The Rumney Guggenheim gallery may be the best thing to happen to Brooklyn’s art scene in a long time. The gallery celebrated the opening of its inaugural exhibition, “Some Place Like Home,” last night. The entrance to the exhibit is in the northeast corner of the sumptuously renovated colossus that once was the Williamsburgh Savings Bank but now is Weylin B. Seymour’s, a large event space.
Despite the name, the new gallery is not a part of the Guggenheim museum network, but its moniker is totally appropriate—Santiago Rumney Guggenheim, a great-grandson of Peggy Guggenheim, is the founder and manager of the space. Rumney, previously an intern at Gagosian Gallery and then director of Rare Gallery, unexpectedly met Carlos Perez San Martin, the Argentinian-born owner of the building who helped lead its restoration, during an event there.
“I was here with my in-laws and I asked a guy next to me to take a picture of me and my wife that captured the building’s architecture,” Guggenheim said. “I thanked him for being so meticulous about the picture and he said, ‘It’s normal, I own the building.’ Our conversation turned to art and I gave him my card and asked him to let me know if he will have an art project. The next day I got an email from him about the idea and that started it all.”
The gallery itself is designed with rows of slots in the ceilings that can hold wall panels, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for how to use the space. For this show it had a maze-like layout winding all around the room.
The exhibit features the work of seven international artists whose work often appears in public spaces. At the start of the exhibit, Olivia Steele’s red neon text sculpture reassured us, devilishly, “You are exactly where you need to be…”
Peering inside a slit in the wall to our right, I saw a room entirely crocheted in white. A headless human figurine hanged limply, its back arched, arms hanging down nearly parallel to its legs. Beneath him were an assortment of enmeshed objects: a triangular table with dinner settings, three pumpkins, a mannequin’s leg protruding up from the ground.
Curious, I turned the corner and found a space with three brightly crocheted chairs, splashed in pink, gold, blue, and other glittering electric colors. The entrance to the white room was guarded by two live actors covered head-to-toe in the same material. They neither moved nor spoke, but their obvious aliveness gave several visitors a start. The white was itself draped in constantly changing colors and patterns emitted from a projector.This is the work of Olek, a Polish-born artist, whose yarn-enmeshed sculptures have been found as far away as Chile and India. She often stages public interventions, draping public monuments like the Astor Place cube in playfully exaggerated colors. For this installation she collaborated with Integrated Vision’s Michelle Dodson who created the visual projections.
Dressed in an eye-catching black dress with a red corset, Olek herself enjoyed the result of 90 hours of her handiwork. “I saw an opportunity to combine old, the art of crochet and the Guggenheim tradition, with new. It’s been a while since I’ve wanted to do something totally different.”
In the next room I found works by three more artists. Swoon, an American street artist who studied at the Pratt Institute, contributed some wheat-paste posters drawn onto the remnants of a wooden house. Crowded into a corner was a stack of prismatically painted paint cans by AIKO, a Japanese street artist.Above the paint cans was one of Spanish street artist Boxhead’s four canvas installations exploring her motif of doll-like figures with colors beaming out of where their heads should be. But the work she received the most recognition for was one she had finished only hours earlier. Across an empty lot from the WBS she painted a gigantic mural with the same doll figures emitting beams of red, orange, yellow, green and blue onto the side of a large brick building. Visitors were treated to a great view of it from a balcony in the building’s enormous, double-domed main hall.
The final installation, sitting conspicuously under one of the domes, was Israel’s Moral Tugeman’s “The Little House,” a completely mirrored, full-scale house. The Little House has appeared in several showings on the West Coast and makes its East Coast debut here. The house has a porch and a door, but to get inside visitors have to crawl through a hole in one of its sides.
Plunging forth, I crawled up a short ramp and found myself in a circular room. Angled mirrors wrapped around a circular white couch. Several pouches containing headphones were distributed around the couch, playing trance-like relaxation music. To get out I backed down on my knees and crawled out another hole on the other side of the house, surprising a few bystanders clutching cocktails.
“Some Place Like Home,” through Nov. 11 at Rumney Guggenheim, 834 Driggs Ave., Williamsburg