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Bushwick Beat: July 2017

Visiting art galleries in Bushwick, Brooklyn

On this segment of Bushwick Beat, we headed to the Morgan stop to see what’s been happening in the 56 Bogart street galleries. Some highlights included a group show at David & Schweitzer Gallery, an exhibit of computer designed spaces and objects, and an exciting solo show at Gallery Gary Giordano.

Fables of the Reconstruction was an ambitious group show at David & Schweitzer featuring the work of four artists. It took its title from a 1985 rock album of the same name by the band R.E.M. The overwhelming trend on view was figurative painting with roots in abstraction, where the closer these two working methods merged together, the better.

Throughout the show, figures appeared in various spaces: out of brushy washes, flat black base coats, and impasto blotches of color. The emphasis is less on the representational qualities of the figure and more on the jarring urgency each painted thing has in breaking through fields of color and brushstroke. Unlike figurative painters of the early 20th century, most notably Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, the work here avoids flat planes of color and has less interest in design. There is instead a process-oriented indulgence in materials that feels closer in spirit (if not in scale) to New York Abstract Expressionism, particularly the work of Willem De Kooning. As in De Kooning, brush strokes are often laid bare, to revel in their own physical, embodied sense of space. The contemporary work brings the world of things back into this space, creating sparks of coherence lit brightly against the frantic evidence of the search for itself.

The next gallery we saw was Theodore:Art where a solo exhibition of the drawings of Marie Harnett was on view. The drawings were all a minute 4 in. by 5 ½ in. in size.

Their miniscule scale forced viewers to get up close, inviting an initial misreading of them as delicate black and white photographs. While not a novel proposition in the world of photorealistic art, Harnett’s attention to filmic detail and her warm graphic sensibility deliver on the virtuosity promised at a distance.

Everett Kane: Ground was on view at Black & White Gallery. The exhibition featured a short video and series of photographs of a 3D space the artist constructed using computer software. The interior scene featured bland furniture and antiquated machinery as well as bizarre fusions of the two, notably emphasizing early camera technology.

The film camera aesthetic and soft focus sepia tone of the environment stood in contrast to the CGI the artist represented it with. The still images were presented like large format photographs, and in such a form recalled the medium's history of documenting unpeopled places, as in the work of artists such as Eugene Atget, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Thomas Demand. Kane’s work ironizes the compulsion to document the world, peopled or otherwise; choosing instead to create a limbo that may feel nostalgic for the gears and lenses of analog technology, but has long since left it behind.

Our final stop was to see Paul Behnke: Strange Entities at Gallery Gary Giordano. The show marked an interesting evolution in Behnke’s work. He is known for abstract paintings made with a balance of geometry and gesture in high key acrylic color. But in the works on display, iconography begins to forcefully rear its head. Awkwardly, unmistakably: a Batman or smiley face appear amidst the artist’s signature paint handling.

Not merely a wry attempt at Pop, this imagery feels borne out of the work, drawing the paint together and coordinating the airtight space of the painting around it. As a viewer, one feels like the shocked yellow face in My Nightmare of Irma Vep - mouth agape at the inexplicable, the incongruous, the strange entities that nonetheless belong.

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