CONTENTS Art Review | 2013 Next New York | 2012 Hello Magazine | 2013 Untapped New York | 2013 Huffington Post | 2013 Wall Street Journal | 2013 The New York Times | 2012 Art Slant New York | 2012
Jan Tichy Politics of Light No Longer Empty and Richard Gray Gallery, New York 10 October – 14 December
Jan Tichy, 1391, 2007, video installation, ceiling digital video projection, 250 gram paper object, adhesive, inkjet print, 9 min. Courtesy Richard Gray Gallery, New York
Standing in an exhibition and waiting for something to happen can be nerve-wracking. This is not to say that art needs to be instantly gratifying, but walking into the dark space that houses Jan Tichy’s first New York show is jarring. The venue, a commercial space on the ground floor of a condominium on the Lower East Side, is finished with cement floors, white paint and columns throughout, but has the ghostly quality, so rare in New York City, of a place vacant of human activity. And then the site-specific Installation No. 18 (2013) sets off. The room is gradually lit by a number of projectors placed across it. The light lingers on corners, slowly climbs a column, draws attention to
the texture of the walls. The eeriness of the space is not erased by the brightness, but if one gives in to the white light, the space can feel comfortable, the effect entrancing. The light is determined by an algorithm that reacts to the architecture, but still seems to have a life and velocity of its own. This slick presentation contrasts with other works oview. In 100 RAW (2009), 100 black-and-white photographs of an urban landscape show continuously on a monitor as raw data files, with no greyscale to soften the imagery. Accompanied by white noise – actually the ‘sound’ of the image files when opened with audio software – the pictures convey a fateful failure of technology, where 01
the images produced cannot represent anything that is ‘really’ there; in their rough state, they echo the fear or disquietude of the cityscapes. A similarly forbidding sound appears in Installation No. 6 (Tubes) (2008), where 200 paper tubes are placed atop an analogue television monitor playing a black-and-white animation. As the light moves across the television, illuminating the tubes to look like a small paper city, a sense of poetics becomes interchangeable with the lightshow’s ominous pace, which pushes the viewer away from the piece. As with 100 RAW, the disrepair or disuse of a familiar technology becomes a key aspect of the work and our interaction with it. And the politics of the show’s title? It is in Tichy’s subjects, and his reserved handling of them makes them all the more resonant. For example, 1391 (2007) is a 40-centimetre-tall paper model of a secret military base in Israel, displayed alongside what look like architectural drawings of the model. With its small scale and scrupulous detail, the presence of the classified building in model form is disturbing as is. What makes it even more poignant is that it is placed on the dark floor and illuminated from above by a rectangle of white light. Bringing something to light can be as tormenting as being kept in the dark.
This article was published in the December 2013 issue.
Next New York
TRANSFORM OUR VACANT SPACES Naomi Hersson - Ringskog
Naoni Hersson - Ringskog is Executive Director of No Longer Empty, a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to widen public engagement with contemporary art, to promote the work of experemental and socially - conscious artists, and to build resilience in communities. 03
Vacant buildings and storefronts are detrimental to the health and vibrancy of our city. Too often landlord do not take advantage of the incredible oppurtunity that their vacant spaces could provide to artists, entrepreneurs and small organizations.We need to begin harnessing the potential of underutilized space citywide. â€œCreative interim useâ€?, or filling empty spaces with arts and culture programming, is an adaptive and powerful strategy. Its scalable -you can inhabit storefront windows or create immersive exhibitions. Its resourceful -- weâ€™re using existing buildings and sometimes making them better for future uses. And its flexible -- vacant spaces can be transformed with food, technology, and other productive public uses. The city should create a comprehensive and publicly accessible database that tracks public and private vacancies. The mayor should appoint a manager to cut through red tape and facilitate access to empty spaces. And finally, the city should create a tax incentive to encourage the transforation of these spaces. This could take the form of tax abatement for property owners who volunteer their spaces, or a tax penalty to get property owners to the table.
