Are the 60s still cool? Williamsburg says yes.
This month’s Every 2:nd Friday event in Williamsburg convinced me that some things will never go out of style. For example, hot chocolate from Ella Cafe on a crisp November evening and the light sweet taste of cotton candy, thanks to the boutique and gallery Cotton Candy Machine. It also persuaded me that Williamsburg has a foot remaining in the 1960s. And it’s not just because everyone is wearing bull-horn black glasses.
At the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, there is a show all about potatoes organized by Jeffrey Allen titled The Potato Revolution: Cult of Potato 2011. It has a real vintage feel with the overall installation coming off as a Kurt Schwitter’s I-am-going-to-collect-a-bunch-of-old-stuff-from-Goodwill-and-you-are-going-to-like-it shtick. Some contemporary works are interspersed in the space but the sensibility tilts very strongly towards mid-century modern thrift store discoveries. Nevertheless, the tight theme of the potato gives a good focus to unite the variety of works and styles. And it’s really fascinating to see all the different depictions of potatoes.
There was also the opportunity to see a cluster of works by some veteran abstract artists from New York City, who first earned their stripes in New York long before cell phones and the internet.
At Art 101, Ernest Marciano, a member of Area, one of the Tenth Street co-op galleries that thrived in New York during the 1950s and 60s, had these globular silhouettes that reminded me of the shapes of Hans Arp. Yet Marciano has a far more subdued and quiet color palette than Arp. His work suggests the influence of minimalism without becoming painfully boring and achieving a nice understated balance.
At Sideshow, Randy Bloom and Louise Sloane exhibited bright abstract and color field paintings. A jazz band was boogieing away that evening, which reminded me of Kandinsky’s metaphor of abstraction as visual music.
And just as we can still rock out to the Beetles, abstraction can still offer us something special. Some may think that abstraction is an “expired” or “dated” mode of art but that is so narrow-minded. After all, if you have actually assimilated your theory, you would be critical of the entire concept of art history as a progression through different chapters that leaves certain retrograde styles behind. On a more sensual and tangible level, a rich burst of color, like Sloane’s “Red Red Orange Square” (2010), goes a long way.
Another show, this one at Black and White Gallery, re-worked the movements of modern dance legend, Trisha Brown. During the 1960s, Brown cut her teeth collaborating with various dancers in New York City before going on to start her own company the following decade. Her dance ideas are treated to an interpretation through a high-tech computer animation from artist Claudia Hart.
Hart fills the space with white floating animated figures. They make small and simple movements while glowing ethereally in the dimly lit space. The animation was fluid, lifelike and haunting. Vaguely Tibetan dub-step music hummed on in the background but it gelled together into a trippy meditative vibe.
What I liked about this work is that it couldn’t have been created 20 years ago. Digital animation is constantly presenting newer and more varied ways for artists. And in a really fun way, new media is not just changing the present, it’s also changing the past and how we can approach it. Ideas from the 1960s can still take on a whole new direction 50 years later.
Claudia Hart: Recumulations will be on view at the Black and White Gallery (483 Driggs Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) until November 27.
The Potato Revolution: Cult of Potato 2011 closed at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center (135 Broadway, Williamsburg Brooklyn) on November 20.
Ernest Marciano: Figuration will be on view at Art 101 (101 Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) until December 18.
Louise and Randy (Hotter than ‘ell) closed at Sideshow (319 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) on November 13.