Chelsea openings, for the most part, are what they are: slightly glamorous events drawing fashionable crowds that are held in lovely, spacious galleries that tend to show predictable, big-name artists. Amidst the din of opening night crowds happily sipping white wine, you never overhear the night’s protagonists discussing the trials and tribulations of being working artists. In Greenpoint last week during the neighborhood’s Gallery Night —admittedly a livelier affair when the weather isn’t in the teens — exhibiting artists were on hand to discuss their work, and those wandering Greenpoint to see it tended to be artists themselves.
Though many of the gallery spaces were small neighborhood bars, wine stores, or difficult-to-locate industrial buildings on icy sidewalks, the night proved to be a wonderful change of pace. While the artwork was sometimes underwhelming, in each space small groups of artists huddled around each other, talking about selling pieces, affordable workspaces and projects they were currently working on. I felt like a voyeur, looking into the lives of Brooklyn artists, and enjoyed every minute of it. It was a nostalgic experience, and one that left me desperately missing studio visits and critiques. There are very few things that can be quite as willfully self-indulgent as a group of artists talking about their studio practice, but there’s nothing I miss more.
My first stop of the night was a wine store on Franklin Ave, surrounded by cute boutiques, called Dandelion Wine. A nice store with exposed brick walls, Dandelion Wine is currently showing the drawings of Greenpointers own Jen Galatioto. Perfectly suited to the space, her drawings are small, playful and err on the side of decorative. What began as doodles, she explained, evolved into a kind of habitual and compulsive sketching. Her drawings reflect scenes of everyday life and leisure. One side of the show is devoted entirely to tiny, framed pictures of black and white tiaras, while on the other wall unframed sketches were suspended from a clothesline of twine. Helped out by some lovely curation, images of animals and landscapes stand out as snapshots of quiet but happy moments. Galatioto has chosen to sketch with a pen and ink the kind of moments most of us capture with our cell phones.
Dose Projects Space had on view a small exhibition of pop-inspired collages by Laura Splan, titled Meta Static. Collages made from the glossy images we often see in women’s fashion magazines—pictures of nail polish, lipstick, makeup and perfume—Splan reassembles and re-contextualizes this familiar imagery to create sometimes abstract, sometimes formal, works on paper. Framed in white and surrounded by large swaths of negative space, she gives the imagery more preciousness and less context, letting viewers stray outside the normal boundaries in which we consume advertising. Splan’s pieces, however, do not conceptually question her appropriated images, and her collages are not distorted enough to alter the images overall appeal. Instead, Meta Static feels like an exercise in how to take images from pop culture and stock photography and make them into formally beautiful works of art. The show deals with issues of appropriation, advertising and over-saturation while not confronting the psychological appeal of these images.
I finished the evening at Yes Gallery, where an exhibition of eight photographers took over the entire space in a confusing and oddly hung show titled, Slang Reflections. Though I did not enjoy how individual photographers were mixed together and felt that the sheer quantity of images created an overwhelming, all-over experience, some of the actual images were interesting. The photographers should have been given their own wall spaces so that viewers could extract conceptual interests rather than just aesthetic differences from their images. Brooke Smith’s gritty portraits of artists, musicians and street urchins were a melancholy yet beautiful look at urban, American youth. Intimate and candid, her photographs stood out because of the faces and emotions expressed in her soft, color portraits. While not the most original, Gigi Elmes’ images of small town Americana were still compelling, revealing how much of America is still rural and reminding us how many lives are afflicted by a certain level of poverty.
Greenpoint undoubtedly has a vibrant art scene, and we can only hope that the galleries and artists living, working and exhibiting in the neighborhood continue to provide the kind of contrast the art world so desperately needs from the mainstream. The overall quality of the night, exempting the artists mentioned above, felt more like an MFA critique than gallery openings, however, and a certain level of professionalism seemed to elude the general proceedings. Art can come from anywhere and be made by anyone, but regardless it should all be held to a certain level of conceptual and aesthetic quality. Ultimately subjective, I personally believe we as outliers can and should continue to do better.
Greenpoint Gallery Night, of which Hyperallergic was a media sponsor, took place at various venues around Greenpoint, Brooklyn, on February 7.
Uta Brauser, Human Matter at Brouwerij Lane (78 Greenpoint Avenue, Greenpoint, Brooklyn) ran from January 16–February 11. Drawings by Jen Galatioto at Dandelion Wine (153 Franklin Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn) began on February 7 and continues for an unknown time. Laura Splan: Meta Static was on view at Dose Projects (67 West Street, #215, Greenpoint, Brooklyn) from February 7–9. Slang Reflections continues at Yes Gallery (148 India Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn) continues until March 2.