Hello Magazine 03/13
No Longer Empty: Interview with Ghost of a Dream Posted In Art, Culture by: alley lyles
Courtesy of the Artist – “The Price of Happiness”
Ghost of a Dream is an art duo comprised of Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom. Their “Price of Happiness” piece was recently featured in No Longer Empty’s “How Much Do I Owe You?” Exhibition. Untapped Cities sat down with Was and Eckstrom to learn about the inspirations behind Ghost of a Dream’s pieces and the thought process behind documenting society’s hopes and dreams. Untapped Cities: Tell me a little about yourself and how you go involved with No Longer Empty. How did Ghost of a Dream get together? Was: Adam and I started working in 2007. We had met in grad school and sort of re‐met in
the City. He was working as a painter and I was a sculptor. Our studio was right next to each other. We slowly started stealing ideas from each other. Our first project, we were finding these lottery tickets while walking the dog. We would be walking through Brooklyn and we would find these lottery tickets on the ground and we would be thinking about them as these lost hopes. These dreams that were not realized. People were buying them in hopes of escaping into something else, but then, they didn’t. That’s when we started working together. Our first project was a full sized hummer that we made and we used $39,000 worth of lottery tickets which is the amount that the Hummer cost at the time. That was our first project together. That kind of blew 07
Courtesy of the Artist – “The Price of Happiness”
up and we didn’t have the intention to start working together. It just kinda happened, amazingly. We did a project in this amazing oratorio in Milan. It was a fifteenth century church and we got to do a huge installation there. That was awesome. Julia had sent images of our work but we had never met. Through the residency here at Smack Mellon [Studios], she came to the studio to visit and asked us to do the No Longer Empty exhibition. We had made that piece [“The Price of Happiness”] in China and so we just thought it would be perfect for the title of the show. That piece, we had just gotten it back from the show and thought it would be really perfect in that space for the show. There are so few places where you can put that huge
piece up so we were really excited when we saw that space and that it would be perfect. That piece we did when we got to China. We noticed the wealth disparities. They were building these huge high rises and tearing down these neighborhoods. They were having the same housing crisis that we are having here. The condos were just sitting empty because no one could afford to live in them. Eckstrom: They were taking down the traditional Chinese houses. Everybody was being displaced. They were building condos and nobody was moving into them. Was: We built the piece in the shape of an American house. If you notice, on the 08
ridge, it is scalloped to reference the tercotta tiles that are on the roofs of a lot of those small houses. We were trying to make it blend with what we saw here in America and the echoes we saw in China, in places that we weren’t expecting echoes to happen. Untapped Cities: How does your background inform your work? Eckstrom: I was a painter and Lauren was a sculptor when we started working together. Was: All of our work is about people’s hopes and dreams. So, all of our materials is that which people either use to escape into their hopes and dreams. Eckstrom: They are attempting to obtain their hopes and dreams–usually futilely. Was: When we started working together, it very much changed the arc of my work. Untapped Cities: How do you decide what to collect to represent people’s hopes and dreams? Eckstrom: We talk about it. People suggest things. People donate things. We recently made a bunch of baseball collages because a year and a half ago someone donated them. At first we were like, “Um, I don’t know.” Then, over a year, we thought about it
and it made sense. A lot of people dream of being baseball players. Was: And, they are sort of our national heroes. There are sports teams and everyone looks up to these players and everyone wants to be like that. Eckstrom: But, it takes awhile for us to go through that process. It takes awhile before the theory is really strong for us and we believe in it. A lot of times we have to collect for a long time before we collect a piece. We collect for a year or two. Was: For example, we went to Vegas. In Vegas they hand out these “nudie cards” basically advertising the prostitutes that will come to your room. We went to Vegas, initially, trying to collect casino cups and other gambling paraphernalia. We got there and these cards were everywhere. Then, we thought about it. Everyone dreams of this “perfect love.” But, these things are also plastic. They are not reality. It is not a lasting love. After coming back, we did a couple of collages and sculptures. It is also important to us that all of our materials have been touched somehow by the person. So, that they have been han-
Courtesy of the Artist – “In Banks We TRUST” 09
Courtesy of the Artist – “Land of the Free, Home of the Braves”
dled and used. They are not just printed material. These advertisements we walked up and down the street collecting them for– Eckstrom: Four days straight. 5 hours a day. Was: We collect trophies. We are trying to amass a huge amount so that we can make a sculpture out of them. Those have been won by people. We find them on Craigslist. It is a lot of thinking about what we desire and looking at society and what people desire.
