In his studio, an artist stenciled unicorns to disco music, while upstairs a poetry reading was taking place in the same room as a makeshift tattoo parlor. At 56 Bogart, the largest single cluster of galleries and studios at Bushwick Open Studios, it’s as much about performing the artist as exhibiting art. Sometimes artists took creative license in how they exhibited their work: one had friends sporting his colorful, sparkly, and red leopard print t-shirts, which had phrases like “Forever Open” and “kick my face” sewed on the front; another chose to scatter her watercolors over her desk rather than hang them on the walls to simulate the experience of the artist at work.
The downstairs galleries seemed to shift the focus away from the artist and toward the viewer, with a number of installations that created immersive experiences: at Black & White Gallery/Project Space, Raul de Nieves and Erik Zajaceskowski built colorful mounds out of plastics and refuse that you snaked through, the floors similarly glazed in colorful plastic, while ABBA played on a record. At Momenta Art, Justin Randolph Thompson constructed a spinning contraption where visitors could sit and get their shoes gold-leafed. In the corner, two musicians played jazz. As with a number of galleries at Bogart, however, these installations did little more than make you stop, look, wonder, and move on.
What’s most unusual and memorable about 56 Bogart, and Bushwick Open Studios in general, is the context of seeing the wide selection of brushes, hammers, and scraps of material that artists keep alongside their work, as well as the books (Lacan, Barthes, Alain de Botton) and miscellaneous objects (rabbit masks, plastic skeletons) used for inspiration. We can imagine something coming into being as we observe an artist spin clay on a wheel or as we connect the dots between newspaper clippings of steel construction sites and photos of structured dresses on an artist’s pinboard. Jessica Sara Wilson, whose video project simulates the forming of an embryo, explained that what we saw on her computer screen was not the final product — she envisions projecting it on a large, curved surface, like a planetarium. “You know, that’s the point about BOS,” she said, “the works are in progress.” Below are some of these works.