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The Bushwick Art Community Gathers for a Group Portrait

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Meryl Meisler, James Panero, and Paul Behnke, organizers of Bushwick Documentation Project (2016) (image courtesy Meryl Meisler)

Calling puppet-makers at Castle Braid, Myrtle Avenue storage unit-dwellerscosmic puke sculptors, and Matthew Silver: The Bushwick Documentation Project wants you to gather for a group portrait this weekend.

Inspired by Nina Leen’s 1950 portrait of the Abstract Expressionists in “The Irascibles,” as well as Art Kane’s 1958 portrait of jazz musicians in “A Great Day in Harlem,” the project seems to anticipate a future in which the current Bushwick art scene will have ascended to near-mythic status. What more could an artist’s ego want?

“We are seeking to create a permanent record, or at the very least a snapshot in time, of the Bushwick artist community and would like you to be a part of it,” write the project’s organizers, photographer Meryl Meisler and curator James Panero, in an open call for participants. “Why? Because we are our own art history.” An invitation to all participating Bushwick Open Studios artists, gallerists, journalists, and organizers offers details:

On Saturday, June 4th at 11am sharp, we hope you will join us for a group portrait of the BOS16 community by stopping by 55 Meadow St, where Meryl Meisler will create a street photograph of all those assembled. Then, in October 2016 over BOS, Stout Projects will exhibit Meryl’s photographs and James’s writing as part of our exhibition of Bushwick documentation.

“When I was a public school teacher in Bushwick during the 1980s & early 90s, on the surface the art scene seemed limited to the graffiti and wall murals dedicated to lives lost too soon,” photographer Meryl Meisler said in a statement.

I thought, back then, that Bushwick had beautiful light — and I carried my camera with me daily to capture the light, the struggles and joys of life I witnessed. It did surprise me that those snapshots are now appreciated as both art and history. It didn’t surprise me decades later; the same open spaces light would attract artists. The huge numbers of artists who have come make Bushwick their home and/or studio is amazing.

It’s hard to talk about the Bushwick art scene without talking about the neighborhood’s gentrification — the two are inextricably linked — but, hopefully, the shoot will reflect the full range of artists from all the communities that call Bushwick home. 

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