Despite its name, the sprawling weekend (June 1–3) of Bushwick Open Studios actually overtakes the bounds of one neighborhood into the greater North Brooklyn art scene, including some spaces in another borough entirely. The studios, events and exhibits in Ridgewood, Queens, offer another aspect of the larger Bushwick area worth taking in, and what better way to start than at the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society itself at the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House?
Sunday of BOS celebrated the closing of the Sculpture Garden in the backyard of the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House, curated by Deborah Brown and Lesley Heller. Works by 13 Brooklyn-based artists included an airy layered plywood cutout piece by Sarah Bednarek, lurking metal creatures by Jolynn Krystosek, and the above curious ping pong-playing pyramid by Ryan Michael Ford. The lawn where the sculptures were exhibited is a rather large and lovely space, and it could have accommodated a few more bombastic sculptures to make it feel more like “sculpture garden” rather than a garden with some sculptures, but it did make for a peaceful exploration. As I walked up the hill of the lawn to a winding sculpture by Kai Vierstra, I suddenly turned to view the Manhattan skyline from beneath its curves. Later, when I stepped out again to the street from the house and its gardens, I was surprised to find that I was in fact still in an industrial area instead of the countryside.
The most colorful object at the Onderdonk House has been there for years, and will probably not move anytime soon. The Arbitration Rock was once the most prominent marker along a survey line dividing Brooklyn and Queens (Bushwick and Newtown, more specifically) in 1769, although the small boulder was moved 297 feet in 1930 to its current white picket fence corral due to road construction. Now it is something of a Ridgewood icon, and was used in a shield by the Queens Museum of Art during the “Actually, It’s Ridgewood” art crawl in May.
Inside the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House were pieces of contemporary art mingled with the exhibits of the 17th century farmhouse, as well as a photography exhibit by Aaron Kreiswirth in the attic including new work and reproductions from the Historical Society. Sunday, the attic hosted “Cut a Hit Record with Pass Kontrol,” where anyone could show up with an instrument or just themselves as long as they had “a desire to rock out.” Then with Pass Kontrol as the backing band, participants could make a “hit record.”
1717 Troutman, one of the most massive anchors of Bushwick Open Studios, resides in Ridgewood. With two floors each with its own long hallways of studios, you could easily spend the whole day just in this one building. Although there was not any sort of drastic shift in the art from what you would find over in the other zip code, there were some reminders that you are in Queens. Tatiana Berg, who was included in the 2012 Queens International exhibit at the Queens Museum of Art, has her studio in the building, and was presenting a group of her playful painting sculptures.
Tatiana Berg’s studio is off a hallway shared with two other artists worth visiting: Kristen Schiele and Christina Kee. Schiele’s massive collage works and Kee’s smaller paintings with flying mice and Day-Glo-tinged lions are both spirited explorations of forms and color, and are a perfect fit for the bright studio spaces in 1717 Troutman.
Painting definitely was a predominate medium, and I saw more of it at BOS than any other medium. Julia S. Goodman had her studio packed with traditional painting themes like harbors and homes, but with the painting dripping down, making you remember that these ideal scenes exist on canvas instead of reality.
Regina Rex gallery at 1717 Troutman also featured painting, in the form of four large works by four artists: Britta Deardorff, Jackie Gendel, Juan Gomez and Eric Sall. Each was made with exuberant strokes of paint and heavy colors, each a celebration of the act of painting. This exhibit will close after Bushwick Open Studios.
Of course, it’s not all painting at 1717 Troutman, and one new media collaboration I visited was the studio of video and installation artist Lawrence Mesich and percussion and piano quartet Yarn/Wire. A video screening Sunday from Mesich accompanied by Yarn/Wire’s recording of Luciano Berio’s “Linea” is an example of some of the multidimensional works that can grow out of shared studios between artists of different media.
While not prevalent, there were also some installation pieces, including these luminescent and elemental works by Ajay Kurian, made more haunting by disembodied voices coming from recordings by Jaeeun Lee, with whom he shares a studio.
It was impossible to see all of 1717 Troutman, but my last stop was the Bushwick Print Lab Silkscreen Space, which was exhibiting JUNK SHOP, a show of works created at random from test prints. The prints are being sold cheaply ($10), and several included Neutral Milk Hotel images juxtaposed with random vivid colors and disjointed images, so if you enjoyed the recent Aeroplane Over the Sea hiphop mashup, you might want to get over there.
1717 Troutman, with its proximity to Bushwick proper, wasn’t all that off the BOS beaten path, so I ventured further into Ridgewood to a couple of galleries situated in the neighborhood. First I stopped at Valentine Gallery on Seneca Avenue, which is showing works by Cathy Nan Quinlan and Kurt Hoffman. The pieces by Quinlan were especially beautiful, with hatches of paint reminding me of a tapestry, yet somehow shifting into three lustrous dimensions, as with the above “Spanish Dance” painting.
I ended my BOS Ridgewood walk at Outpost Artists Resources. Outpost (as its name might suggest) is a bit of a walk from the rest of the studios, or you can just make the short stroll from the Halsey stop on the L, but either way it is worth it to see the current show Actual ‘Wood, which includes only artists who are working out of Ridgewood. While the area is suddenly getting some attention after the Queens Museum’s art crawl, artists are not new to the area, and Outpost has been serving as a video post-production facility since 1990, although the move to Ridgewood from Williamsburg was only in recent years. It’s now embedded on a quiet residential block, and Actual ‘Wood is an impressive group show for its diversity and quality of work, including art from Andrew Sutherland, Moira Williams, Yasue Maitake, Richard Kostelanetz, Bjoern Meyer-Ebrecht, Lauren Lombardo, Ellie Murphy and David Frye. A hanging work by Ellie Murphy centers the exhibit, which includes a jar of pickled balloons into which Moira Williams spoke people’s dreams, scarred collage works by Yasue Maetake, and cardboard structured sculptures by Bjoern Meyer-Ebrecht presenting large photographs in primary colors.
A large work by Lauren Lombardo is also captivating, with a multitude of sculpted roses which she makes as meditations on repetitive acts of creation and the uniqueness of something like a sculpted rose, even if it is built with the same steps every time. Actual ‘Wood has been extended for two weeks following Bushwick Open Studios.
While it is both literally and mentally not the center of Bushwick Open Studios, the Ridgewood venues are definitely worth visiting as part of your art explorations. Even if you miss the invisible divider of neighborhoods set up by some forgotten land dispute, there is a vibrant contribution to the NYC contemporary art world happening in this corner of Queens.
Bushwick Open Studios was June 1 to 3 throughout the Bushwick (and beyond) area of Brooklyn.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.