No Longer Empty's Latest Exhibition Explores Finance From the Artist's Perspective
Jennifer Dalton, Reckoning (2012)
Before the start of the Flux Factory's Death Match, Arts Funding: Follow the $$$$, one of the many affiliated programs for No Longer Empty's (NLE) current exhibition, guests mingle with plastic cups of red wine and Crisp beers in their hands. The panelists, Steve Lambert, co-founder of the Center for Creative Activism; Alexis Clements, current fellow at the Cultural Strategies Initiative; and Deborah Fisher, executive director of A Blade of Grass, interact casually with each other before the debate begins. In the background Coolio's Money (Dollar Bill Y'all) plays as a projector flashes photos from the 1980s culture wars, along with other relatable imagery. I first learned about NLE through a review of its last exhibition This Side of Paradise in the Bronx. It was there that I sat on a patch of grass with executive director Naomi Hersson-Ringskog learning about NLE's unique process that fuses curatorial practice, cultural tourism and community engagement. This past December, NLE celebrated
Sol Arrmendi, Dark Treasure (2012)
the opening of its 14th site-specific exhibition, How Much Do I Owe You?, with shoulder-to- shoulder attendance and an acoustic jazz band playing from a platform overlooking the crowd. Displayed throughout the three levels of the once Chase Manhattan Bank building, the space with its unlocked vaults and unexpected passageways, echoes the themes of currency, value and exchange from an unassuming perspective -- the artist's. On my first visit to the Clock Tower in Long Island City, Queens, the exhibition was still in its installation phase with sporadic elements of each artists' work spread out on the floors and tucked in side alcoves shooting off from the central nave of the buildings cathedral-like entrance. Communications manager Lucy Lydon was kind enough to give me a tour of the space, highlighting installations like Hayoon Jay Lee's Shifting Landscape -- a swirling landscape of rice grains illuminated from underneath by a strand of light. The show also includes some interactive pieces like Jennifer Dalton's 11
Reckoning. For this installation, visitors are invited to consider notions of "Surplus" and "Debt" as they relate to everyday experiences by filling out surveys identifying where we've given more than we've received and vice versa. In exchange, participants can take a pin identifying either experience. Mine said, "Chump." Another interactive piece, Mel Chin's installation of the ongoing Operation Paydirt project, began in New Orleans in 2008 after Hurricane Katrina and is geared toward the prevention of lead (Pb) poising among children. In this piece, guests can contribute to the project by designing their own "Fundred" Dollar Bills and depositing them in the F.R.E.E (Fundred Reserve Even Exchange) Bank -- the safe house for this symbolic, public currency that will be presented to Congress in exchange for real funding to eradicate lead poisoning. The "Drawing Station" includes green glass shade lamps reminiscent of an old bank house and in keeping with the history of the building, dating back to 1927 and dubbed the first skyscraper in Queens. The debate was broken down into two rounds, each framed by questions pertaining to arts funding and, incidentally, themes floating around the exhibition. Each panelist is given a limited amount of time to respond before a flood of sounds and a portable fog machine drowns them out. At any given time, another panelist can lay a "smack down" card on the responding panelist, should he or she feel so moved to interrupt with an opposing statement. The audience is also given the opportunity to "smack down" a panelist in each round. Here's an example: When Alexis Clements criticized the commitment of Kickstarter campaigners, stating the rarity of completed projects sponsored through the online fundraising platform, a voice from the crowd yells, "Smack that sh*t down!", and the crowd cheers and laughs collectively.Despite her willingness to upset the crowd and stir up trouble, many of Clements' comments rang true with the audience and provoked many head nods, my own included. Among her valid points, Clements
