Last Sunday’s BETA Spaces 2010 didn’t disappoint as we all got what we were looking for. Organized by the all-volunteer organization Arts In Bushwick, BETA Spaces (Bushwick Exhibition Triangle of Alternative Spaces) offered the public a big block party full of art. A truly overwhelming affair with more than 50 exhibitions spread out across galleries, studios, apartments, temporary locations, and any place else that could possibly contain art, it displayed the works of 400 artists in a fantastic collaboration between curators, artists, and art fans of all kind.
This edition of the festival focused on curatorial experimentation and collaboration, encouraging emerging and first-time curators to think outside the box in order to present non-traditional exhibition venues and creating new contexts for their artwork.
One of the best examples of this philosophy was Sparkle Motion 2, a fun exhibition hosted inside of a delivery truck parked on Grattan Street in front of a fabulous street art piece by Belgian artist Roa. The idea of an exhibition inside a truck is not really new. It was done some years earlier by many artists, including Tomiko Jones, who tired of not having many opportunities to show art in traditional venues decided to curate a show in a rented a U-Haul truck in Seattle. In that particular case, a good selection of works, plus a great use of the free online social networks, and a captivating story (who doesn’t like the idea of an exhibition in a U-Haul) proved successful.
Sparkle Motion 2 was an honest and entertaining effort to fill the street with glitter and bling. They accomplished their goal, as everybody walked out of the truck smiling and talking about what they just viewed. But the art didn’t deliver … the unexciting “Kiss Peanuts” by Sam Simon or the work of Wink Wink Pony only made the terrific photos of Gabriel Garcia Roman look bad.
Much more interesting was the work of Lori Kirkbride on display at her studio next door. A beautiful group of works composed of complex layers of simple shapes and psychedelic compositions. They are painted in bright colors that seem to flow over monochromatic backgrounds. The use of a thick final layer of resin seals in the vibrancy and made all the pieces shine while giving a curious and solid visual effect. Born in Ohio, this young artist has been working in Brooklyn for the last seven years and has shown her work all over the country.
Also in the same building on Bogart, which I coincidentally noticed was tagged by Buff Monster, I discovered the delicate work of artist and filmmaker Peter Calvin. Dominated by female figures, his paintings insinuate more than they tell. He is a true master of the mixed media (charcoal, graphite, acrylics…) and he effectively uses his brush, dripping, and monochromatic areas in his compositions … all of this gives a subtle and poetic result.
Far less exciting were the works of The International Society for the Promotion and Recognition of the Collaborative ART GANG BANG. They have reinforced in my mind that a good idea is not enough, especially when it’s executed with minimal ability. People should realize once and for all, that the exquisite corpse is a fun pastime but even the Surrealists stopped doing it decades ago.
One thing that surprised me was the huge amount of artwork that explored new technologies, media, and some good old fashioned hardware. If BETA was a living creature it would live off of DIY and it would live somewhere that scream low budget. But in the middle of these attempts, some projects did stand out.
I Fall, I Flow, I Melt was curated by Karen Y. Chan and showed a hypnotic and highly suggestive group of work that played with video, light, and sound. Artists like Yoon Cho, Frank Zadlo or even Chan herself, created elegant works that may have not been easy to read but they drew me in and encouraged me to decode them even in the midst of this laid back and casual festival.
In between over-sized kaleidoscopes, street DJ’s, and other diversions, I also found myself totally captivated by the works of Michael Alan and his “Living Installation” at the Eastern District Gallery. Though not officially part of BETA, geographically it was in the middle of the full-blown frenzy so it felt like it was part of the action. His work is a mix of different media exploring the human body in an abstract way. Full of movement, his fine lines seemed to dance over the surface, as if the shapes were creating sinuous poses frozen in time with some added splats and touches of color. The only thing I’ll add is that I arrived at the space around 2pm and got the feeling that I had already missed something, turns out there was a performance I never saw.
I applaud the ambition of Arts in Bushwick in organizing an event like BETA. Coordinating diverse groups working with augmented reality interventions to a panel of discussions with local curators, music, and exhibitions must have been exhausting, but in my opinion, it was totally worth it.
The 2010 BETA Space exhibition festival was organized by Arts in Bushwick and took place this past Sunday, November 14 in Bushwick, Brooklyn.