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Another year, another crop of talent to sift through and choose favorites from.
This year, we asked the Hyperallergic team to pick a few artists they deemed “worthy to keep your eye on” from their travels across the mega-swathe of Brooklyn and Queens known as Bushwick Open Studios (BOS). From East Williamsburg to the Jackie Robinson Parkway, from Ridgewood to the Broadway Triangle, these are the artists we discovered and think you should know about (in no particular order).
Melanie McLain (site)
McLain’s “Damp Gestures” (2012) was part of the Recent MFA Alumni show by Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts that took place on Meserole Street in East Williamsburg. It was one of the most slick and impressive installations of BOS. It’s a pretty brave thing to place a sauna in the middle of a sweltering neighborhood, but it really works. Walking into this perfectly built room, you encountered three people who seemed to await your presence. Sitting down in one of the wooden resort chairs you are treated to a 10 1/2 minute massage while watching corresponding videos that guide you through the process. A man by the door makes eye contact and impromptu gestures that feel cryptic. After six or seven minutes I felt uncomfortably vulnerable (and hot) in this environment and asked the masseuse to stop. After I left, I couldn’t stop thinking about this steamy oasis in the warehouses. —Hrag Vartanian
Shamus Clisset (site)
Imagine every teen fantasy — ok, mostly male — injected into a virtual world. Well, that image in your head … it’s probably now a digital print by Shamus Clisset. The artists’s website URL, fakeshamus.com, says it all. This is a manufactured world of visual fantasy. This is an update to traditional momento mori symbols, combined with Dutch still lifes, mixed with sleek advertising language, and a dash of WTF. I imagine that if Clisset lived in 19th century America he may have churned out the most bizarre trompe l’oeil paintings known to man, but thankfully he lives now and the digital realm is his domain. —Hrag Vartanian
Chris Russell (site)
Maybe we don’t want to be “charmed” by art as a rule, but Chris Russell’s ink and watercolor drawings of people on the subway are mesmerizing … and charming. Created over the course of three years in eight accordion sketch books, the installation looks almost archival in nature, and each figure seems lulled into a dream-like state. You can still see the show at the absurdly named Center for Strategic Art and Agriculture located in The Silent Barn (603 Bushwick Avenue) — it continues until June 27. —Hrag Vartanian
Lisa Elmaleh (site)
Beautiful analogue photography that looks like it was yanked out of someone’s oldest memory, Elmaleh’s works are obviously inspired by the history of photography but they also come across as visual black holes that draw you into something that is a little sinister and remote. —Hrag Vartanian
Jason Varone (site)
When I arrived at Jason Varone’s studio at the end of the day on Saturday, it was unbearably hot. This wasn’t just because it was 90 degrees outside and Varone has a third-floor studio with no air-conditioning; it was also because of all his equipment. Varone combines the handmade and the digital by pairing paintings with projections, lately focusing on landscapes, maps, and the environment. The work is whimsical and fun at first viewing, but look longer and you’ll find it’s also quite smart and prescient. —Jillian Steinhauer
Sheryl Oppenheim (site)
I saw two books of Sheryl Oppenheim’s work with marbleized paper at BOS: a lovely large-format edition of her Black Hours prints at the Bushwick Art Book & Zine Fair; and a smaller book titled Alba Amicorum at the group exhibition Thin Chance (Splinters and Logs, 1027 Grand Street). The first was exciting, but the second blew me away with its page after page of marbleized or spray-painted colors and patterns. I’d never thought much about marbleized paper beyond stationary stores, but Oppenheim’s work, in color especially, is uniquely explosive, sensual, and psychedelic. It basically makes you want to roll around in paint. —Jillian Steinhauer
Brian Novatny (FB page)
In his 1013 Grand Street studio, Brian Novatny’s delicate works on paper were mesmerizing as his frenetic scenes wrangled figurative fragments in pencil, ink, and watercolor. Novatny’s small works possess the panache of graphic novels and have the spontaneity of a sketchbook but allude to a more sobering turn-of-the-century interest which, at moments, conjures George Bellows or Thomas Eakins. While no figures are fully articulated, dramatic narrative bits are implicit in the work. The figures are washed ashore or stranded in tense non-objective zones. They signal or even cry out into the terrain but their messages are rattled by pen-tests and colored detritus that swirls around them.
Novatny, a Yale School of Art graduate, has the facility to make larger, more heroic works on canvas (and it’s somewhat titillating to imagine him doing so), though there is strength in his intimate scale just as it is. Novatny casts a soft line and then snags the viewer on tiny jagged hooks. —Matthew Farina
Mata Ruda (site)
As a street artist, Venezuelan artist Mata Ruda has already done some stunning work, including painting portraits of the faces of immigrants along pre-Columbian colossal heads with the Bushwick Collective, and on the streets of Baltimore. But in the Brooklyn-based artist’s first solo show, which was held in conjunction with Bushwick Open Studios at the Schoolhouse, he has really started to expand his graceful approach to the idea of “otherness.” By merging icons like Napoleon and Caesar with Olmec heads and pre-Columbian masks he’s exploring in a new way the connection of colliding cultures, while guarding that socially conscious spirit of his murals. —Allison C. Meier
Eric Lindveit (site)
Eric Lindveit’s third-floor studio at 56 Bogart recalls the study of a gentleman naturalist, an eclectic yet soothing space finished with an office area set behind a smooth archway, visually punctuated by an antique lobsterboat model, a timeworn oriental rug, and a battered mid-century couch. It might sound a bit affected, but Lindveit’s stunning 19th century naturalism-inspired work, which dominated his studio, is the real deal. Lindveit’s large, tree bark wall-hanging sculptures are provoked by his arboreal observations in New York City and his own collection of pre-20th century naturalist diagrams and models. Though they are grounded in scientific history, these works can often veer into the surreal, with obscene protuberances, burled knots, and various diseases of the bark rendered in Borgesian, frisson-inducing detail. —Mostafa Heddaya
Suzanne Kelser (site)
Suzanne Kelser’s numerate site-specificity was unique among the offerings in Bushwick, her show recalling Tatsuo Miyajima’s early work — which itself is descended from the Serial art of the 1970s. It’s refreshing and hardly derivative, and as Kelser eagerly explained to the visitors who thronged her studio during both of my visits, the shown work dealt with the site-specificity of IP addresses, in particular those where her website is hosted in Utah. Kelser, who used to work as a programmer, has previously used number systems to chronicle the tides in “Tide Schedules” (2011), a work produced during a Governors Island residency. Though this type of work often carries a certain visual dryness, her cerebral pieces explode with a pyrotechnic linearity of nodes and edges. —Mostafa Heddaya