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by Emily Nathan
I’ll admit, it took an assignment -- "I’d like a report about exhibitions in another borough!" declared my editor -- to get me to galleries in Brooklyn. Shocking, I know, shameful even, but it’s the truth. Lucky for me, last weekend the Williamsburg and Greenpoint art scene was hopping, as it is most weekends, or so I gather. So out I went, despite frigid winds and nearly insurmountable snowdrifts, and found myself in good -- and good-looking -- company.
My first stop was Figureworks, a quaint, second-floor gallery that seems to occupy someone’s living room. The gallery was opening with "She Works Hard for the Money," an exhibition of paintings by the Swiss-born artist Claudia Butz, a graduate of the New York Academy of Art. Figureworks specializes in "fine art of the human form," and for this series, Butz painted Amsterdam prostitutes posing like mannequins behind shop-windows. Quiet and sorrowful, her women are rendered in a melancholy palette of deep blues, grays and tans; the canvases are sleepy but sexy, and her stroke is skillful.
To complement her show, the gallery has also hung in the room next door -- the den? -- paintings and drawings by several artists that engage with notions of sex and gender, not to mention the female body. Some are reminiscent of well-known greats, most notably Sigmar Polke and Fernando Botero.
Around the corner, on Roebling Street just south of Metropolitan Avenue, The Front Room -- where Parker Posey was among the visitors, who spilled out the graffitied gallery doors onto the sidewalk -- hosted "An Uncommon Thread," a show of eight artists organized by painters Emma Tapley and Paul Caranicas.
The art is, in a word, thrilling. Visceral and material, the works integrate the organic with the manufactured: mint-green plastics hammered into something like sea glass, glue woven like macramé into tiny 3D models, resins that simulate honeycomb, and flinty, charcoal clay are all used to represent not nature but human innovation -- shopping carts, apartment complexes, highways.
I grabbed a plastic cup of Pernod on the rocks -- ah, a cordial -- and made my way around the crowded room. Mary Early, a D.C. artist who is director of the Hemphill Gallery there, contributed a sculpture Untitled (Arch) built out of glue and beeswax. Arching like a gymnast from the floor to the wall, it appears solid and stable when viewed from the side, but from above reveals a labyrinth of interlocked chambers, reminiscent of honeycomb, that in fact constitute its core: the structure as a whole supports itself based on congeries of independent-yet-interdependent voids.
Against the opposite wall, Leonora Loeb’s Outskirt consists of a row of sea anemone-shaped objects displayed in a glass vitrine. Zoomorphic but artificial, each object is a clay base stuck with metal clips that extend out like attenuated tentacles. From one end of the row to the other, the clips fan out wider and wider, progressively opening up, as if blooming. The cumulative effect is something akin to that of a diorama which documents the evolution of a natural process.
Susan Graham’s Beautiful Ohio occupies a stretch of floor with an assembly of model vehicles, offering an aerial view of a weekend highway jam-up: cars, semis, cabs, trailers are all made of a delicate threading of white substance that reads like porcelain.
Fragile and dainty, the sculptures are made in a way that suggests folkloric traditions of artisanal craft. Graham’s subject is in fact neither romantic nor archaic, however, but rather the epitome of the modern condition: vehicles stuck in city traffic. The juxtaposition is a shock, and this seemingly paradoxical negotiation of the organic and the mechanical may be the "uncommon thread" that runs through the show.
Other noteworthy works include Caroline Burton’s mini-cityscape, whose individual structures are composed of a gallimaufry of mediums including rubber and hydrocal -- one of them is even topped with fur, like a rooftop garden -- and Nancy Cohen’s sculptures: a dolly and a shopping cart made from decaying wood and draped with oozing sheets of what appears to be green sea glass.
In a corner of the gallery, Adelle Lutz -- the designer, actor and former wife of David Byrne -- presents Blond, a chair the color of human skin that has been outfitted with long strands of wool and hair -- a personified manifestation of the meeting between human body and ergonomic fabrication.
