The Bronx Museum‘s Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) program has helped emerging artists in the New York area navigate the business side of art since the 1980s. The AIM sessions focus on practical art skills like grant writing and gallery representation, but more importantly the program brings these artists’ work to a broader audience and connects them into the art network. AIM is now celebrating its 30th anniversary with two joint exhibitions at the Bronx Museum and Wave Hill: Bronx Calling: The First AIM Biennial features 72 participants from the 2010-2011 program and the smaller Taking AIM on the program’s history. I recently journeyed up to the Grand Concourse for the Bronx Museum component of Bronx Calling.
While exploring the brightly lit and spacious galleries of Bronx Calling, I was reminded of being at an art fair, where individual, disparate works are mixed together only by virtue of belonging to the same dealer. There were standouts and beautiful moments, but overall I got the same drifting feeling as when I take on the Armory Show. However, there were enough strong moments to prove that promising artists continue to be selected for the AIM program, even if I didn’t go away with a clear idea of what that takes.
After starting strong with Erik Hougen’s streaked, photorealistic watercolor portraits of himself and his dad (top), the two-dimensional work largely lost me with tired abstraction and forced surrealism. I was drawn to two detailed graphite and charcoal works by Brian Scott Campbell, “Before the Sighting (After Brecht)” and the Twin Peaks-inspired “Ben Horne’s Lodge,” mixing landscapes and interiors into a foggy dream.
Several installations accent the exhibit, with Priscila de Carvalho’s “Architecture of Exclusion” offering some pop art colors and interesting structural angles in one corner, even if it felt more like a start than a completed thought. I would love to see her take over a whole gallery.
It’s impossible to ignore Nicky Enright’s “Inflammatory,” as it is literally yelling at you from a screen where the word and definition of “inflammatory” are shouted through a megaphone. While the twisted firehose makes for a great picture and would have been clever on its own, the addition of the TV, fire extinguishers, and even a box of matches each labeled “Rome Was Not Burnt in a Day” was overkill.
I was most engaged by the video art, which included Julia Oldham’s “Antimatter Twin,” a lovely study on physics and self following a woman and her “antimatter conjugate”; Christopher Smith’s “Cutting In,” a video installation of paint pouring like rain streaking a window, like a work in a never-ending state of creation; and Anton Cabaleiro’s “Synchronized Landscapes,” where miniature trees hover like spools on a whirring tape deck while a topography develops from layered sound and coarse projections. While a lot of the paintings seemed tired and the installations too literal, the video work was refreshing in the way emerging art should be, and proof that the AIM program continues to identify some incredibly capable artists.
Despite its disjointed offerings, Bronx Calling was worth the expedition to the Bronx Museum, which has wonderful open gallery spaces behind a sharply modern façade that I have until now missed. The video art alone shows the continued importance of the AIM program in delving out promise in New York’s emerging artists, even if the overall effect is less sure and perhaps in need of some of the same invaluable direction that artists receive from the program.
Bronx Calling continues at the Bronx Museum (1040 Grand Concourse) through September 5.