December 15th marks the debut show at GRIDSPACE for artist Julia Betts, a sculptor based in PA. An MFA, Sculpture graduate of RISD, Betts brings her striking juxtaposition of body and material to this architecturally-driven space. This solo exhibit at GRIDSPACE, titled ruptured holding, presents an interdisciplinary window into the artist’s practice. Betts’ work relies on the contrast between the instability and unpredictability of materials presented to the public at this space, precipitously cast on the rapidly changing neighborhood of northern Crown Heights. The erasure and reclamation of identity present in works such as “Detritus” find their home within the context of a Crown Heights that even ten years ago counted very few art spaces among its residents.
From 4-6 pm on Sunday, December 15, GRIDSPACE will host a reception for Betts open to the public. Drawing from her undergraduate degree in studio art from the University of Pittsburgh toward her more recent MFA in Sculpture from RISD, the artist has a firm and mature approach to materiality and concept. In discussing the objects she employs in her practice, Betts explains her aim to destabilize existing frameworks, noting that “my work…. create(s) a uniquely precarious situation whose exact results are ambiguous and actually lead to disruption and upheaval.”
In Betts work, the material holds as much weight conceptually as the object they comprise, daring the viewer to consider the implications of the final artwork confronting them. Mining from the same veins as pivotal artists such as Ana Mendieta, Do Huh Suh and Isa Genzken, Betts’ work advances installation farther into our current moment and inviting us to question what is presented to us for consideration. The works seem to mesmerize by their very undefinability, forming a hold on one’s psyche and creating an opening for more inquisitive looks into the very fabric of reality that surrounds us in everyday life.
Works such as “Accretion” reveal Betts’ engagement with pushing material to the breaking point, engaging with the adhesive, industrial material of masking tape to reveal the limits of the body. Implied motion and abstracted form combine to create the sensation of an unknown woman’s body traversing space. The labor-intensive practice also implicates the artist’s own bodily limitations in the work.
With inclusion in multiple group exhibitions in New York City such as at Re:Art Show, Microscope Gallery, and Flux Factory, Julia Betts has made her mark on the NYC art scene. She has also exhibited nationally in numerous solo shows such as at Unsmoke Systems (Pittsburgh, PA) and Bunker Projects (Pittsburgh, PA). Betts has also completed artist-in-residence programs at Millay Colony for the Arts and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
GRIDSPACE is an art space that serves as an architecturally specific outlet for experimentation engaging the rapidly changing neighborhood of northern Crown Heights. Located at 112 Rogers Avenue in North Crown Heights, the closest subway to the space is the 2,3,4,5 to Franklin or the S to Park Place. For any inquiries about the space, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Vertiginous folds of fabric climb in an ambitious ascent, weaving the identity of its creator into every stitch. Basil Kincaid’s voluminous “Love As Patient As the Hillside” (2018) anchors Jenkins Johnson’s spacious first-floor gallery space for “On the Road: Caroline Kent, Basil Kincaid and Esau McGhee”. Curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah, this exhibition, on view through Jan 12, marks the first installment in the exhibition series by the curator. Referencing Jack Kerouac’s influential On the Road, Ossei-Mensah applies the concept of documenting a cross-country journey toward charting the contemporary African-American experience – beginning here with a specific lens on the Midwest. The cohort of artists on view in Jenkins Johnson’s debut “On the Road” work in St. Louis and Chicago, and have lived in and worked throughout the region.
“Approaching Kerouac’s On the Road, on this cross-country art journey I found myself asking: where are the black and brown bodies?” Ossei-Mensah, Senior Curator at Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit (MOCAD), reflects on his curatorial approach leading up to “On The Road”. In introducing the exhibit and its artists, he mentions being inspired by works by Derrick Adams and Ebony G. Patterson who exalt black bodies, portraying these figures in states of leisure and celebration. These scenes recurred to the curator as he initially viewed works by St. Louis-based Basil Kincaid. Standing in front of Kincaid’s portraits of a picnic, family members relaxing on the grass in the sun on the same quilt on view in “On the Road”, Ossei-Mensah recounts Kincaid’s emphasis on incorporating his family’s history and his own personal memories into these quilted works. This soft sculpture anchors the space, the folds of the fabric softly outlining an absent human figure, anticipating the edges of a subtle form. Kincaid’s works both reveal and conceal the human form and memories, his own and those in his immediate social circle. “Kincaid creates quilted works as portraits of his own family and markers of memory, and his collages and drawings taken in consideration alongside these quilted works express a variety of modalities. It’s important for audiences to be exposed to the breadth of his practice,” Ossei-Mensah elaborates.
