary on the space itself. Who is missing from this elaborate puzzle? Which artists know/knew each other? Where did they hang out? Perhaps even archival images of their spaces. This kind of background is essential in forming any actual critical dialogue that the show might prompt. Without it, though the works in the show are engaging, the whole thing comes off as a sort of best hits, a scratch on the surface of a much bigger story, and a chance to tie young, hot artists like Kassay to older more legitimized artists of the past.

1107 Manhattan Avenue continues at the Spencer Brownstone Gallery (3 Wooster Street, Soho, Manhattan) until October 28.

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