Bushwick Open Studios: Field Notes & Takeaways

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It was a somewhat grey and rainy, at times even almost chilly weekend in the city, but none of that would’ve registered as drab or a drag at all if you were one of the thousands upon thousands of visitors, artists, curators or incidental passers-through in Bushwick this past weekend.

And that’s because it was the big weekend of Arts in Bushwick’s marquee annual event, Bushwick Open Studios. What’s more, it was the 10th-anniversary iteration of BOS, which meant that this year’s mammoth event was launched, fêted and even self-reflectively manifested in a more celebratory mode than ever before. The 56 Bogart building was inundated with people on Friday night for the opening of “Seeking Space: Making the Future,” a group show featuring 300 or so more or less Bushwick-based artists, and one for which AiB produced Making History Bushwick, a historiographic catalogue of sorts that gathers images of artworks by 400 artists, along with an array of essays, reflections and photographs. So it was also a book release party, not to mention the inaugural show for a new gallery in the building, David & Schweitzer Contemporary, who offered to host the exhibit and single-title book fair, all of which was organized, curated, and administered by Cibele Vieira, Julie Torres, Michael David and Keith Schweitzer, along with a number of AiB volunteers. Quite an undertaking, to be sure, but also quite an impressive show, and quite a massive crowd.

And if all that doesn’t sound like enough celebratory AiB billing for one evening, then add to it “Reality Is Wrong, Dreams Are For Real,” an additional huge group show, curated by Brian Morris and Michael David in collaboration with David & Schweitzer Contemporary, that had its opening in the DSC annex space across the hall. And if those two grand affairs don’t sound like enough, then add also the opening of “Bushwick Tales,” yet another big group show a few blocks away, this one curated by Etty Yaniv in a more or less official new art space of sorts, the Venus Knitting Art Space.

BOS 2016 is over, but “Making History” is still up, so go see it. There are still books for sale, so go by one. There are still red-dot-less artworks on the walls, so go buy some.

And despite all the reflection, nostalgia and past-tense-heavy Bushwick narration that characterized much discussion and several exhibits over the weekend, the art scene there is very alive and very well. Perhaps more alive and better poised for moving forward than ever before.

But whatever. For now, BOS 2016 was a huge success and tons of fun, as you might glean from my photos and paraphrases below.

By the way, open studio events are mounted all over the place in NYC—in fact, there’s one coming up quite soon in Gowanus—and they’re always a particularly special way to encounter art, meet artists, greet others, and perhaps get acquainted with a different part of our fine town.

So don’t take them for granted, seek them out. That way they’ll be embedded in your memories, too, when future histories of now get around to getting told.

And so on. And now for my aforementioned so-forths.

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(All photos by Paul D’Agostino)

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Loren Munk’s chronologico-cartographic painting of Bushwick is no less than epic, and certainly the perfect centerpiece for “Making the Future,” the primary AiB-produced group show for Bushwick Open Studios 2016, hosted by David & Schweitzer Contemporary.

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Above left, the opening of “Reality Is Wrong, Dreams Are For Real,” in the DSC Annex. Above right, more from “Making the Future,” at David & Schweitzer Contemporary.

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I did mention that there’s a massive book to go along with “Making the Future,” compiled in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Bushwick Open Studios, right? Yes, I did. I also suggested that you should go buy one. You should.

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Above, top row, some of the key movers and shakers behind “Making the Future.” Below, a Bushwick photographer who was definitely a mover and shaker while trying to take polaroids of the crowd, and who inadvertently authored one of the most haphazard, possibly hazardous, invariably awkward group photos ever. It was a blast.

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Visitors who attended the dance performance put on by Norte Maar at Odetta Gallery on Saturday evening would’ve certainly ranked it among their major highlights of BOS 2016. It was choreographed to merge conceptually with the gallery’s current exhibit, a solo show by Debra Ramsay. A few more words about all that here. A few more movements from and around all that below.

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Et voilà. It really was very good.

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Some of the works in a group show hosted by Carto. Gemlike sculptures are from Lucy Pullen’s “Voronoi Stars” series.

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Top right and bottom left, works and notebooks by Takashi Horisaki, who told me how happy he was to finally be in town at the right time, and with an open enough schedule, to open his studio for BOS after missing out on it for many years. He was surprised at how many people came, and at how much they engaged with his work despite his self-proclaimed inability to talk about it. For the record, he’s more than able, and his descriptions are as interesting as they are verbose. I also chatted with artist Mark Stafford in Takashi’s studio. He was happy to have asked more questions while visiting studios this year, and he remarked that the cooler weather was a welcome thing since studio buildings never have very effective AC, which was always somewhat of a problem during BOS, which has customarily taken place in June. The other photos here are from “Rear Window,” a group showing of paintings by Cathy Quinlan, Cathy Diamond, Molly Herman and Peter Bonner. There we chatted about the variable vitalities of painting, and about how and when it endures, and about how and when it’s more or less abstract, and about the hows and whens of other things, and so on. As you can see in the bottom right register, sometimes natural light, even when slight, does all the talking.

