Monster Island

Here at Hyperallergic we are pretty fond of Williamsburg. It’s the home of our shmancy offices, Journal Gallery and some other pretty great arts institutions and galleries. There is no denying that its changed quite significantly in the last few years. Unfortunately, my favorite neighborhood arts building, Monster Island, is closing.

The Art Newspaper reports that the building was forced to close “because of rising real-estate prices in the area.” Though I’m glad that this sort of stuff is getting coverage, and it’s true that Williamsburg is indeed in the last throws of a previous life, the tone of the article was a bit hysterical. The building wasn’t forced to shut because of rising real-estate prices. The building’s owner is in fact knocking down and developing the property himself.

“Space the Final Frontier” at Secret Project Robot

While the building is closing, it’s inhabitant organizations will move on. Mollusk surf shop is only shuffling a couple of blocks away, while Secret Project Robot, the heart of the building, is moving to a new location off of the Morgan L stop in Bushwick. From the gallery’s website “Monster Island, Williamsburg’s landmark center for the arts home to, Live With Animals, Secret Project Robot Art Space, Kayrock Screenprinting, Todd P. Practice Spaces, Mollusk Surf Shop, Oneida and a multitude of studios and rehearsal spaces would like to say goodbye in style.” The building is having its 7th annual block party and farewell blowout this Saturday, September 10.

“Space the Final Frontier” at Secret Project Robot

Secret Project Robot’s last exhibition in the space ”Outer Space The Final Frontier” Is a group installation featuring all of the usual suspects. A partial list includes Maya Hayuk, sTo, Stovepipe, Kayrock, Chris Uphues, Doug Russin and Brian Chase. When asked about it, gallery head honcho Erik Zajaceskowski admitted that he would be hard pressed to name all the participants. I had an opportunity to sit down with him during this past Saturday afternoon. As we discussed the exhibition a skinny longhaired man came up the steps and handed him a late submission:  a cartoon rendering of flash Gordon. The artist (who I was unable to identify) had heard about the exhibition, but missed the installation deadline. Never mind, up it went.

The entrance to Secret Project Robot

After the artist departed, Erik turned to me as if to say “and this is why I can’t give you a list of all the participants.” The show itself is a massive, darkly lit cavern, full of humming, beeping sound installation and gigantic pyschedilic neon sculpture. Neon space invaders float next to bright geometric paintings and a rotating abstract construction by Maya Hayuk. All of this is bathed in hanging purple neon, interspersed with painting and collage ranging from youthful cartoon to freewheeling abstraction. The whole thing feels like a Child’s bedroom, if the child grew up, developed mystical powers, laser vision and smoked too much pot. In typical style, there are no wall labels, fact sheets or price list.

This informal, communal style might be confusing or even irritating to those more accustomed to the sanitized walls of Chelsea. It is exactly that irreverent “everyone can play” mentality that makes the space so great.

Though Secret Project Robot isn’t moving that far, it’s sad to lose another brightly colored round peg in Williamsburg. It is exciting though, to see another artspace I respect moving to the art cluster developing around the Morgan L stop.

Space the Final Frontier will be on view at Secret Project Robot (210 Kent Ave.) untill September 30th

One reply on “Say Goodbye to Monster Island”

  1. Isn’t what “Williamsburg once was,” according to the original article, to blame for what Williamsburg has become?

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