There’s been a bit of a stir surrounding this year’s Bushwick Open Studios. Firstly, they’ve been moved to this coming weekend instead of their usual summertime. There’s been a changing of hands in regards to who’s in charge, and supposedly a renewed focus on connecting with longtime locals rather than just hip, social-media-savvy (mostly white) artists and parties sponsored by Tumblr. The time has come to see how things have changed, and how they might’ve stayed the same. The jam-packed weekend can get overwhelming. Aside from all the artist studios that’ll be open (reason for the season), here are some highlights that might be worth your while.
“You know, after a while, wearing that rubber gorilla mask is really hard,” said Donna Kaz. She was describing one of the stranger realities of her double life. For the last 20 years, Kaz has worked as an artist/playwright deftly navigating the New York City theater world– this was the serious, successful woman I met at a coffee shop in Midtown last week. But for the rest of it, she’s donned a gorilla mask, deterred neither by sweat nor fear of suffocation. (Hell, even furries, the most diehard animal-suit lovers, agree that wearing such restrictive headgear can be punishing.)
The disguise has helped hide her identity, but it’s also served as a way for Kaz and an influential group of women artists known as the Guerrilla Girls, a “secret society” of activists, to assume new ones.
Arlene Schulman: The First 100 Years
Reception Tuesday September 20 at The David N. Dinkins Municipal Building, 5 pm to 7 pm. On view through September 29.
Bronx-born Arlene Schulman has had a robust career as a photographer, with an array of published books, including the award-winning The Prizefighters: An Intimate Look at Champions and Contenders. Her photos reflect a lifetime living in the city, and I mean lifetime: she started taking photos when she was a mere eight years old. They focus on the everyday and the working class, portraying subjects like police officers and boxers in large-format prints. And photography isn’t all she does– she also writes, edits, and teaches. This exhibit, presented by Manhattan BP Gale A. Brewer, seeks to showcase her large body of work and the unique way she sees the city. But careful, don’t go offering her the chance to shoot artful pictures of any lima beans or olives—she writes on her website that she hates those.
Even hazy patrons bumbling their way out of opium dens– if the dope cave hadn’t been replaced by frou frou cocktail bars– would have had a hard time missing a gallery boom like the one currently going down in Chinatown. Increasingly fancy art palaces are moving in, bringing with them pristine minimalism and white-walled remove, which presents a pretty dramatic departure from the existing chaotic density of saggy red-yellow-and-smog-colored awnings, old ladies in bucket hats hustling meat sticks, careening unmarked buses hiding in alleyways that you didn’t know New York City had, murky fish tank smells, frenetically blinking neon signs, and countless aging storefronts overflowing with sun-bleached gecko supplements, acupuncture diagrams, and yellowing, curly-edged Chinese calendars.
As is JJ Brine’s way, he’s hesitant to speak about the past. Even the very recent past, when Brine– Satanic gallerist, practitioner of “Post-human” art, founder of the Vectorian and its “Crown Prince of Hell”– took off for Los Angeles to start fresh. “I don’t even know if it’s relevant to recall what happened in Los Angeles,” he said. “This is now, that was then. I’m doing what I’m doing now.”
Now that Brine has captured the attention of the art world, conservative conspiracy theorists, gossip columnists, even Dow Jones reporters, it’s much easier to track the artist’s more recent trajectory, even if he’s reluctant to go into too many details about the non-present.
Opening Monday August 22, 6 pm to 9 pm at The Living Gallery. On view one night only.
For one night only, the humble Living Gallery will be taken over by artist and “earth-loving dumpster-diver” Jill Rosati’s fantastical sculptures. Among them are “vomcanoes,” vaguely grotesque creations that look as if a mound of dirt grew legs and eternally spewed a fine stream of luminescent sludge that may or may not contain human hair. Yum! Rosati is committed to showing the ugly and excess-filled side of human nature (and sometimes, just nature itself), but smartly does so using sustainable and recycled materials so she doesn’t necessarily waste in order to portray waste.
You’ve heard the saying: “Don’t let people walk all over you.” If you’re a woman, this has probably been said to you especially often. But how often is it meant literally? At Kristin Smallwood’s debut solo exhibition IUD, now on view at American Medium in Bed-Stuy, the only way to access the art is by walking over scores of women (including photos of the artist herself), adhered endlessly and stickily to the gallery floor. The female figures are grinning lipstick-painted grins while your boot presses into their torso and your sweat drips onto their breasts.
If watching this dub-step blasting, Benzedrine-fueled trailer moves you toward a migraine, you might assume that you’re too old for Low-Level Festival. I mean, isn’t this the sort of thing you’d find on Snapchat, anyway? What’s it doing on a slow-load medium like YouTube? In a way, you’re right– Low-Level is incredibly future-oriented and nearly everyone involved is so now, in mind and body, that they make Tavi Gevinson look like the Cryptkeeper. They’re hyper-concerned with the latest existing technologies and the kind of people who can actually understand what the last wave of Millennials, or kids born after the year 2000 (i.e. literally cyborgs) are thinking. Of course, that’s not the whole story.
After a false start three weeks ago, street artist Logan Hicks is ready to give his Bowery Graffiti Wall mural another shot. The stencil mural, entitled Story of My Life, was supposed to go up the last week of July, but was scrapped after the wood panels that held the canvas shifted positions overnight, ruining the half-finished piece. Keep Reading »
Opening Monday August 15, 7 pm to 9 pm at ROOQ Fine Arts and Framing. On view through January 17.
Artist Sharon Spell seems to have each one of her hands equally in art and comedy: she’s worked with UCB since 2007, performs at The Moth, and has illustrated comic strips for the freaky people at The Onion, just to name a few bits from her resume. These two worlds unite in her “Close Hamm” diptychs– paintings depicting two distinct people joined together to create one image, much like the fine art of balance an improv-comedy duo’s always aiming for.
Governors Island is more than just another out-of-the-way-ish New York City nook. After years of abandonment, the island’s only recently embarked on a steady climb towards reclamation and it remains largely stuck in the past, having missed out on years of the progress seen by the rest of the city while interned as an exclusive home for military officers, then a coast guard haven, before it was abandoned altogether in 1996, left to hang in an off-limits sort of limbo, with nature serving as its only developer.
Fresh off the ferry, you might be only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, but as you make your way inland, the Manhattan skyline starts to disappear, obscured by the super old Fort Jay, untrimmed trees, shrubs, and rolling grassy hills. The sirens fade into the background too, and time itself seems to slow down.