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BOS visitors standing around NO STANDING signs, and stuffed pigeons in the ostensible act of getting more stuffed, and stuff. Interesting note about that pretzel: The Moore Pretzel factory, which sells its twisted salty wares all over town, is located just a couple blocks from this corner.

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Images from Bushwick Chronicle, one of the most cleverly nostalgic and historically informative shows during BOS 2016. It features, as you can see, photographs by Meryl Meisler and texts by James Panero, and it’s on view at Stout Projects through October 30th. If you happen to catch Alison Sirico gallery sitting when you stop by, be sure to ask her about her new art blog, Alt-Esc. The visitor captured here, by the way, is a Bushwick VIP himself, as he, like James, did a great deal of coverage of the Bushwick art scene in its earlier years. His name is Aaron Short, and it’s true that I give him haircuts. I bet you didn’t see that clause coming.

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Just a few of Panero’s many texts lining a wall at Stout Projects. They speak for themselves, so I’ll just let them do that.

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Above left and bottom right, paintings by Erika Ranee in “Electric Caresses,” a small group show of large paintings curated by Diana Buckley in a project space at the former Storefront Ten Eyck Gallery, now more accurately referred to as Deborah Brown’s studio. Above right, a couple of Brown’s recent works.

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These are all images of “Bushwick Tales,” curated by Etty Yaniv. While there I chatted with James Prez, pictured here, who was happy that BOS 2016 seemed much more focused on art and meaningful visits rather than on “rock concerts and all that.” He also told me about his minor collection of miniature stuffed pillows. Oh yes.

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Above left, works by Fanny Allié in the studio she shares with Etty Yaniv. Top right and bottom left, glimpses of Yaniv’s works. Other pics, works by Fedele Spadafora and Aïda Ben in their shared studio.

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All the above pics are in suite 311 in the 17-17 Troutman building, a large shared studio space that remains dear in my memories for reasons irrelevant here. While I visited with Kerry Law, above left, we got to talking about politics, unfortunately—or at least I did—likely prompted by all the reminders of death he’s been painting lately, which seems an appropriate metaphor for… Bah, never mind. And anyway, his paintings are hardly dire. He would’ve said more about how much he had enjoyed BOS 2016, by the way, but he was too tired. Top right, works by Mark Sengbusch. Bottom right and center, works by Gordon Fearey, with whom I chatted about weavings literal, brushy and metaphorical. In the bottom left corner, an artist hard at work at AKA Jewellery.

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Above, top left, paintings by Aliza Morell. Top right, works by Kirsten Kay Thoen. Bottom left, works by Dana James, whose lovely hound Veronica was too tuckered out to get into the photo. Bottom right, works by Daniel John Gadd, with whom I chatted about his forthcoming solo show at the by now many-times-aforementioned David & Schweitzer Contemporary.

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The LED circus at Dub Lab is always a crowd-pleaser, and that was certainly true during BOS 2016 as well. The lights changed color constantly, so here I’ve stitched together four instants of my time there. Which reminds me, one of the interesting things about BOS 2016 being in October rather than June was that it was nearly dark, if not just dark out as things wound down each day, which I’d go so far as to say felt just a bit strange. That said, if the daylight had been summery bright outside when I stopped in at Dub Lab, the lights wouldn’t have been quite so immersive. Or at least, my photos would’ve probably sucked.

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Above, top row, works by Dan Gausman, an artist clearly quite inspired by basketball. So clearly, we got to talking about basketball, in particular about the arguable superiority of a certain superteam, pending the depth of its bench, which does pose certain doubts. Gausman thinks its weaker than it seems, and he has a point, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the starters can’t… Anyway, the Knicks, too, are going to be fun to watch this year! Other pics above are of the now quite longtime-running Bushwick Print Lab, where I talked with one of its directors, Ray Cross, a fellow Bushwick artist I’ve known for almost a decade, and who was involved with some of the earliest Bushwick art spaces, and who has participated in all the open studio events. We chatted about many things present and past, but mostly about how nice it is to still be around, doing a thing.

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The last conversation I had about BOS 2016 during BOS 2016 was with artist and longtime BOS participant Rob de Oude, whom I ran into on the street while he was on his way to the 17-17 Troutman building, and while I was embarking on a scenic-route walk home from there—which is to say, a walk home that entails a stop by my preferred grocery store for cheap bread and discount tomatoes, where they’ve recently expanded and improved their beer selection, which is and is not a welcome thing, and we all know just what that means. Anyway, Rob and I chatted for a bit about how BOS 2016 was particularly enjoyable because it wasn’t super crowded day in and day out, and because it wasn’t a huge party from beginning to end, and because all of that made it easier for visitors to linger longer in the spaces they visited, asking more questions than expected and entertaining longer conversations. To wit, in a very real way, that’s precisely what open studios events are all about, for visitors and artists alike: conversations. About art, and about all the things that conversations about art tend to bring up. This final montage above puts some moments from my visits here and there back into just the kind of reflective visual dialogue that underpinned many aspects of BOS 2016.

And so, with that, congratulations to the Arts in Bushwick team, and to all the artists, curators and visitors that made BOS 2016 such a success.

And now, go get that book.

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Paul D’Agostino is @postuccio on Instagram and Twitter.

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