It was a rainy Saturday and it was the kind of day that amplified the bizarrely romantic quality of Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. During the popular Art Under the Bridge festival the city comes to this compact post-industrial neighborhood to see what’s new and happening.
Unlike the northern Brooklyn art enclaves of Williamsburg or Bushwick which are composed of sprawling webs of studio and gallery spaces, DUMBO is dense and manageable. Officially there were 123 open studios (and approximately 175 artists on display) during the three-day event.
One of the curious realities of festival events is that street artists are increasingly making their presence known whether through specially prepared work for the weekend or their growing presence on the streetscape. This year chalk aficionado Ellis G. decked out Front Street with a multi-colored drawing and French stencil-master C215 was unavoidable (he’s been in town from France for about a month I hear). There was another box-y talent which may be Aakash Nihalani but something tells me it isn’t.
While the street art may be part of the attraction it is the commissioned and studio visits that undeniably bring in the art fans. It’s always a pleasure to wander around private studios and catch a glimpse of trends (if any) emerging. All artists are usually polite and welcoming though some became instantly paranoid whenever I present my camera for a photo, often insisting I don’t snap a pic. “Fine, I won’t blog about it,” I retort. They always seemed disappointed when I say that and often offer up a website with images which I never accept as a compromise–the reason why is a whole different post.
One artist, named Nam, impressed me with his manipulation of what looked like hydrogen gas tanks. Using a blow torch, he sculptured five different variations of the industrial form and each appeared as intriguing as the next.
Another notable (and beautiful) work was by Meghan Leborious, who I also spotted at this year’s Bushwick Open Studios. Her stunning “Salt Prayer Offering” was a ritual installation that invited the viewer to make their own offering. Seeming at first like snow, Leborious’ white salt sculpture attracted lots of attention as passersby were intrigued by its haunting form that was illuminated from within by candles.It reminded me of the fairy tale castles that dominant children’s stories.
Next door to Leborious’ salt altar was another wondrous installation by Maria Marinelli, Jared Lamenzo and Liubo Borissov. Titled “Mocean” the interactive environment at the 18 Adams loading dock was composed of loose cobblestones, a makeshift pond, a computer (hidden out of sight) and bell-like sound machines hanging overhead. One of the artists was on hand and told me that viewer movements help generate the sound you hear as you interact with the work. “It’s all variations of the sounds of water,” she said. Kids in particular found the installation irresistible.
Among the outdoor displays in DUMBO was Tin Manis Associates’ “The REAL eSTATE OF THINGS” in the Brooklyn Bridge Park. The interactive display offered you a square foot of paper with the equivalent cost in luxury New York real estate printed on the front. The work invited you to explore the park where he had outlined the equivalent value in cities around the world. While the same price could fetch you a whole kitchen in Cairo, Egypt, your value didn’t add up to much more in most other cities around the globe (more photos here).
If a global perspective is what you desired from your journey to DUMBO, then the 2008 Triangle workshop was your best bet. The global mix of 28 artists from over a dozen countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas strutted their stuff in two storefront spaces on Front Street.
As part of their participation at Triangle, artists are asked to show work they created during their two-week residency. That short time span meant that drawings and assemblage works dominated (who has time to create large-scale paintings in 14 days?).
I found my attention focused on five Triangle artists in particular: Liz Murray (England), John Wallbank (England), Ricardo Alzati (Mexico), Sun You (Korea/New York) and Maggie Madden (Ireland). All five created works inspired by our built environment.
While You preferred the garish and artificial when constructing her lush works, Madden made attractive installations of what could have easily been the contents of her studio (or any New York apartment really). Wallbank looked simultaneously to architectural and alien shapes for his inspiration and the resulting drawings and spatial sketches were loose and energetic. Murray’s castle of boxes seemed to address the precarious role of private and public at open studio events. The room within her sculpture (which you could only crawl into) offered the viewer a precarious sense of privacy. Alzati certainly won the “most nebulous” award with his work which would challenge anyone’s perception of where the work started and ended–yet, I did find myself repeatedly returning to it to reflect on what it was and wasn’t.
As always happens with these large art festival events I figured I would be able to see everything (or at least a healthy chunk) in a few hours but then quickly realized that even five hours was not enough.
So if my truncated tour of this past weekend’s festivities didn’t satiate you I suggest checking out some other blogs that can offer their own insights about what went on this weekend in DUMBO…you can try Greenjeans, DumboNYC, Cultural Reflections…, McBrooklyn, MaryAnn Ventrice and here.
Tomorrow: Some links