By CHRISTINA LAUREL
Written for Artkestry
Mention the word “Brooklyn” and who does not immediately think “Brooklyn Bridge” or “Brooklyn Dodgers”? While a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge graces the program cover for a new show at the Colacino Gallery, it is the 20 exhibitors who are creating a new phenomenon that may instead brand Brooklyn as an emerging artists capital. Rochester’s 1.9 million inhabitants have produced its fair share of artists; New York City’s borough of Brooklyn with its 2.5 million inhabitants seems to have produced more than its share. At least if “Brooklyn Bound” is any indication. Curated by Nazareth College alumni (BS Art Education 2005) and participating guitarist-artist Rob Servo, this intriguing exhibition is on view through May 11.
Diverse, professional, and brilliantly installed, “Brooklyn Bound” showcases street art to sculpture, painting, and video. The roster of artists include: Allison Berkoy, Amy Lincoln, Andrew Hurst, Austin Thomas, Ben Godward, Deborah Brown, Ellen Letcher, Evan Green, GILF!, Greg McKenna, Jason Andrew, Kevin Curran, Kevin Regan, Letha Wilson, Matthew Miller, Rachel Esterday, Rico Gatson, Rob Servo, Robbie Wilkins, Victor Cox.
After the initial impression of spacious and visual, it is the auditory that catches one’s attention. Two works incorporate sound, but it is the laments that lead me to the installation “Swing” by Allison Berkoy, tucked behind a separating gallery wall. What confronts this viewer is a “baby” languishing in one of those wind-up infant devices, complete with butterfly mobile dangling overhead. Although the body of “Queen of the Cuties” – as the bib declares – is clothed in pink, the face is an androgynous back-projected-video that transforms the baby into a creature more reminiscent of Disney’s interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Roses. The adult moaning is interspersed with an audible “Maybe our love is not for this world”; powerful but nonetheless disconcerting.
A welcome antidote is the melancholic music that poignantly and perfectly accompanies Robbie Wilkins’ and Rahul Chadha’s collaborative video “What’s On Your Mind.” Using appropriated Facebook entries (names changed and portraits blurred for obvious protective purposes), 30-year old “Christopher Dibson’s” marital breakup is chronicled from August through December. Such a dramatic life-change edited into FB soundbytes is so reflective of the pervasive nature of this medium in our messaging and in our lives.
While a first impression is that all the work in “Brooklyn Bound” is produced by artists in their 20s and 30s, a little homework reveals that Deborah Brown received her MFA in 1978, placing her on a different rung of the age ladder, which accounts for her more traditional oil on canvas approach to urban landscape “Bushwick sunset #2.” Servo’s painterly 1997 abstract oil painting “Waterfall” reflects an approach that disappears in his 21st century pieces.
It is not merely the quality of the work but the installation that makes “Brooklyn Bound” such a joy to experience. The placement of Ben Godward’s resin-foam pop-saturated-color-dripped sculpture “Campfire” placed in the vicinity of Servo’s asymmetrically-framed “Persuasion” conjures a cause-and-effect relationship between the works. Did Godward’s “campfire” perhaps burn and char the negative-space flow through Servo’s wood panels?
And who would have flanked female street artist GILF’s spray-painted “White Collar” with Amy Lincoln’s diminutive acrylic portrait “Maid of Honor” and “Tokyo still life #2″? Lincoln’s style blends that of a Dutch master with that of an American primitive. GILF’s work speaks volumes, with bold graphics and limited palette – gold handcuffs, red-hands, black suit, white-cuffs. Lincoln’s work deftly blends subdued with saturated hues in highly staged compositions. GILF’s imagery of corruption is heightened when paired with Lincoln’s imagery of innocence.
In Rico Gatson’s paintings, “portal” and “crepsaol” it is the black that grabs. Intentionally so. A succinct geometric maze of black, white and gray, the pigments reside side-by-side but always within distinct boundaries. Maximum commentary on race and society conveyed via a minimalist approach. The glitter embedded in the black paint sparkles, but in the rough textural way of asphalt shingles.
There is also subtlety: psychological, emotional. I cannot help but see the hand of Hans Holbein in the self-portrait graphite studies, “Untitled,” by Matthew Miller (image at the top). A glimpse at the finished oil painting is included in the “Brooklyn Bound” exhibition trifold, but the studies themselves are exquisitely executed. The sfumato is so refined while the incised furrows in his brow are so dramatic. Is Matthew looking without or within?
Personally, the weakest links in the exhibit are photographer Rachel Esterday and collagist Andrew Hurst. Esterday’s “Guatemala Girl” and “Ganges River” are almost complete, but travel images that are often pre-composed in design and color demand another level of scrutiny and artistic perspective. Esterday’s photos flank Hurst’s talismanic “Untitled,” where the use of feathers in collage demand more of the viewer than of the artist.
That being said, I agree with Jason Andrew’s comment that “the strength of Brooklyn Bound is in its inclusiveness, its diversity, with its uniqueness in multiplicity.” Andrews is an independent archivist, curator, and producer, whose commentary on the exhibit (copies are available in the Colacino Gallery) compares “Brooklyn Bound” to the 1940s artists who gathered at the Eighth Street Club, eventually spawning Abstract Expressionism. Is Brooklyn creating a new movement? Only time, perception and interpretation will determine this lofty a historic outcome. Judge for yourself; enjoy the exhibition.
The Colacino Gallery is located in the Art Department wing of the Nazareth College Arts Center complex on the second floor. Gallery hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 12-5pm, 585-389-2525. www.naz.edu/art/colacino-art-gallery/colacino-art-gallery
Postscript: Learned a new word “snog” from the Urban Dictionary: heavy kissing. It’s also listed in Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary as British slang originating in 1955-1960. Ellen Letcher’s mixed media piece “SNOG” in “Brooklyn Bound” incorporates just such an image, as well as typeface spelling out “catastrophe.” Check it out.