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Ah, Beat Nite. A time of magical madness, when we run frantically around Bushwick for four hours, trying to see all the art. Last Friday’s Beat Nite, organized as always by local arts nonprofit Norte Maar, featured 16 galleries that kept their doors open late. All of them were participating in the first Exchange Rates expo, which brought a slew of artists from different states and countries to Bushwick. At some galleries, the work of those artists was mixed in with mainstays from the local rosters; at others, it was on view in a separate space or room, running alongside a regularly programmed show. Amid the amiable faces and free-flowing drinks, I quickly lost track of what was part of what, and by the time 9pm rolled around and we arrived at 56 Bogart Street — where other galleries not connected to Exchange Rates or Beat Nite were also having openings — I gave up and just let myself enjoy the art I could find. Herewith, a brief walkthrough.
My first stop was Signal, which happened to be showing Swiss artists in both its spaces: Daniel V. Keller in the main gallery and, for Exchange Rates, Selina Grüter and Michèle Graf presented by Up State in a small room off to the side. Both shows left me cold: Keller’s handmade riffs on roadside attractions couldn’t quite hold their own in the cavernous gallery, while Grüter and Graf’s sunset banner was ill-positioned to reveal its subtle display of color. But I would have liked to stay and watch the duo’s slowly shifting projection of the color spectrum for a lot longer.
ArtHelix, another converted industrial space, had at least three shows on view, programmed by the gallery and Exchange Rates visitors Susak Press. The standout was not even a show but a small collaborative room by Susak artists Natalia Kempowsky and Daniel Devlin. The pair activated the space with an installation of photographs, wooden boards, handmade domino-type pieces (with prints on them), and ceramic flowers. The work stood out for its interplay of industrial and natural materials and the potency of its careful scattering.
Storefront Ten Eyck
At Storefront Ten Eyck, I forewent the Exchange Rates collaboration with Paris’s La Couleuvre gallery in favor the stellar group show in the main space. Proof that abstract painting still ain’t dead yet, Abstraction and Its Discontents features 20 artists making whimsical but intelligent work. Standouts include Andrew Small’s “Attraction, Subtraction” (2013) and Sara Jones’s “Honest Misrepresentations” (2014), patterned mashups that tug at each other as they hang side by side; Jody Joyner’s luminous and somehow alien-like “T-Shirt” (2013); and Sharon Butler’s compelling corporate remix, “DD (Want Me)” (2014).
The Active Space
For Exchange Rates, Associated Gallery, Outlet Fine Art, Parallel Art Space, Fort Gallery, Artist Proof Studio, and Telescope all converged on the Active Space, where work by 12 artists was thrown together under the theme/title Altered Terrain. Even though the idea of shifting environments is vague enough that it can be applied to almost anything, it did seem to work as a thread here, pulling together pieces in a variety of media that seemed concerned with both analogue and digital archaeologies. Bai Ye’s stunning installation of three digital prints on wallpaper “Infinitely Close” (2014) stole the show, but contributions from Bevan De Wet, Rob Leech, and Julian Lorber more than held their own.
This space also played host to multiple galleries and art organizations in a miniature maze of rooms behind a bar: Trove, Qwerty, Sluice__ screens, Frank Bobbins Institute, and Arts in Bushwick. The quality of the work on view was fairly mixed, but Arts in Bushwick’s open-call show boasted a handful of strong entries, including a gnarly painting of a mouth by Lauren Britton and a clever collage of a woman’s face by Richard Vergez. Some of the most interesting stuff here was happening outside of the galleries, though: a trippy mural by Don Pablo Pedro in the courtyard and, on the street in front of the building, an improvisational protest by an artist named John Bonafede, who amicably served visitors cheese and grapes under the gaze of a customized inflatable union rat. Bonadfede was there to protest the nonpayment of performers by art institutions and to push his idea for a performance artists union called Local One Million. I asked him if he’d been talking to W.A.G.E.; he said he’d been meaning to look them up.
Elizabeth Ferry’s solo show at Honey Ramka is a mixed bag. The paintings on the wall feel like uninspired, my-kid-can-do-that tossoffs, but in the sculptures Ferry’s messiness takes convincing form. Two huge, table-like objects dominate the space, both covered in splotches of color and, in one case, what appear to be paint-covered strawberries and other fruits outlining the body of a woman. The pieces look like they could be rediscovered ancient art, or perhaps relics bearing the remains of some deliciously decadent rituals.
Not technically part of Beat Nite or Exchange Rates, Momenta Art is so strategically positioned in 56 Bogart that it’s nearly impossible not to wander in. And I’m glad I did, because the show they were opening on Friday looks fascinating. Work It Out examines the connections between art and labor through contributions by artists Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Peter Fend, Matthew Greco and Gregory Sholette, and others. I only managed to take in the scale models contributed by Occupy Museums and Debtfair, which appealingly propose ways of intervening in existing art gallery and fair models to reveal and exchange bundles of debt. I spent a long time looking at (and talking and thinking about) them, and I’ll have to go back to see everything else.
Beat Nite 11 took place October 24, 6–10pm, in conjunction with Exchange Rates, which ran October 23–26, both of them at various galleries around Bushwick. Hyperallergic was the media sponsor of both.