Back in March, a NYT article asked if Bushwick Brooklyn was the next gallery district in NYC. Yes. Maybe. No. Who can really say. I spent most of this weekend, along with lots of PBR/organic chai soy latte drinking, skinny panted, high falootin hipsters who cruised from studio to studio wandering if they were “ironic” enough yet at the Bushwick Open Studio.
I actually did enjoy myself. It was a fun day and there was some very good art. But, the attitude of many of the artists (and crowd) was so aloof and condescending that I was confused as to why they even participated in the open studio event. Here is a dramatization of an event I witnessed when a group of well intending people had ventured from beyond the land of hipsterdom to the fortress at 56 Bogart Street.
Yes indeed… there was a WHOLE LOTTA SHAKING GOIN ON in Bushwick. And, it seems like real estate developers and entrepreneurs are doing a bang up job at parlaying the desire, which thousands of MFA-types have to be part of a cult-esque type of community, into a dollar. In fact, to a very large degree, the whole scene in Bushwick seems sometimes like a big, extended MFA program.
But, like I said, there was some good stuff around and I always enjoy an arting adventure. Some of my favorites (by no means an exhaustive list) were at Slag, Momenta , Agape, English Kills, and Eileen Weitzman. Also very nice was Rebecca Riley‘s new installation (work in progress in photo below) which will be going in the Flatiron Building on E 23rd on June 22.
After having spent several hours winding through this very serious-minded scene, I really appreciated finding the quirky Sam Simon. Here is Sam’s own artistic manifesto:
- With hard work, hope, and good design almost anything can be achieved.
- My Momma told me “Throw a lot of peanut butter on the wall, because only some of it is going to stick.” So…TRY!
- Good Character is valuable in everyone and everything. My favorite sweater has a hole in it.
- Before 1940, Pink was for boys and blue was for girls. It’s actual and factual.
- Punks and Preppies are not so different. They both like plaid, have specific tastes in music, and are known to throw a wicked fun party!
- If all else fails, cover it with glue and throw glitter at it.
- Looking at the past helps us create the future.
- Good style comes from within.
- Get different views, and try to appreciate them.
- Create your very own beautiful world, piece by piece, personal and precious.
I like this. I like it very much because it describes things very well without the need for a lot of academic-speak. And, as the number of people out yesterday in Brooklyn demonstrates, for whatever reason, freedom of self-expression is still a driving force in the world. Is that the value of art? It reminds us all what it is to be free? It helps us to delight in something that we had forgotten?
Well, if that’s the case, it is kind of awful that much of the art I saw today looks like it is trying REALLY hard to follow some set of prescribed rules that have fluid boundaries. And, just possibly, if those rules are followed perfectly… the artist will be granted a career.
Not sure if that sounds like freedom to me. Also, not saying that it is a bad thing to want a productive trajectory for one’s life. But, if the value of art is only measured by the same productivity standards that the corporate world is driven by… what does that say about freedom? Maybe, like Janis Joplin said, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. But, maybe not. Who the hell knows anymore.
It’s all gotten kind of muddy in the last 20 years or so. Like most every other aspect of our lives – where a corporate model is deployed to appease middle class sensibilities in order to add to the wealth of a privileged class – even our minds seem to have gone through, as Sarah Schulman wrote, a gentrification process.
To wit.. painting is not actually dead as has often been declared. It was alive an well in Bushwick. However, paintings, and other art objects, are really just the new suburban row homes. One looks pretty much like the next and has mostly the same features. So, too, do most of the artists. I think they go by the name The Joneses. You REALLY must to keep up with them if you want to be considered relevant and in the know by other folks chasing their own tails. Maybe it would be better to spend time chasing one’s own tale instead.
I jumped on the L train back to the East Village for the final performance of the day at the Howl Festival (based on Ginsberg’s famous poem of the same name). Hundreds of individuals of all races, sizes, types, classes and backgrounds gathered in Tompkins Square park for a joyous and celebratory 2 hour performance by the House of Howl (think Paris is Burning).
For a couple hours, their art… made from the highest degree of self-expression and self-actualization possible… helped us all to be a little more free. They were not just making a product. They were giving themselves to us and asking us only for one thing… that we love them. And, we did.