Exploring Long Island City’s Fall Open Studio & Salon event this past weekend was a surprising experience, combining the discovery of new spaces and studios with exciting, boundary-pushing artwork. Going big and bold, local artists favored installation, mixed media, and sculpture, with five artists in particular exemplifying this shift toward expanded materiality.
The wild world of Jody MacDonald, on view at Radiator Gallery, was full of the theatrical, like a dystopian version of Alexander Calder’s “Circus,” where the mundane morphed into the grotesque. Her diorama-like sculptures were intimate and inviting, while creating intrigue through a palpable attention to detail. Installed at roughly waist height, the sculptures present strange scenes, such as in “Dogfaced Boy,” in which a watercolor of an apartment complex overlooks a 3D swimming pool where a threadbare figure floats casually reading a magazine. In “The Clown,” a slowly rotating circus clown sits atop an AstroTurf pedestal, surrounded by 2D balloon dogs. Melding sinister narratives with playful iconography, each piece is a world unto itself.
At Local Project, stepping in the cramped studio of Jon Boyer as he carefully dismantles a range of plastic toys feels a bit like walking into a shop in Tokyo’s busy Akihabara neighborhood, where sensory overload is similarly a given. Boyer’s relief paintings are filled to the literal edge with dismantled toys, like dissections of mass consumption that take knolling to a new level of obsession. The inclusion of various characters illustrate the gendered nature of toys, while classic themes of childhood, imagination, and fun also appear. Boyer’s work reminds us that children rarely use toys as they were intended.
Inspired in part by the accumulation of paint on her palette, the work of Brazilian artist Carin Kulb Dangot turns painting into a sculptural practice. Three-dimensional objects with ambiguous surfaces that almost ooze toward the viewer, her abstractly coiled or stacked forms look as much like failed ceramic pots as they do deflated objects like a fire hose, beach ball, or bicycle tire. Built up through layers of acrylic paint, they refer to a process of accumulation. As layer upon layer of paint seems to tell its own story, viewers are left wondering if the works themselves are all made from the discarded palettes of her more traditional paintings.
Inside the elegant studio of Patrick Neal, where paintings were hung salon-style from floor to ceiling, a more traditional sensibility shone through. Approaching still life compositions with a sort of thrift store mentality, Neal purchases any number of odd vases, fabricated flowers, and playful textiles to lay the groundwork for his impressionistic paintings. In “Blue Octopus,” Symbolist aesthetics mix with what Neal calls “queer materials” — magic marker, nail polish, spray paint, and glitter — referencing the artist’s interest in a glam aesthetic. Octopus, owls, and colorful frogs lend an artificial mood to paintings that aren’t indoor or outdoor, but exist instead inside his carefully constructed naturalist wonderland.
Various tree roots dangled and swayed from the ceiling of Local Project, as part of an installation by Anastasiya Gutnik. Cheesecloth, animal bones, human hair, and other memento mori adorn each hanging piece, reminding me of the provocative work of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, and bringing a goth-aesthetic to the installation. The work feels personal and precious, as each found object is given a new story. One particular work, “Bell Jar Assemblage Sculpture,” was particularly compelling, and featured a range of materials — from bones to the dried seedpod, t-pins and drawings — all carefully, almost religiously, modified and given new life.
Long Island City’s 4th Annual Fall Open Studios & Salon took place at various locations throughout Long Island City, Queens, November 16–17, 2019. The event was organized by LIC Arts Open.