Greenpoint Open Studios sets a visitor up for an almost Herculean task: there are too many galleries and many, many stairs. Each studio I saw seemed to only infinitesimally reduce the number still left to see as listed in the printed guide. The studio complexes I visited were several blocks apart (which seemed like miles to my trudging feet) and most were located at the fourth or fifth floor of a building, in which the freight elevator was, like any number of mass transit subway lines, out of service for the weekend. In the end, I got a lot of exercise walking the studios. And, at times, it was worth the effort.
Greenpoint is a thriving working-class district that feels orderly and spacious, with quite a few lounge-like spaces, bars, and restaurants, and sprinkled on the edges of residential avenues, several warehouses that have crafts and industrial shops mixed in with the arts studios. Here, manufacturing hasn’t quite died out, just become smaller and more bespoke. I walked to the end of Manhattan Avenue, getting to the edge of the Kingdom of Brooklyn and thought those in the neighborhood likely appreciate the view from here.
Greenpoint Open Studios isn’t exclusively focused on the visual arts, which could be an asset or drawback depending on your interests. But personally, I would’ve appreciated a clearer demarcation drawn between the visual art studios and the photo studios, or woodworking shops, or design ateliers. The strongest works I saw were formally innovative, such as J. Frede‘s “Still, Life,” where he uses disparate photographs to create a linear panorama, or what he called “fictional landscapes.”
Among the works worth seeing was some beaded portraiture by Carri Skoczek, whose studio was at 1155 Manhattan Avenue. The artist showed me her assemblages of “St. Agatha” (2017), who, Skoczek says, is the patron saint of breasts, and “St. Zita” (2017), the patron saint of housekeeping and chocolate. (These are actual saints recognized by the Catholic church, though Skoczek took some liberties with her understanding of St. Agatha, who is more specifically portrayed as the patron saint of breast cancer.) There were even a broom and dustpan covered in chocolate and wax.
Ilse Murdock, at 236-250 Greenpoint Avenue, had her “I See” (2017) on display. This piece tucks debris and found shoes under a square of canvas, to which she has added some abstract washes of acrylic and oil paint, so that the impression of the shoes is clearly visible and the paint on top becomes a kind of marginalia.
At Plexus Projects at 198 Greenpoint Avenue, Laura Splan showed me her “Blank Slate” (2016), which didn’t immediately visually impress me, but the idea underlying the work is certainly compelling. For the piece, Splan etched her own brain wave patterns by laser into watercolor paper so that they create a kind of radiating pattern, like a miniaturized crop circle.
Just so, in BobbiJo McCauley’s lovely print of a decaying flower, which at first glimpse might appear relatively conventional, there is a kind of deep attentiveness to changes in color and texture and shape as the Anthurium andraeanum slowly becomes desiccated. McCauley had a an entire suite of these photographs at her studio at 253 Greenpoint Avenue.
I suppose a trip to Greenpoint wouldn’t have been complete without an absurdist piece. Stephen Eakin’s “This Keyboard is a Piece of Shit” (2016), like most everything else in his studio, consists of an object embedded in rubber, as if fossilized before its obsolescence.
All in all, this year’s Greenpoint Open Studios left me wanting to return, but next time I’m coming with a golf cart.
Greenpoint Open Studios took place in Greenpoint, Brooklyn on June 3 and 4.
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