One of the group shows I was most anticipating during the 2014 Bushwick Open Studios was Communal Table, curated by artist Björn Meyer-Ebrecht, and last night I attended the early opening to discover that it was most certainly worth the wait.
Communal Table is a smart table-top show featuring the sculptural work of 12 artists who are connected to Meyer-Ebrecht, either through friendship or artistic kinship. The result is surprisingly rich for a show that was mostly spontaneous after the groundwork was set — each artist showed up with a work they wanted to contribute to the show.
The premise of the exhibition revolves around Meyer-Ebrecht’s own recent work, which rides the line between design and traditional fine art in the form of table and bench-forms that combine the zeal of Bauhaus geometric with the practicality of furniture. They relish their ambiguity and are hard to categorize — and that is part of their appeal.
During Meyer-Ebrecht’s exhibition at Storefront Ten Eyck gallery earlier this year, which paired his pieces with the colorful paintings of Osamu Kobayashi, he told me he saw his work there as a play on American artist Ad Reinhardt’s infamous quote about sculpture: “Sculpture is something you bump into when you back up to look at a painting.” While Meyer-Ebrecht’s work did suffer a little in that show because of its striking visual similarity to the paintings all around, often appearing like furniture from which to contemplate the surrounding art rather than art itself, here in his studio, which he’s transformed for BOS into a temporary gallery, the work plays a central role. And it shines.
The notion of a communal table, something that’s become ubiquitous in restaurants in Brooklyn and elsewhere, is the basis of this BOS groupshow. Every sculptor was allotted a place, and each brought a work they wanted to share, like an artistic potluck. The result is full of subtlety and nuance.
Rico Gatson’s “Mystery Object #5” (2014), with its stark geometry, has a lot to say to Letha Wilson’s “Grand Tetons Concrete Column” (2012), with its interrupted concrete column, as well as Marykate Maher’s “Brooklyn Rubble” (2014), which seems precariously stacked. Then there’s Joy Curtis’s small “3 Grandmas” (2014), based on a 10-armed Kali, across the table from Marc Andre Robinson’s mandala-like “Not yet titled” (2014) — both works knowingly nod to one another.
The conversation around the table is free-flowing, as similar forms pop up in different variations, colors vibe off one another, while no work dominates, even though some are much larger than others. Even Lars Kremer’s “HIDE (broken mirror transient reflective)” (2014), which plays the depressive wallflower at the table, seems to blossom when placed next to Daniele Webb’s small and delicate paper house model, “Polyhaus (after ‘Siedlungshaus im Dessauer Bauhasstil’)” (2012), and close to Joy Curtis’s “3 Grandmas” (2014), with its mirrored accent.
Meyer-Ebrecht’s work often plumbs the depths of modernism, particularly the utopian moment when people felt like they could really reinvent the world through art and design. In Communal Table, that energy transforms into something more considered and generous, extended through an invitation to those the artist wanted to get to know. Fortunately for us, it’s a visual feast, and all we have to do is pull up a chair.
Communal Table takes place at 1182 Flushing Avenue (1182 Flushing Ave, 2nd floor, Bushwick, Brooklyn) during the 2014 Bushwick Open Studios. The exhibition will be open Saturday, May 31, and Sunday, June 1, 12–7 pm.
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