An interactive multimedia touch screen installation by Marni Kotak, “Williamsburg2000” (2011). (click to enlarge)

After watching Bushwick’s visual arts scene grow and usurp the energy of Williamsburg’s decades of dominance as the epicenter of the city’s artistic edge, curator Larry Walczak decided it was time to put together an exhibition that investigates the neighborhood’s recent art heritage.

The show, Williamsburg2000, opened on March 12 and includes 68 artists, including Meredith Allen, Lori Ellison, James Esber, Linda Ganjian, Komar & Melamid, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Fred Tomaselli, Loren Munk, William Powhida, Walter Robinson, Ward Shelly, Adam Simon, Jim Torok and Don Voisine. Taking place at the small artist-run indy space Art101 on Grand Street, the exhibition focuses mostly on Williamsburg’s “second wave” that began in 1998 and continued until 2002, which coincides with the same time period that Walczak ran the Eyewash gallery space with the late Annie Herron.

Nelson Bradley, “Invasion of the Art School Graduates” (2002) poster

“As the northside & southside [of the neighborhood] are being transformed into a condo city shopping mall it’s important to create such an exhibition as Williamsburg2000 as a form of reflection and documentation,” Walczak says. “There is serious documentation of the Williamsburg arts scene being done by Ethan Petitt, Eva Schickler, Loren Munk, Greg Stone & others. Hopefully, an exhibition like this will reignite the dialogue here. People literally came from all over the world to check out the Williamsburg gallery scene at that time.”

A lot of the work in Williamsburg2000 is of the more recent variety because Walczak gave the artists the option to show newer work. “The last thing I wanted to do was some sort of museum style survey show. This format allows certain artists the opportunity to put fresh pieces in this group exhibition. This decision also allowed artists like Lisa Levy, William Powhida, Loren Munk, Marni Kotak, Ligorano & Reese and others to reference the neighborhood itself which was important to me,” he says.

What killed the Williamsburg scene? There are many theories, including the fact that the L train was always under chronic repair every weekend throughout the aughts, which deprived the neighborhood’s galleries of visitors. “Ed [Winkleman of Winkleman Gallery] feels this drove a number of spaces to Chelsea & even the Lower East Side,” he says.

The following is a taste of what you’ll find at the show that continues until April 17.

A corner of Williamsburg2000 that demonstrates the eclectic mingling of styles that was prevalent in the Williamsburg scene.

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A view of the back wall of the front and largest gallery.

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Ward Shelley’s “Williamsburg Time Line” (2002) dominates one wall in the front gallery.

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Jim Torok’s “Night Out” (2006) (left) is a humorous look at the burgeoning Williamsburg center mid-decade. On the right is Laura Parnes’s “Untitled” (1992) work from the Chain Letter series, it is only one of some half a dozen works from the 20th century on display in Williamsburg2000.

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Shari Mendelson’s “Light Green Bottle” (2011) and “Honey Bear Vessel” (2011) and, right, Lori Ellison’s “Untitled” (2009) sit in the central space. The two have shown together before and complement each other’s interest in repetition and pattern.

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In the backroom, the scale of the show is more intimate.

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Works by Thomas Broadbent, Jeanne Tremel, Timothy Greenfeld-Sander, Don Voisine, James Esber/Jane Fine and others on display.

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A detail of Ward Shelley’s large “Williamsburg Time Line” (2002) serigraph that is included in Williamsburg2002. It documents four decades of the neighborhood’s artistic history. The drawing was initiated at Walczak’s Eyewash gallery almost a decade ago. “He slaved over it all weekend with friends, artists & neighbors stopping by & all contributing to Ward’s ambitious (performance) documentation of the Williamsburg arts scene since the early 80’s,” he says. “As a serigraph it has found its way into four major museum collections including MOMA and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.”

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A view of William Powhida’s  “Where Are They Now (Williamsburg 2000)” (2011) drawing that gives a very subjective view of how the neighborhood’s scene was transformed. (click to enlarge)

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Williamsburg2000 is at Art 101 (101 Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) continues until April 17, 2011.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

4 replies on “Back to the Future, the Williamsburg that Waz”

  1. I loved the neighborhood at that time. Favorite gallery back then was Star67 on grand. Favorite bar back then was Cokies. Unfortunately, I don’t remember any of ‘these’ artists.

  2. Great review, but that James Esber is actually a collaboration between James and his lovely wife, Jane Fine.

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