Nearby mixed-media works masterfully contort inside their custom-built frames, wrestling against the weight of anticipated right angles with their calculated curves and bends. Wooden frames and compositions both bear witness the masterful range of Chicago-based Esau McGhee‘s practice. Working from his studio in East Garfield Park, McGhee takes his initial training in photography through the filter of working as a street artist to construct complex compositions, some with a graffiti mark-making tool, in vivid patterns and hues. Applying an intimate repetition of found pattern, McGhee combines a balanced approach to construction and composition to exquisite effect. These collages flatten notions of ownership: referencing found imagery as a diagram of public space, McGhee integrates patterns, colors and printed materials found within the mass-produced and the everyday. McGhee observes, “This collective experience that we all share with public spaces… it’s not my space, it’s not your space, it’s really ours: it’s going through an evolution as dictated by us.”
Approaching Jenkins Johnson’s lower gallery space, Ossei-Mensah expounds on his initial approach when formulating this inaugural iteration of “On the Road”. “As a curator, it’s key to find ways to challenge myself to not subscribe to a particular style,” reflects Ossei-Mensah. We take a moment to gaze around at the show before he continues, “As a project space and commercial gallery, Jenkins Johnson is the perfect place to mount “On the Road” – I’m thankful that they were willing to take a risk on a show of artists whose work audiences here may have never encountered, providing a platform for these artists in an accessible, domestic space where diverse audiences can feel a sense of belonging.”
Ruminating on the importance of crafting inter-regional dialogues with diverse artists whose work may not (yet) be featured on Artforum or headlining Christie’s auctions, Ossei-Mensah presents a measured viewpoint on why he began this series with Midwestern artists. In addition to his role building a platform for artists from across the region (and the US) at MOCAD in Detroit, he observes the area is full of sometimes overlooked talent. “Artists in the Midwest are making interesting work, and can be diamonds in the rough whose work merits new platforms. These are artists whose work shouldn’t lie undiscovered: there is a narrative guiding each artist’s body of work. These artists are all committed to their practice – what they will produce next will be truly remarkable.”
The final gallery yields exquisite works by artist Caroline Kent, whose work spans text and abstraction. Ossei-Mensah identifies what first caught his eye about her abstract works: the forms placed within a black ground. “Using a black ground in these works asserts her position,” notes Ossei-Mensah. Our conversation centers on the relative dearth of black women artists working in abstraction, and how by foregrounding these works within a black space the artist subtly re-orients the context of these compositions. Meanwhile, two text-based pieces nearby include the artist’s own written work, placed in dialogue with monochrome hues of paint created by the artist’s finger marks. Aspects of Kent’s identity intermingle in these works, while her larger abstract compositions evoke disparate actions and forms. Taken comprehensively, Kent’s body of work absorbs a multitude of influences while incorporating her own precise palette: what Ossei-Mensah refers to as a “a pictorial index she sees built into the world of gestures around her.” We stop in front of two works by Kent, “Carmicheal and Eloise” (2016) and “I Would Call…,” (2016), before Ossei-Mensah continues. “Kent’s work demonstrates her commitment to pushing the limits of abstract language, with her focus on building a syntax and toolbox: a reservoir of forms and colors placed upon a black ground. When taken in context with her text-based works there exists a variety of aspects in her practice, a remarkable plurality.”
Reflecting on Kent’s practice, Ossei-Mensah inadvertently observes the power propelling “On the Road” forward. “This work pushes the visual language to its breaking point,” he observes. Works on view by Kincaid, Kent and McGhee push the envelope, breaking boundaries across mediums in a well-balanced survey of formidable contemporary artists living and working in the Midwest.
Ziemia has arrived at McGorlick Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and with it a world of experiences, memories, dreams and hopes.
The project, created by artist Martynka Wawrzyniak in partnership with support from the Polish Cultural Institute New York, is a rounded, organic sculpture incorporating soil samples from across the world in an orb-like shape to represent the multi-dimensional fabric of our human tapestry across the globe. Spanning from the US across Asia and Europe, the artist has spent years creating this project – now on view through June 2019 in Greenpoint’s own McGolrick Park! The first public art project in the park in decades, Ziemia symbolizes hope that we can live side by side as co-stewards of our planet.
