Beyond the Pale: Zac Hacmon at the Border Project Space

by Mariel Tepper

 

Artist Zac Hacmon uses form, space and sound in Beyond the Pale: an immersive and unflinching look at the U.S.-Mexico border crisis located at The Border Project Space. Curated by Eva Mayhabal Davis, this site-specific sculpture installation reflects on the material and conceptual barriers humans create and the devastating, far-reaching consequences of these obstructions.

Artist Zac Hacmon exploring the US/Mexico border (photo credit: Dana Levy)

The installation is centered around two abstract sculptures, Hedgehog 1 and 2. Their militaristic design inspired by Czech hedgehogs, barrier fortifications used for the Czech-German border in World War II. The imposing sculptures create a sense of tension and claustrophobia through hard-edged geometry, while the white ceramic tile surfaces of the sculptures evoke the sterility and asepsis of domestic and interior spaces; bathrooms, kitchens and hospital walls. The sounds of voices and ambient sounds can be heard from vents in the sculptures, creating a collective murmur that recedes and fluctuates in volume, enveloping the listener. With audio consisting of on-site interviews conducted by Hacmon at the Arizona border, the dialogues convey the hardships and human rights atrocities experienced by migrants, Native Americans, asylum seekers and undocumented workers through poems, stories and firsthand accounts. 

A devastating and visceral poem on the death of a newborn baby on the Arizona roadside, NO ANSWERS–NOW OR EVER by Marie Vogl Gery, is read by Gali Kocourek, a member of Tucson Samaritans. In another interview, Sarah M. Reed, Program Coordinator at Casa Alitas Program – Aid for Migrant Families, describes the trauma experienced by asylum seekers coming from Central America and southern Mexico to the U.S. to flee gang and drug related violence. If captured by border patrol, migrants face inhumane conditions in detention centers, where they are cramped in tight cells, deprived of sleep and adequate food, all their possessions forcibly taken. 

Interspersed with the interview snippets are the sounds of field recordings, rustles of footsteps on migrant trails in the Sonoran Desert during a water run. The crisp, caustic sounds remind the listener of the long, harrowing journeys migrants take, trudging through miles of unforgiving desert heat on rough ground, all in the hopes of achieving a better life. 

“Beyond the Pale” in situ at the Border Project Space (photo credit: Etienne Frossard)

Making the connection between borders and environmental devastation, Jose Rivera, Director of Tohono O’odham Culture Center and Museum, describes how the U.S. border wall physically disrupts local wildlife by preventing animals from moving freely between nesting and feeding areas. It’s clear that imposing arbitrary physical barriers on land disrupts not only the flow of people, but the flows and processes of the natural world. In an age of climate refugees and ecological collapse, the negative implications of border walls and the bigoted, non holistic ideologies (nationalism, xenophobia) fueling them are even more apparent. Zac Hacmon’s prescient and thought-provoking Beyond the Pale installation confronts the divisive and brutal reality of man-made borders. Shining a light on the cycle of pain, fear, violence and devastation that occurs when we deny the humanity of others.

Spiritual Awakenings: Langdon Graves’ “Month’s Mind” at Victori+Mo

In Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts,” the story’s protagonist, Mrs. Alving, is a woman driven nearly mad by the profligities of a husband since deceased. Her suspicions, agonies and fears manifest into lingering presences that she summarily labels as ‘ghosts’. “I am inclined to believe that we are all ghosts,” she mutters to a family confidant. While for Ibsen these ‘ghosts’ allude to one man’s sins, ghosts have remained a frequent reference point in literature throughout the centuries, as ghosts and hauntings have persistently crept into society’s consciousness. Every culture has held onto their own form of ghost stories. Yet, can ghosts remain congruent to our present reality in which data and security camera leave little room for subjectivity and conjecture?