Katherine Daniels, who has long specialized in beaded sculptures and paintings, here presents Pearl Bed. The work reads like an exhibition in the butterfly room of the Natural History Museum, with each insect elegantly impaled on a long pin stuck into the wall, mapping the evolution of the species. But Daniels’ display features molecular bunches of pearls instead of butterflies. They surge and sweep across the walls of the two connected galleries in bold loops that almost look like a swarm of bees, comprising a study not in lepidopterology but in human luxury.
Cold and lazy, but committed to my itinerary, I headed to Greenpoint. And good thing I did: ringing in at probably the most exciting of the evening’s events, Allan Nederpelt gallery -- a gargantuan loft space on Freeman Street -- was the victim of an attempted robbery, which took place during its opening for "Rules of Engagement," organized by sometime Artnet Magazine interviewer David Coggins.
No worries, though -- Martin Nederpelt, the gallery’s resident "long-legged Dutchman," saved the day, sensing a young attendee’s mounting agitation just seconds before watching him snatch a small, $1,200 Ridley Howard drawing from the wall and bolt out the door. After some drama, the painting was returned, no damage done -- though the would-be thief spent a night in jail.
Ironically, the exhibition revolves around the notion of "restraint," with the goal of displaying modest artworks in a vast, bare space so that viewers are encouraged to engage with the art slowly and thoughtfully. The eight artists in the show work in various mediums: Ridley Howard contributed a painting, for instance, while Sarah Malakoff is showing digital C-prints and Javier Pinon collages.
But the show’s real message is one of emptiness and alienation. Malakoff’s gaudy images of vacant wood-paneled interiors are not restrained, but they are definitely dysphoric. And in Andrei Roiter’s moody oil paintings, isolated objects -- a pile of bricks, a pup tent, a dilapidated roadside sign -- are clearly abandoned. Works range in price from $1,200 to $8,000.
As the clock struck eight, I hopped back on the subway train towards civilization and Art101, at 101 Grand Street in Williamsburg, to see a new exhibition of paintings by Xanda McCagg. Directed by Ellen Rand, the gallery is a tiny, window-filled space with white walls and clean, white floors. McCagg’s abstract oil paintings -- which feature glorious, sweeping swaths of pigment, a kaleidoscope of colors and varying textures -- are simply breathtaking. Small canvases start at around $350 and the larger works range from $2,400 to $8,000.
Claudia Butz and selected artists, "She Works Hard for the Money," Jan. 14-Mar. 7, 2011, at Figureworks, 168 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, New York, N.Y. 11211
"An Uncommon Thread," Jan. 14-Feb. 6, 2011, at Front Room Gallery, 147 Roebling Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11211
"Rules of Engagement," curated by David Coggins, Jan. 14-Feb. 13, 2011, at Allan Nederpelt, 60 Freeman Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11222
Xanda McCagg, "Paintings," Jan. 14-Feb. 6, 2011, at Art101, 101 Grand Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11211
EMILY NATHAN is assistant editor at Artnet Magazine.
We were pleased that Emily Nathan from Artnet Magazine joined us for the opening of "An Uncommon Thread." A very nice account of her visit to Brooklyn and the Front Room gallery. Compliments to the artists and the curators of this exhibition, which will be on view through the 6th of February.
Next Stop Atlantic
Solo Exhibition of Photographs by Stephen Mallon
22 West 22nd Street, 2nd Floor
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 3rd from 6-9pm.
Opening Thursday, February 3rd from 6-9pm,
Calumet Photographic will be hosting “Next
Stop Atlantic,” an exhibition of photographs by Stephen Mallon.
In his second solo exhibition at the gallery Mallon presents
a stunning series of photographs, which capture
the retirement of hundreds of New York City Subway cars to the
depths of the Atlantic Ocean. In a bold move, the NYC Transit
authority joined the artificial reef building program off the
East Coast of the US in 2000 and sent stripped and
decontaminated subway cars off on barges to be dropped
into the Ocean in order to build refuge for many species
of fish and crustaceans which would colonize the structures.
Mallon traces the progress of the train cars on their way
towards their last voyage, majestic waves approach the
viewer in these large scale photographs as they too are
transported out to sea to behold the lifting and transfer
of these massive machines. One photograph hauntingly
depicts elements of nature creeping into their barren
hulls, drifts of snow lines the walkways, a glimpse of
sunshine streams through their removed doors as they
wait in stacks to be carted off to sink to the dark depths
of the ocean floor.
