Bill Bollinger, “Cyclone Fence, 1968” (2012) (photo by Ellen Pearlman)

Instead of tackling a neighborhood festival like Northside in Williamsburg/Greenpoint or Bushwick Open Studios, last weekend I decided to explore Queens Arts Express, a project of the Queens Arts Council, in the hopes of acheiving some level of understanding regarding the creative spirit of an entire borough over the course of four days. Though I longed to visit Woodside, Jamaica, Jackson Heights, Middle Village, Sunnyside, Ridgewood, Astoria, College Point, Corona, Middle Village, Rockaway Beach and Flushing, the subways, notorious for weekend delays and disappearing routes, devoured my afternoon and stranded me in Long Island City. Apologies to the plethora of unvisited artists and neighborhoods notwithstanding, I still found two stellar shows, and a number of grassroots developments.

“Graphite Piece, 1969” (2012) Graphite powder, Reconstruction, (photo by Ellen Pearlman)

Bill Bollinger: The Retrospective at the SculptureCenter showcases the only significant exhibition in the United States of the spare, profound inventiveness of Bollinger’s works from the late 1960s. In 1988, the artist died at age 48 and largely forgotten by the art world, but during his early years he was associated with artists like Bruce Nauman, Robert Smithson, Eva Hesse and Richard Serra. Thankfully for Bollinger, his oeuvre was resurrected through an almost heroically researched 2000 Art in America article by Wade Sanders, which helped lift him out of 25 years of obscurity.

Jane Philbrick, “Floating Sculpture ’09” (2009), electrical magnets, permanent magnets, balls, sheet aluminum, plywood, cable, paint (image courtesy the artist)

Bollinger’s pieces highlight that the use of throwaways and crude industrial materials was not always a given as it is now, and at one time it was considered heretical. During his short but prolific life he dove into the use of pre-fabricated industrial supplies such as the cyclone chain-link fence, rubber tubing, saw horses and pipes, eschewing any type of formal or informal gussying up of these raw materials by highlighting their innate gravity and natural form. Exhibited in this show are 40 works including sleek graphic representations on paper. “Cyclone Fence, 1968” (2012) first shown at Leo Castelli’s 9 at Leo Castelli warehouse show organized by Robert Morris is groundbreaking in its simplicity.  “Graphite Piece, 1969” (2012) is a recreated installation of graphite dust spread across the floor as if were the horizontal slant of sea meeting sky. The footprints and powdery splatters intentionally imprint the human stain of the creator.

Kysa Johnson, “BLOWUP 31 SUBATOMIC DECAY PATTERNS” (2003), ink on panel (image courtesy Morgan Lehman Gallery and the artist)

Dorsky Curatorial Projects, located on an unassuming residential block presented (Un)folding Patterns, curated by Ombretta Argo Andruff. All of the various pieces displayed explored the relationship between math, physics and art. Jane Philbrick’s “Floating Sculpture ’09” (2009), created during an artist residency at MIT is both a sculptural piece of 12 red spheres electromagnetically floating against a black panel, and a sound installation. It works with sound frequencies emitted by the sculpture when struck reverberate in space.

Tristan Perich “Untitled Machine Drawing (2012-05-20 11:00 AM – 2012-07-22 6:00 PM)” (2012), ink on wall (photo courtesy the artist)

The installation, immersive and mesmerizing, was said to work with the piece’s “future” through its sonic inferences. Kysa Johnson’s “Blowup 31 Subatomic Decay Patterns” (2003), are intricate drawings of 11 of the most common subatomic decay patterns layered over one another. Each decaying atom leaves behind an identifiable and  characteristic spin or twirl of decay that Andruff calls “the most fundamental mark-making of the universe.” Tristian Perich, both a composer and artist displays his hi-tech/lo-tech “Drawing Machine” (2012), which is a marker pen on wall drawing that uses mechanics and code to spend weeks cumulatively etching markings across the gallery wall. He says his work uses “randomness and order as the raw materials of a composition” and it is entirely dependent on the delicate relationship of code (math) to mechanics (pen mark making). One cannot exist without its dependence on the other.

Smaller venues were no less plucky in presenting their offerings. Ten10 Studios housed in a historic carriage house showed Uncommon Threads, the travel photo documentary pictures of Micha Rubin as he journeyed from China to India. Though he was able to penetrate into many remote locations, the brevity of his stay, portrayed in snippets of events begs for a more in-depth, long term analysis.

Diego Salazar Art Studio showcased an inaugural group show of artists who reside inside the studio building. The problem with this type of show is it mixes up a tremendous amount of styles, genres and levels of ability, which makes for a confused, overly democratic presentation.

The petite Japanese art gallery Resobox showed paintings on its walls. It also serves as a cafe, Japanese sword dojo, ink painting salon and Okinawan dance facility. That afternoon the community was holding an anime drawing class for kids, who of course are the next step forward towards upholding the on-going, ineffable longing of Queens.

Bill Bollinger: The Retrospective, continuous at The SculptureCenter (44-19 Purves Street, Long Island City, Queens) until July 30, 2012

(Un)folding Patterns continuous at Dorsky Gallery, (11-03 45th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens) until July 22, 2012

Ellen Pearlman is a writer and new media artist who lives between New York and Asia, where she is a PhD candidate at the School of Creative Media, Hong Kong City University.