“Month’s Mind” solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view at Victori+Mo (toward the rear of space)

One artist who is convinced they can is artist Langdon Graves, whose formidable solo show “Month’s Mind” remains on view at Victori+Mo through January 18, 2020. The subtlety of this curious exhibit lingers in the mind long after a visitor encounters Graves’ work. The exhibit features seemingly everyday objects often with a peculiar twist: pencils bend around tables, while maggots crawl through lifelike apples and flowers. These works appear in suprising configurations and cavalcades, locked in a frozen procession – a funereal march across a pastel-tinged space. Rooted in a carefully meted blend of autobiography and research-based practice, “Month’s Mind” marks an exhibit that hints at the delicate relationship between macabre and memorial, grief and the occult. The title itself refers to an old English practice of marking the memory of someone one month since deceased, and the contrast between soothing and morbid – a ‘finger’ hangs suspended from six feet below a spray of daisies on one wall of the exhibit – shifts its weight carefully throughout the expanse of space.

Another carefully balanced juxtaposition held firmly in place by Graves’ sure hand is the dissonance separating empricism and the supernatural. While data can indicate correlations, it cannot always explain: Graves knows as much from life experience. Raised with a strong memory of her grandmother, who recalled the artist’s great-grandfather’s mortician vocation and the religious experience of boarding school life at Georgetown Visitation Monastery, the artist recalls her grandmother’s tales of gruesome hauntings. Her earliest memory of her grandmother sharing a haunting occurred at a young age: as she recalls, her grandmother remembers that after a close relative passed on, she fell asleep only to awaken to gloves emerging from a nearby wardrobe. This mysterious tale became lodged firmly within the artist’s consciousness, spurring her onto a greater understanding of death: the attitudes toward it and how grief and trauma are processed.

If one seeks the very core of Graves’ practice, it rests rooted in the ideals we hold about the world around us. “All of my work starts out about belief, ” notes Graves, “I’ll study one subject and it leads into the next thing.” Here, the procession of research that Graves uncovered marches in step much like the ethereal arrangements spanning “Month’s Mind.” Spiritualism and women’s rights hold court alongside floriography, figures of speech and medical protocol. Most notable about the exhibit as a whole is not what is necessarily displayed physically, but how each work holds a palpable psychological presence that presages what is absent. Substance emerges from these objects, yes, but also from the shadows of meaning they cast.

 

“Month’s Mind”: a solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view at Victori+Mo (rear of space)

Another masterstroke of Graves’ exhibition is the seamless connections between seemingly disparate aspects of the works on view: a custom-made, sculpted “pencil” bent around a table’s edge references the Spiritualist movement of the late 1800s and the mediums of Lily Dale, New York. A bar of soap reaching out from the wall toward the viewer in the next room portrays women’s rights icon Susan B. Anthony. These two seemingly disparate objects contain a shared reference point in Lily Dale, New York. The town just one hour south of Buffalo, NY, was a canonic site for Spiritualists of the late 19th century, and a generative, supportive site for the Women’s Suffrage Movement.  Susan B. Anthony herself had close friends and supporters based in Lily Dale: she spoke at the memorial service of a dear friend and fellow activist who passed away in the town in 1890. Graves forms tightly held associations that link together her artworks as surely as we are linked to those who maintain their presence in our lives, yet just as tenuously as we hold onto those connections that fade with time after the passing of the ones we love.

Detail image from “Month’s Mind” : a solo exhibit of works by Langdon Graves; installation view

“Month’s Mind” is on view at Victori+Mo through January 18, 2020; the gallery is open on Saturdays 10-6 pm and by appointment. This marks Langdon Graves’ second solo exhibition at the gallery. Graves is a visiting professor at Pratt and teaches at Parsons School of Design, and her studio is in Brooklyn, NY. For more information, please visit the gallery’s website.

The Thrill of Trill Matrix at The Abrazo Interno Gallery, Clemente Soto Vélez Center

Occasionally an art exhibit meets a space perfectly suited to its concept;  this is happily the case with Trill Matrixon view through Jan 19th at the Abrazo Interno Gallery, Clemente Soto Vélez Center. Trill Matrix, conceived as a site-specific exhibit for the Center, is curated by artist Elizabeth Riley and features works by contemporary artists Nancy Baker, Jaynie Crimmins, Christina Massey, Elizabeth Riley, Christine Romanell, Linda K. Schmidt and Etty Yaniv. These artists frequently exhibit collectively: while each is firmly rooted in their own unique artistic practice, their dialogues and discussion form interstices linking the works on view in Trill Matrix. Showcasing a blend of sculpture, mixed media, and installation works, Trill Matrix showcases ways in which contemporary art can tease our senses. From texture to color, volume to light, Trill Matrix teases aspects of reality into new, uncharted territory for all who visit. On view at the The Abrazo Interno Gallery (107 Suffolk Street) through January 19, make sure to visit during the show’s final days – if you can, catch the closing party on Sat, 1/19! Free and open to the public – come and celebrate art while also celebrating the network of women artists behind the works, a perfect way to close out the Women’s March events in NYC!

