Guest Contributor Jonathan Stevenson / Bushwick has become such a fertile and active art community that it can be hard to distinguish extraordinary happenings from the day-to-day thrum of the place. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to be jaded about Bushwick Open Studios for a number of reasons – in particular, the immense range of work the event presents and the party atmosphere its unpretentious informality and abandon generate, intense and playful in roughly equal measure. Here are brief descriptions of notable work I found over the course of just two hours on Sunday afternoon, venue-hopping inside an area of roughly twelve square blocks. Had I had a few more hours, this post would have been dauntingly long.
[Image at top: Bob Szantyr; Red, Yellow, And Bluer Than This Much Blue; 2014;
oil on paper, tacks, urethane plastic; 12 x 10 x 8 inches. This image is from his website.]
BOS also provided opportunities for characteristically fastidious artists to try out new ideas. A few blocks southeast on Hart Street, in a charming and innovative home walk-through format, Harthaus showcased longtime Bushwick painter Matthew Miller’s trademark heads-against-black but also some drawings – albeit still alluding to heads – that signal an interesting expansion of his unique aesthetic.
Some venues followed a more familiar mini-fair model, netting in galleries from other neighborhoods. The cozy NEWD Art Show, on Johnson Avenue, featured the Lower East Side gallery Regina Rex, which displayed several of Hannah Barrett’s playfully deviant folk-arty takes on the traditional portrait and still life; Greenpoint’s 106 Green, an artist-run space showing gently noirish figurative paintings by Beijing-raised Xinyi Cheng; and Greenpoint Terminal, offering Eric Shaw’s meticulous but sardonically wobbly hard-edge abstractions.
Local main braces and big players had their say, too. Paul D’Agostino’s Centotto presented “Thrice Legendary, or Forever Thens,” a terrifically expansive group show involving 41 Bushwick-linked artists, while Luhring Augustine’s outpost on Knickerbocker Avenue mounted a satisfyingly cohesive set of Christopher Wool silkscreens.
Although there’s plenty to criticize about the state of contemporary art, the Bushwick phenomenon fuels considerable optimism. It’s hard to imagine the art community there in stagnant middle age, and it is now only entering its audacious adolescence. The question is whether Bushwick is, fortuitously, terminally adolescent. Certainly the BOS pilgrimage requires the extra quantum of mobility and adventurism associated with youth; the BOS demographic was conspicuously young compared with that of Chelsea, and noticeably younger even than the Lower East Side’s. Perhaps the neighborhood’s distance from Manhattan will inoculate it against comprehensive gentrification and the complacency that often goes with it, leaving Bushwick artists as young and restless as their visitors.
Stay tuned for Allison Hale’s “10 Images: BOS” column later this week.
Still on view:
“Space Available,” 1329 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11237, through June 28, 2015.
“Thrice Legendary, or Forever Thens,” Centotto, “outside of receptions and other announced gatherings, Centotto is open by appointment only.” Closing TBD.
“Christopher Wool ,” Luhring Augustine, through May 21, 2015.
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