Artist Jules de Balincourt has achieved considerable recognition in the last six years since his inclusion in Greater New York at PS 1 in 2005. I love that he’s still involved in his community: despite the fact that he went from the Hunter MFA program to selling at major auctions in what feels like the blink of an eye, the artist still lives and works in Bushwick. I’m always happiest to see snapshots of successful artists when they’re hanging out with lesser known artist friends instead of hobnobbing in glossy party pictures. That said, I was excited to learn that everyone’s favorite shopfront gallery, Storefront, was hosting an exhibition curated by de Balincourt titled Itinerant Ones, which opened on July 1st. Reading the press release, I smiled at the list of five artists, all from Brooklyn, in a selection which seemed like a gesture of de Balincourt’s goodwill towards his fellow artists, a kind of intimate snapshot in another form.
The materials in the exhibition range from sculpture and paintings on canvas to works on paper. Black and white drawings by Denise Kupferschmidt seem self-contained and quiet in their small white frames, while unstretched canvas paintings by Adam Sipe have been tacked to the walls at varying heights with what seems like purposeful abandon. Two Plexiglas and resin sculptures by Christian Sampson add to the raucous, slightly disconnected feeling. His translucent constructions seem like ramshackle kaleidoscopes, channeling light from the gallery into beautiful washes of color. I felt a sense of gritty DIY formalism, a celebration of the beauty one can encounter far from the realms of perfection. In many ways this sort of approach to an exhibition is empowering: the no-frills manner in which the work has been installed gives it a rough-and-tumble charm, and the homey, quirky confines of this gallery in particular are well-suited to this approach.
Unfortunately, however, I felt cheated by the exhibition. I think it’s safe to attribute this to my own preconceived expectations of de Balincourt and his prismatic, razor-sharp aesthetic. Like a true de Balincourt fan boy I was hoping to see a little bit of him in the exhibition. While there are hints of his color palate and of his playful flirtation with the crude, both in form and content, what the exhibition lacked was the artist’s ability to focus these elements with restraint, wit and polish. I appreciate a bit of grime, but considering his own body of work I thought the artist might have thrown some curatorial pixie dust in the mix — and while I appreciated the opportunity to see through his lens I was a bit disappointed to find the resulting image so blurry. The finished result hovers somewhere between comprehensive and undefined. The effect was a bit more like a “what I’m listening to now” playlist than a cohesive album.
What we get is a loose presentation of Brooklyn artists whom we might not have otherwise encountered, and for that I was thankful. What we didn’t get was a display that felt like a completed thought.
Itinerant Ones continues at the Storefront Gallery (16 Wilson Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn) until July 17.