 

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Christina Massey, “Crafty Collusion 2” on view in Trill Matrix.

 

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Elizabeth Riley, “Prototype 2 – Canopy” on view in Trill Matrix.

In Trill Matrix, “trill” alludes to a moment in hip-hop culture where the words “true” and “real” blended together to suggest authenticity and cultural ascendancy. Playing off this idea of reconciling two distinct words, artists on view in the exhibit remix disparate mediums to form new hybrids. Strips of fabric gathered together form a soft-sculpture-turned-light-installation, while works composed of glass and aluminum fragments hold court with another work re-claiming electronic wires and plastic into a single immersive sculpture. The network these works forms invites closer inspection, often bringing the visitor to realize a greater understanding of the beauty that lies in waste.

Christina Massey is one of the exhibiting artists whose works present the meeting point of upcycled materials and careful composition. The artist’s Crafty Collusions series brings together fragments from upcycled craft beer cans with a blend of other materials, cleverly juxtaposing the male-dominated industry of craft beer with the “femininity” of crafting. Massey reflected on the work involved in bridging the gaps while making mixed media artworks. “The materials in themselves bring certain complications, where one material doesn’t easily adhere to another,” noted Massey. “A certain amount of experimentation has to be done to find the right glues, mixture of paint, thickness of thread, etc., but I love that experimentation, that’s where you discover new things that maybe you didn’t realize were a possibility. That can be very freeing…  just allowing yourself to manipulate, play and learn, admitting that the material is going to have a certain mind of its own.”

Elizabeth Riley‘s artwork, “Prototype 2 – Canopy”, slows down new media by imprinting video stills onto paper and fusing these frozen scenes with aluminum, paint and duralar, a form of acetate. Fusing different modes of representation and interpretation, Riley questions our subjective experience of reality – whether through new means of looking and questioning or by forcing the viewer to re-think what they are observing in her mixed-media works.

Artist Jaynie Crimmins similarly plays with both ideas around reality depicted through material and notions attached to craft. The artist shreds promotional mail she receives – catalogs, flyers, etc – into minute pieces that she then re-arranges into abstract geometric compositions. Reminiscent of the cardinal directions and visually capturing a format found in the most ancient cultures, Crimmins compiles works with muted color tones and fantastic textures to witness that one woman’s trash can become the world’s treasure.

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Jaynie Crimmins, “A Field Guide to Getting Lost#7” on view in Trill Matrix.
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Linda K. Schmidt, “Panels 50+51+52+53” on view in Trill Matrix.

Linda K. Schmidt‘s work embodies another style of geometric abstraction, with strips of semi-sheer fabrics in block colors meticulously arranged to form striped patterns. Evoking stained glass windows or dress-making patterns, Schmidt brings color field painting and craft together in one transcendental visual form. Suspended from the floor, larger than life size, these installations induce a sense of wonder in visitors encountering her installations at Trill Matrix.

Works by Nancy Baker display a skillful assimilation of sublimation into striking visual compositions. Recalling networks of neurons, or perhaps a private eye’s visuals connecting elements of an investigation,  Baker’s installation for Trill Matrix ventures as many layers deep as the visitor is willing to explore. A New Yorker by birth, Baker also plays off the idea of linked infrastructure such as that found in the NYC subway; yet, her compositions incorporate found language indicating our current social anxiety and uncertainty.

 

Nancy Baker, “Shredded Cold Victory” (detail image), on view in Trill Matrix.
Christine Romanell, “Dah Noqte” on view in Trill Matrix.

Artist Etty Yaniv plays with color and texture to reference abstracted nature through sublimely arranging upcycled materials into organic, yet repetitive, patterns. Blending networks of cords and cables into fragments of materials from discarded paintings and used plastic, Yaniv draws out the inherent beauty of detritus. Her work plays with notions related to unity and disparity, tracing harmony and dissonance through her playful use of scale and masterful composition.