illuminated the inequitable distribution of arts funding to women and people and communities of color in the United States -facts that have been astutely exposed in Holly Sidford's recent report, Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy. In it, Sidford explains that of the 11 percent of annual foundation giving for arts and culture nonprofits, more than half is awarded to organizations with budgets of more than $5 million (2 percent of arts nonprofits), leaving just 10 percent for those nonprofits that strengthen and engage communities of color, and 4 percent for organizations focusing on social justice work. Fisher was able to offer her own perspectives, from the position of the funder, representing A Blade of Grass, a nonprofit that supports individual artists and small nonprofits engaging with social justice issues. To the many questions posed that critiqued the origin of money funding the arts (i.e., Wall Street), Fisher preached that perhaps what matters more is how the money is used once it's awarded to the arts organizations and artists. Although this may be true, accepting funding from just anywhere could prove to be problematic if the giver's reputation and behavior contradicts and even dismantles the mission of the receiver. In the midst of this discussion, Lambert made the point that anything that's important enough can be done with little or no money, to which an audience member shouted, "But is that sustainable?" Although Death Match puts a clever and quirky spin on a bitter subject, the reality is individual artists and arts organizations have shifted into crisis gear, as we all run our soup bowls along the bottom of the barrel. Aside from inequitable distribution on the part of philanthropic institutions, arts funding allocations on the state, local and federal levels (with the exception of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) have continued to decline significantly over the past four years. Local government arts funding has fallen 18 percent since 2008 while funding from the state has decreased 27 percent within the same time span. Both
figures are comparable to arts funding allocations of the late '90s (Grantmakers in the Arts, Public Funding for the Arts: 2012 Update). Meanwhile, arts and cultural groups are forced to think creatively about fund-raising and access to diverse streams of revenue. Despite these challenges, organizations like NLE continue to churn quality, professional exhibitions and programs without sacrificing quality. Like most arts nonprofits, NLE collects its revenue from a variety of sources, including foundations, fundraising events and individual donations. "Foundation funding is getting better as we have a longer track record of successful projects," says NLE founder, president and chief curator, Manon Slome. "But corporate [is] getting very hard as they scale back giving." Perhaps it's not just the creative success that strengthens their reputability as a fundable arts nonprofit (I've seen their 990 and trust me, they are, in fact a real nonprofit!), but also the collective disposition of their staff from the executives to the interns. In a time when arts and culture are often mistakenly discounted as secondary to basic human needs, it certainly can't hurt to have a team of accessible people who curate spaces and opportunities to engage with contemporary art within a given community.
In Bronx, Paradise Lost by Sumathi Reddy May 3rd, 2012
Ken Maldonado for The Wall Street Journal The exterior of the Andrew Freedman mansion
It's ironic that the economically challenged Bronx is home to the Andrew Freedman House, a ghost of a senior-citizen home set in a rambling mansion with a billiards room, a library with first editions and a grand ballroom where dinner once came with white-glove service. Of course, this was no normal senior-citiI will confess to being somewhat curious about the lives of the wealthy from another era. There is a reason that the mansions in Newport and the palaces of Europe draw so many tourists. But a mansion filled with the stories of those of dwindled fortunes seemed even more intriguing. Whose far-fetched idea was this, anyway? Jodi Dinapoli, director of programs for No
Longer Empty, had some answers for me during a tour this week. "Mr. Freedman was a self-made millionaire," she said. "He was the owner of the New York Giants baseball team and he was also involved in the railroad business and he had connections in Tammany Hall. He was a very well-connected man." A well-connected man who for some reason left an enormous endowment when he died in 1915 to construct a home for seniors who were once in "good circumstances" but had lost their money, so they could be treated to the same lifestyle they were accustomed to. The home operated until the early 1980s, when it ran out of money. Admittance was selective. Couples were 14