Mallon’s photographs elicit both the sadness and the
beauty of cascading water overtaking these iconic figures
of New York transit as they sink beneath the surface
of the water; surges and sprays are caught in time.
Stephen Mallon dedicated the last three years to following
this endeavor, chronicling the last phase of NYC
Transit’s involvement in this program. The photographs
that are presented in this exhibition capture the grandiosity
of this effort; the weight of these 18-ton train cars
can be felt as they are ferried off and plunged into the
These photographs are from Mallon’s
continuing series; “American Reclamation” which
chronicles and examines recycling processes in the U.S.
This series holds optimism in the innovation of salvaging
techniques, showing the possible gains that can be
made as industrial waste is revivified. In “Next Stop Atlantic”
Mallon determinedly tracks the final stage of the
lives of these, once indispensable modes of transit for
passengers on the New York subway lines, canonizing
them in New York history.
Today is the last day of Allan Packer's show. If you haven't already seen this amazing exhibition of sculpture and paintings, featuring his room-sized kinetic installation, "Gate," please stop by!
Join us Next Friday, from 7-9pm, during the Williamsburg 2nd Friday event for the opening of "An Uncommon Thread."
An Uncommon Thread
Curated by Emma Tapley and Paul Caranicas
With works by:
January 14 – February 6, 2011
Reception: Friday, January 14, 2011, 7-9
Viewing hours: Fri-Sun 1-6 and by appointment
Front Room Gallery is pleased to present, “An Uncommon Thread” curated by Emma Tapley and Paul Caranicas, which explores the idea that there is a shared inherited consciousness in the practice of making art that arises from work that came before. Working within the realm of each artist’s expertise, this exhibition unravels the underlying connection of subtlety, elegance, intelligence, and lyricism that is seen in these artist’s work. Featuring works by: Caroline
Burton, Nancy Cohen, Katherine Daniels, Mary Early, Susan Graham, Adelle Lutz, Leonora
Loeb and Marsha Pels. On view through February 6, 2011.
Caroline Burton presents a selection of works from her series, “Drain Works” which are inspired
by her familiarity with the intricacies of design and engineering of wastewater systems. Burton organizes the unfamiliar through the use of the grid, which defines a structure that holds together seemingly tenuous relationships.
Nancy Cohen is interested in the juxtaposition of fragility and strength, evident in our personal lives and our broader environment. Cohen works in processes that share these dualities and allow for the merging of material and content, creating a balance amongst each incorporated element.
Katherine Daniel’s sculptural installations embrace abstract ornamentation, with beading and jewel-tone extravagance and an attentive eye to the detail. Her ‘opulent abstract gardens’ invoke spirit and paradise and draw the viewer into a delicate world of embellished design.
Mary Early utilizes forms selected for their use in repetition to create larger objects, which she fabricates in multiples, stacks, and secures to create a mass. Early’s sculptural works hint at naturally occurring forms, which appear seamless but when examined closely their origin is revealed.
Susan Graham uses sugar and porcelain to create delicate works that investigate the concepts of preciousness, fragility, and intense process. Graham’s sculptures and installations use repetitive acts or actions that are linked to particular psychological state, her choice of materials give the pieces a feeling of domesticity or sweetness, while the subjects are often uncomfortable.
Leonora Loeb weaves small found and manipulated elements together to create works, which contain components of a dialogue that begins to form when they are seen together. They are strong enough to suggest moments, memories, and spaces, but slightly out of the viewer’s grasp so as to never attain a narrative.
With her foundation in film and theater, Adelle Lutz creates pieces bridging sculpture, installation and performance. Using materials such as found furniture, clothing and pillowcases or, by drawing with human hair and razor wire, she subverts the mundane to explore the existential realities of war, protection, isolation and shared humanity.
Marsha Pels is known for sculptures, which include a range of labor-intensive objects, multi-media installations and outdoor site-specific pieces. “The Hitler Vitrines” are a series of six cast crystal objects in halogen-lit steel and glass vitrines. A seventh vitrine housed live eels swimming above human teeth.