Christine Romanell‘s work brings mathematical formulae and data analysis into the visual arts sphere. Applying color to patterns derived through mathematical equations, yet identifying where math also traverses organic and non-repetitive functions, Romanell’s installations make visual the corners of rationale and analysis where making sense begins to break down: with beautiful results.

Don’t miss the final days of Trill Matrix! Make sure to witness for yourself this stunning survey of the possibilities present within a mindful collection of connected yet disparate mixed media artistic practices.

Winter is Lit: Julia Sinelnikova’s Ice Pores at Lazy Susan Gallery

The cold, muted winter sky doesn’t hold a candle to Ice Pores, the upcoming exhibit by innovative rising star artist Julia Sinelnikova. The artist’s interactive holographic environments entice visitors to engage with sudden temporal realities created by installations of Sinelnikova’s Fairy Organ sculptures. Curated by Brian Shevlin, visitors to Ice Pores are invited to the exhibit on view Dec 13-21 from 12-6 pm at Lazy Susan gallery and to interact with a dazzling array of light-reacting, immersive sculptures. The exhibit opening on Dec 13 from 7-10 pm will include a performance by the artist and spoken word performance that will entrance the opening night crowd.

Detail from Chlorophycaea by Julia Sinelnikova

Sinelnikova notes of this new series of Fairy Organ sculptures on view at Lazy Susan the importance of engaging individual visitors to the exhibit, remarking, “Interaction with the audience is my primary
artistic focus, in an age when art is increasingly presented in 2D and digital formats”. The artist presents a multi-sensory feast of temporal pleasures, with shifting viewpoints resulting in mutable fantasies, environments of light and shadow enveloping the viewer. This changing sensibility reflects the mutable sensibility of fairies in Russian folklore, which the artist grew up with during a childhood in Russia. Beauty and illusion lure the visitor in, yet this experience is both dazzling and deceptive. When interacting with the work, Sinelnikova takes on a character called “The Oracle”: this alternate person is comprised of an otherwordly Sinelnikova, whose persona translates the artist’s installations through a handmade costume and alchemical processes.

Detail from Narkadine by Julia Sinelnikova

Sinelnikova lives and works in Brooklyn, and holds a BFA in Sculpture from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. The artist’s installations have been exhibited internationally, and she has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, VICE, and Artnet, among others. Huffington Post. Don’t miss the opening of Ice Pores on Thursday, Dec 13 from 7-10 pm to experience first-hand the mythical presence of the artist’s newest iteration of the Fairy Organ series.

ZIEMIA Introduces a Whole New World to Greenpoint’s McGorlick Park

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Opening Day of “Ziemia” at McGolrick Park with the artist revealing the sculpture in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (image credit Izabela Gola)

Ziemia has arrived at McGorlick Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and with it a world of experiences, memories, dreams and hopes.

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Polish Cultural Institute New York Director Anna Domanska introducing “Ziemia” at McGolrick Park

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.”

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“Ziemia”, at McGolrick Park, Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Photo credit Weronika Kwiatkowska.

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.

A Pleasant (Re)introduction: Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself Opens June 21st in Long Island City, Queens

Legacy speaks volumes, and in Long Island City, who better to reintroduce the stunning former DeNobili Cigar Factory space as a brand new arts center than two established curators: Krista Scenna of Brooklyn’s Ground Floor Gallery and Caroline Peñafiel of Local Project in Queens. Scenna and Peñafiel are well known on the local scene, and have carefully selected a cohort of contemporary artists to christen this formative new Long Island City arts space. The curators have selected an eclectic and talented group of New York City artists through an open call process for this inaugural exhibition, Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself, opening Thursday, June 21st from 5-9 pm at the space located at 9-20 35th Avenue in Long Island City. 

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Fifty-seven years after closing, the former factory re-opened in 2017 as a mixed-use creative space. This welcome new sanctuary for arts in Long Island City is opening its doors to local creatives for exhibitions and events. This inaugural exhibition features work by dozens of NY-based artists, including Christina Massey, Peter Gynd, Etty Yaniv, Patricia Fabricant, Shira Toren, Blanka Amezkua, Esperanza Cortez, and more. All artists are listed on the Facebook event listing for Opening Reception: An Art Show for the Cigar Factory LIC. In addition for serving as a blank canvas of sorts for the creative community in New York City, collectors of all backgrounds are more than welcome as well – most artworks on view will be price near or below $1000!