Ken Maldonado for The Wall Street Journal Part of the art exhibit
given preference, and residents were required to be "gentlefolk," which likely led to what seems to be the large number of artist residents. It was a cultured lot, as evidenced by many of the writings and photographs culled by the artists participating in the new exhibit (some used objects found in the mansion's rooms in their pieces). Many residents were from Eastern Europe, with ties to the war. Admissions did seem a bit spotty. As a 1933 New Yorker article noted, while some residents were millionaires and those who made as much as $25,000 a year, others had more ordinary professions, such as teaching, engineering and even journalism. The home was an organized operation. There were committees devoted to plant care, entertainment, refreshments and the game room. Self-written bios of some of the residents are mounted in the second-floor hallway. There is a Mr. Alvah Taylor, who entered in April of 1954. Born in the "deep South," he
was a Wall Street stock and bond broker and "still sees clients from Wall Street days." There was a Mrs. Oskar (Klari) Wlach, who arrived in July of 1958. She was a "designer of hats and accessories for the most original milliner in New York," and won a nationwide contest for hat design during World War II for the Women's Air Force. And there was the well-known painter Leo Katz, who came on Oct. 25, 1968, and described himself as "avant garde and far ahead of his time." "This Side of Paradise" is confined to the first floor and half of the second. The third and fourth floors (and much of the second) consist of lots of peeling paint and cluttered rooms that look like they've been ransacked by robbers. One can only hope that the exhibition is the start of many more events at the more than 100,000-square-foot space. A bed-and-breakfast, with a culinary and hospitality training program, is expected to open imminently on the first floor. Other plans include a media center and a 15
Ken Maldonado for The Wall Street Journal Jodi Dinapoli
small-business incubator, a spokeswoman for the Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council said. It's certainly time for a resurrection. The house, like much of the Bronx, has the potential for so much more. zen home: It was a poor house for the formerly rich, a home designed for those with refined tastes but faded fortunes. Yes, this was basically a place where the 1% of another era could be taken care of, a notion that seems preposterous today. The looming limestone was a symbol of the splendor of the Grand Concourse during the 1920s, when it was built; within decades, both were to lose much of their shine. "In the 1920s, the Bronx was the fastest-growing borough in the city of New York and it was attracting a lot of middle-class people," said Bronx historian Lloyd Ultan. "There was no poverty in the Bronx at the time and the Grand Concourse itself, the street which was designed after the Champs-Elysees in Paris, had the wealthiest here. It was the Bronx's equivalent of Fifth or
Park avenues." Today, the faded mansion is owned by the Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council, which rents out the first floor for events. Its basement is home to a food pantry, a thrift shop and a day-care center, among other social services. And until June 5, it will host an art installation titled "This Side of Paradise" that attempts to connect the house's history to the Bronx of today. Put together by the group No Longer Empty, the art installation is giving many peopleâ€” from the Bronx and beyondâ€”their first glimpse inside. When he was growing up, Mr. Ultan, like most Bronx residents, had little contact with the foreboding mansion, which opened in 1924. He recalled that a former Russian czarist general who lived in the house went to the same neighborhood barbershop as he did. His mother claimed the general made "eyes" at her. Another resident was a former NYU profes16
sor who in the 1970s delighted in taking care of the library. (A stately room with wood-paneled stacks and 1920s furniture, the library is one of the only rooms that remains intact today.) "I've read that one of the people that lived there was a faded Edwardian actress," said Mr. Ultan. "Frankly, most people looked at the building and had the same reaction as people do today: 'What is that?'"
Uptown Palazzo Project by Randy Kennedy March 19th, 2012
Chris Ellis, known as Daze, with his graffiti-inspired room at the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx .
