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9 Artists to Watch from the 2012 Bushwick Open Studios

by Hrag Vartanian on June 12, 2012

Maybe the collectors have discovered the treasure trove that is the Bushwick art community (though I’m still hesitant about this claim by the neighborhood’s cheerleaders) and there are certainly more venues to see and experience art than ever before, but where’s the good stuff?

I’ve compiled a list of nine artists I think deserve more attention as some of the stars who were on display during this year’s incarnation of Bushwick Open Studios.

There are certainly more artists than these worth a look but these are my picks.

Justin Berry

His solo show at Interstate Projects is a beautiful exhibition of well thought out and attractive work. Whether you like Justin Berry’s Photoshopped book covers that have a haunting blank beauty about them or his video game landscapes that simultaneously reference the Hudson River school and Ansel Adams, his manipulated worlds are wonders to behold. The small black and white “landscapes” were created with dozens of screenshots, which he tiled together to make a seamless scene. Berry has retained some “flaws” though — like rifles and soldiers from the original games — as if to remind us that we’ve colonized ever inch and pixel of the digital worlds. The show at Interstate Projects closes on Saturday, June 30.

David Pappaceno

His show at English Kills was arguably the best curated exhibition in the whole neighborhood during BOS weekend. I’ve visited the English Kills Art Gallery many times but his installation transformed the space into something new. David Pappaceno‘s recent body of work focused on the ancient image of the Venus of Willendorf and he mixes them up with patterns, colors and 1960s underground comics. His paintings are large and brash and even a little jarring. He seems conscious of the objectification of the female form and he brings in imagery from Willem de Kooning’s famous Women series in the canvases. The sculptures are different colors of resin and they seem to play with the idea of high-end art glass (think illegitimate love child of Gaetano Pesce and Murano glass). He’s placed everything against patterned backdrop, which makes them seem more decorative and almsot humorous. This is a tightly curated show and it closes this Sunday, June 17, so hurry!

To get a feel for the show, I suggest you watch James Kalm’s video from the opening.

Paul Gagner

This is the second year that I found myself lingering in Paul Gagner‘s studio. I admire his wit, color and creativity. Last year, I spotted a wonderful painting he created that reminded me of a Bill Cosby sweater — think Cosby Show circa 1988 — and then there was his campfire sculpture made of canvases. This year, a large BBQ painting seemed so delightfully simple and inviting — even the fruit on the grill looked good — but smaller works played with the notion of surface and one poked fun at the “eyes of a portrait could follow you around the room” idea — in his version, you watch the wall. IMHO dude paints good.

Brent Owens

No stranger to the art lovers of Bushwick, Brent Owens easily mixes high and low in a fresh and interesting way — yes, FRESH, which is amazing considering the topic has been done to death. He conjures up bizarre objects that can’t help but pique your curiosity about their origins based on their wonky sculptural qualities and almost alien feel. Call it Appalachian moderne, call it anything really, but he’s someone who should be on your radar.

The work above, “Rock Dome with UV Protection” (2012) was accompanied by another wall work, “Prayer Slab” (2012), at the English Kills Art Gallery’s Bushwick Basel booth. Owens explained to me that “Prayer Slab” was a combination of features from a prayer rug and a stylized version of vomit from a Cabbage Pail Kids trading card — what’s not to love?

Tatiana Berg

I’ll start with this: I adore  Tatiana Berg‘s sculptures on wheels. If someone described her mobile objects to you, you would be forgiven for thinking they might not “work,” but they do — and quite well, in fact. While her rolling sculptures tend to be pyramidal, others are more peculiar and unexpected. She brings a wonderful sense of color that is anything but precious. Last year’s 3-D objects were more austere, but this year she turned up the volume to “WOW.”

Amanda Friedman

You can’t help but think about the art of Forrest Bess when you see these thickly painted works and their appeal is undeniable. This was the first time I had ever encountered the work of Amanda Friedman, but the images stayed with me for days later. Dense, intense and mysterious, I almost wanted to grab one of these small canvases, run home and cuddle it (or maybe rock it to sleep?) — wait, what does that say about me?

I should mention that her studiomate, Alyssa Gorelick, is no slouch either.

Brian Wondergem

Brian Wondergem‘s studio was packed full of “stuff” so it was a little hard to see individual works, but from what I did spot I noticed a good use of materials, a striking desire to get at the essence of his objects and a way of rendering his curious ideas into more than just a punchline. I bet his sculptures look great in a gallery setting — hint, hint.

Liz Nielsen

There’s something sensual about Liz Nielsen‘s photo works. Created on photo paper using filters and other objects, the results are physically seductive and make you wonder why there’s a divide between photography, drawing and painting in the first place. I’d personally love to see her work on a larger scale but I’ll take what I can get and what I got in her studio was gorgeous.

Adam Parker Smith

Adam Parker Smith likes to take chances, and his sculptures in the Storefront Bushwick booth at Bushwick Basel were one risk worth taking. Sure, some people may look at his Untitled (Bottoms) series (pictured above) and only think carnal thoughts — get your mind out of the gutter, people — but I was impressed with the way he was able to refashion seemingly familiar materials into something utterly new.

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Original BOS is open sign on top via FreeWilliamsburg

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