Even if your bohemian dolce vita in Bushwick is all you ever wanted, sometimes it’s necessary to (temporarily) leave this blooming neighborhood, and visit Ridgewood, another neighborhood emerging as part of the city’s art geography.
Located northeast of Bushwick on the Kings-Queens border, Ridgewood is more residential, less gentrified and thus less expensive than its art-ified neighbor.
Some people say that Ridgewood will inevitably be the next destination of the emerging (and starving) artistic community, after organic grocers replace bodegas and people sitting at tables and chairs on the sidewalks are more likely to be having brunch than playing dominos. Others say that Ridgewood will never be the new Bushwick, because there aren’t enough industrial buildings suitable for conversion into artist studios and the streets are too loud to be adopted by the solitude seeking creative community.
Regardless of what the future has in store for Ridgewood, it is still home to one of the most prominent “Bushwick” scene art galleries. Ever since it opened a few years ago, the Famous Accountants Gallery (1673 Gates Ave) has been a celebration of DIY culture in its best sense. Located in the basement of a buidling technically on the Ridgewood side of the Bushwick/Ridgewood divide, artists Ellen Letcher and Kevin Regan have developed one of the most influential art spaces in the neighborhood and they have organized exhibitions that are on the radar of all major visual arts press.
On Friday night, the entire Bushwick art scene ventured into Ridgewood to see a show curated by artist Rico Gatson, Per-son-age. “We’ve had some video before, but this is the first time we are having a video-only show,” Letcher told me during the opening night festivities in the gallery’s party-friendly backyard.
I can report that the gallery space felt different than I ever remember it because of the 10 video pieces transmitting a mixture of sounds and moving images. Some videos were playing in high definition on flat screens, other works were projected using arcane technology. Taking in 10 video works on a busy opening night was challenging, requiring extra concentration and patience, but it was certainly worth the effort.
Gatson carefully selected the videos from a wide spectrum of artists of various age, and backgrounds, all of whom used different technology with a different aim on their mind. “The works focus around art and creation of art,” said Gatson. He elaborated that the pieces share one common trait, the artist is the main performer in each video.
Artist Ellie Murphy has been videotaping herself since 2004, when she first started to create large yarn sculptures. Laura Parnes targets the art world through her ironic piece, in which she plays herself desperately trying to explain the motives and values behind her art to a couple of ignorant art buyers. The work by Lars Kremer, titled “Anatomy Lessons,” was created more than 15 years ago. Lars’s partner, artist Liz Atzberger, said that it’s interesting to show art from which one has already gained a distance. “Also, it’s funny to see Lars in those 1990s underpants,” she said with a chuckle.
Friday night in Ridgewood felt as if the debt crisis didn’t even exist; people were discussing the hot weather, which was finally becoming more tolerablem and they were complaining about the (lack of) bike lanes in Brooklyn, while a Canadian artist added, to everyone’s horror, that Toronto’s local government decided to cancel the bike lanes all together.
Even if Famous Accountants was the most high profile opening in Ridgewood, it wasn’t the only sign of a small but growing arts community. “Human resources is usually the most annoying of all the departments in every company,” said artist Eric Trosko about the office themed name of another Ridgewood opening close by.
Only a few blocks from Famous Accountants, Human Resources was the next stop during my Ridgewood outing. Curated by an artist trio (Joe Ballweg, Andrea Bergart and Abe Storer), the show featured mostly new work by many Bushwick talents, including Brooke Moyse, Sara Bright and Erik den Breejen.
Bigger pieces, like Sheryl Oppenheim’s “Repeater” (2011), were balanced by the number of witty smaller pieces, for instance Abraham Storer’s “Eggplant” (2011), which together offered a rainbow of works that alluded to the light-hearted atmosphere of the summer season.
The studio of artist Joe Ballweg was the location of this pop-up show and, as if in an effort to dispel the myths about the lack of good artist spaces in the neighborhood itself, his studio was simply perfect.
Located on the entire floor of a family residence, the space was huge with tall ceilings and it could certainly accommodate almost all large works canvas or sculpture. It was also great to encounter a building that had retained wonderful details, like an old-fashioned gate, and also had a pleasant backyard — all attractive attributes that made my Bushwick heart melt.
While Ridgewood has a long way to go before it catches up to Bushwick’s role in the city’s art scene, this week proved to me that it still has a lot to offer.
Per-son-age at Famous Accountants Gallery (1673 Gates Avenue, Ridgewood, Queens) continues until September 11.
Human Resources was a one-night show at the studio of Joe Ballweg (680 Woodward Avenue, Ridgewood, Queens) on August 5.