In particular, the project embodies dual concepts of migration and establishing new residencies/homes. The soil itself has traversed time zones and latitudes in order to create this pivotal sculpture, which has subsequently made its own home in the meadow of McGolrick Park. Polish Cultural Institute of New York (PCINY) director Anna Domanska notes of the project, “When Martynka Wawrzyniak came to us with her project, we knew it was the best canvas to tell the story of Poland and the Poles, who through the ups and downs of history found their new place on earth in the United States, but in a broader sense, portraying issues shared by many nations and cultures in a global context.”
Domanska continues, “After all, the idea of the project refers to universal questions of the meaning of emigration, of roots, having a home and losing one, finding one’s identity in new cultural circumstances. This project also symbolically shows the strength of the links between Poland and the United States. The Ziemia Project after all is not only a sculpture, on display since June 9 in McGolrick Park, but also all the collected and documented human stories that demonstrate those links.”
More about the incredibly labor intensive process the artist used to realize the project, with support from PCINY, can be found on the Ziemia project website. Ziemia, the word for “Earth” or “Land” as translated from Polish, is a potent reminder of the common bond we share despite the boundaries that may divide us. The project was realized in partnershp with the New York City Department for Parks & Recreation and will reside in McGolrick park through June 2019.
There are countless gallery guides exploring the cultural events happening throughout NYC, but how many can you find within walking distance or bus ride of your nest? How many events happen right down the street that you could swing by after a nice dinner with a friend? Why does every single blog profile seem to profile events happening in the art areas of Chelsea and the Lower East Side?
With these thoughts in mind, here at -1 Below we take a look at cultural events happening around New York City, minus one boro: Manhattan.
Below we consider upcoming cultural highlights with five not-to-miss events from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx… with some cultural events to entice guests willing to venture farther afield.
- “Night Regulation” Radiator Gallery, 10-61 Jackson Ave, Long Island City feat. artists Loren Britton, Maria Dimanshtein, Nicholas Fraser, JF Lynch and Andrew Prayzner – curated by Patrick Neal. An exhibition touching on the fraught and complex relationship between conceptual and formal elements present in contemporary art. Opening: Feb 2nd from 6-9 pm
- “Incision: Feminist in Residence” Project for Empty Space, 2 Gateway Center, Newark, NJ (across from Penn station skybridge) feat. artists Chaya Babu, Christen Clifford, Camille Lee and Katherine Toukhy. Profoundly feminist, this exhibition explores the personal and political presence of being a woman artist in a complex, hierarchical art world pantheon. Opening: Jan 31st from 6-8 pm.
- “Know Your Mushrooms: Mycology 101” Earth Arts Center, 936 Madison Street, Brooklyn, NY for artists with a taste for the wilder side of nature, this class, led by expert agriculturalist and PDC practitioner Oliver Bolotin, covers key points outlined by Paul Stamets in the tome “Mycelium Running”. This class will cover wild mushrooms as well as growing your own fungi colony at home. Event takes place Sat, Feb 3rd: doors open at 8 pm with discussion beginning at 8:30.
- “Reenactment” gallery talk, BRIC (The Stoop @ BRIC Arts) 647 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY. Coffee + Conversation discussing current BRIC exhibition “Reenactment” with curator Jenny Gerow and exhibiting artists Maria Hupfield and Farideh Sakhaeifer on how certain histories are privileged, stifled, and/or eventually re-examined. The exhibition features artworks by Ken Gonzalez-Day, Crystal Z. Campbell, Alicia Grullon (pictured in cover image), Hupfield, Sakhaeifer, and Marisa Williamson. Feb 3rd from 12-1 pm.
- “Coming to America” Free Screening @Brooklyn Bazaar, 150 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY. A light-hearted look at America (specifically, Jamaica Queens) through the eyes of a visitor from our current administration’s so-monikered “shithole countries”, come laugh off our current xenophobia with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall’s devastatingly witty performance, with turns by the commanding James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair in the classic 1988 film directed by John Landis. No RSVP required, seating first come first serve. Jan 31st from 8-11 pm.