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“Feminine Blue” (2018) Watercolor, acrylic, paper, fabric, aluminum, collagraph monoprint, silk screen, thread – Chine-collé technique. (Image Courtesy of the Artist)

Brooklyn-based artist Christina Massey has two artworks featured in this stunning, immersive exhibit: “Feminine Blue” and “Girly Gothic”. Both works were produced this year as the result of a labor-intensive process in which the artist combined remnants of past watercolor and collage artworks with newly developed skills from her SIP residency as part of the EFA’s Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop. These works combine a delicate approach to line with bold patterns and hues, crafting fantastic and mythology obejcts protruding diagonally across the picture plane. Massey’s works display a masterful painterly touch, both elusive and intrepid in their hybridity.

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“Girly Gothic” (2018) Watercolor, acrylic, paper, fabric, aluminum, collagraph monoprint, image transfer, silk screen – Chine-collé technique (Image Courtesy of the Artist)

Massey’s works are definite standouts in the exhibit, on view at the Cigar Factory LIC through Thursday, July 19th. With over ten years of exhibition history, the artist holds a BFA from California State University, and experiments across painting, printmaking and soft sculpture. In addition to her inclusion in Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself, the artist is also concurrently exhibiting at the Korean Cultural Center through July 6th, and will be exhibiting work in the upcoming SIP Summer Exhibition at Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts from July 11-29.

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself is free and open to the public. Exhibition hours are during events on Friday, June 22nd and Thursday, July 19th with additional viewing hours on Thursday, July 12th from 3-7 pm and Saturday, July 15th from 1-6 pm. For additional information or inquiries, please contact Krista Scenna: Krista@groundfloorbk.com

(Below installation images of Cigar Factory LIC’s Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself, courtesy the curators.)

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Filling the CHASM: Refuge Arts Season Opening, Friday June 1st from 7 pm

In the wake of Frieze week in New York, things have been quiet.

Too quiet.

Thank the stars we have CHASM: Refuge Arts Season Opening on Friday, June 1st from 7 pm til 2 AM, with subsequent art viewing hours from 6-10 pm on June 2nd & 3rd. Combining lights, installation art and music into a lush, immersive visual smorgasbord, CHASM is set to be a feast for the senses – and for nearly northing (entry is free/donation for artists before 10 pm, and just $10 after).  Hosted by Cornelia Singer, this thrilling event includes pieces by performance artists by Pauli Cakes and Pastiche Lumumba and a premier look at live music Richard Marshall (aka Richard Kennedy‘s) new live band, HIR.

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Revelers at CHASM (photo credit: Derek Rush)

This three-day arts/music showcase also features one-of-a-kind, never before seen commissioned light art works, on view all weekend. All CHASM participants identify as queer, non-binary and/or LGBTQ creatives: a tour-de-force of diverse creative talent. Live art and entertainment is rounded out by a roster including art by John RohrerVJ Sperm Whale, Alt Male and Kip Davis (Unter NYC) and featuring laser sculptures, a video + sculpture portal to another dimension, and more. Audio stimulation will be provided by FXWRK, opening the night with a DJ set heavy on instrumental, vox & chillwave electronica while Church Gore will be ending his U.S. tour at this show with a live vocal performance. Finally Brooklyn darling Lauren Flax who recently collaborated with Little Boots delivers a DJ set to close the night.

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SHALTMIRA performance with JJ Brine installation (photo credit: Derek Rush)

Created by Julia Sinelnikova and produced by Sam Black, Refuge Arts Season Opening has something for everyone.

CHASM is a Brooklyn-based curatorial project for new media that has been covered by the likes of The New York TimesThe Village VoiceCreatorsBedford + Bowery and Paper Mag.Refuge Arts is an experimental art platform based within the walls of a 3,600 square foot warehouse in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and online. Our mission is to support the creation and presentation of works achieved through new and evolving technologies, while also serving the local community as an open platform for experimentation

 

For more information, see CHASM: Refuge Arts Season Opening.