When the Andrew Freedman Home opened in the Bronx in 1924, it looked like a limestone luxury liner sailing up the Grand Concourse, a grandiosity that advertised its odd function: a privately endowed retirement home for the formerly well-to-do, those who might have lost their money but not their manners or manorial tastes. “They were expected to have attained a state of reasonable culture,” commented an article in The New Yorker at the time, “and not to eat peas with their knives.” Freedman, who died in 1915, had been an owner of the New York Giants baseball team and a financier of New York’s first subway lines, and his unusual will created a retirement home as palazzo, with plush carpets, plentiful servants and formal dress required at dinner. By the 1980s the home had fallen on hard times. And though the Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council, which came to own it, has made good use of parts of it with a day care center, community programs and an events space,
much of the rest of the vast building has been kept sealed off like a tomb, a time-capsule monument to the Bronx’s grand past, awaiting a new kind of future. In other words, exactly the sort of place that site-specific, history-scrambling, entropy- obsessed contemporary-art dreams are made of. For the last several weeks a group of more than 30 artists — some well known, like Mel Chin, Sylvia Plachy and Bronx veterans like John Ahearn and the collective Tim Rollins and K.O.S. — have been at work in the home, turning old bedrooms and bathrooms into installations that mine the building’s eccentric history as a way of drawing in the life of the borough around it. An exhibition of the pieces — organized by No Longer Empty, a nonprofit art group that got its start in 2009 by using spaces made vacant by the recession — will open April 4, granting the public 18
access to one of the city’s stranger Gilded Age palaces for the first time. “As a kid I used to walk by here all the time, and I never knew what it was for or what was going on inside,” said the painter and graffiti artist John Matos, better known as Crash, as he worked one recent morning on a subway-theme piece that will cover the walls of a second- floor corner bedroom. For many years the landmark building, on the corner of East 166th Street, has existed in a kind of open-but-closed limbo. Its ground floor is almost always full of children, in day care and in a Head Start program. Two elegant ballrooms and a book-filled library above have been maintained for weddings and other events, and for several years the Bronx Museum of the Arts, a block away, held outdoor film screenings and other programs at the home. But Walter E. Puryear, the Mid-Bronx Council’s project manager for the home, said that almost 60,000 of its 100,000 square feet remain closed off, and that art collaborations are one way the organization hopes to draw attention to the building and generate support for plans to make more use of it. The hope is to create a small-business incubator, a culinary training program and other socially minded businesses at the home. “Beauty by itself is a wonderful thing,” Mr. Puryear said of using parts of the building as a kind of kunsthalle. “But beauty that inspires people to greater endeavors is even better.” The artists involved in the project, titled “This Side of Paradise,” have been given free rein to rummage through the near-abandoned parts of the building, which have the look of a well-lived- in place left in a hurry: old turntables and VHS cassettes (“Double Dragon in Last Duel”); a black nightgown draped over a closet rod; a pair of plastic leg braces standing together in a hallway; a sheaf of Physicians Mutual insurance papers dated 1974, addressed to a man named Henry Ward. The artists Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín plan to use an old hook board where the keys of dozens of the home’s residents once hung, labeled with plastic lettering tape that has memorialized only their surnames: Mrs. Kovacs, Mrs. Whipple, Mrs. Bosky, Mrs. Jimenez, the Echts. In one of the preserved ballrooms, the artist Nicky Enright
recently created a musical assemblage out of a badly decayed Walters upright piano found upstairs; it now sits with old Remington, Smith-Corona and Underwood manual typewriters atop it like oxpeckers perched on a hippo. Many of the rooms on the third and fourth floors are filled with broken furniture and covered in snowdrifts of paint chips from the crumbling ceilings. “When people said to me, ‘Are you going to try to clean up the hallways?’ I said, ‘No, there’s no way you can put a Band-Aid on something like this,” said Manon Slome, the president and chief curator of No Longer Empty, who was introduced to the building with the help of Mr. Puryear and Holly Block, the Bronx Museum’s director. “I think you have to start by working in the decay, and then as this place gets more funding, that kind of work can be done.” Some is already under way, tentatively. Ten of the home’s old high-ceilinged rooms have been beautifully restored in a wing that will open in April as a small bed-and-breakfast, furnished with original 1930s and 1940s furniture that has been refinished and reupholstered. Cheryl Pope, a Chicago artist whose piece will feature a choir of strangers she met and recruited from Bronx streets and barbershops, recently spent a night in one of the rooms and said being alone in the cavernous building was a little more than what she had bargained for. “It felt like I was in ‘The Shining,’ ” she said, adding that a caretaker, before leaving for the night, handed her a two-foot-long machete. “I said, ‘What’s this for?,’ and he said it was in case I came across anyone who broke in during the night. Nothing like that happened. There were just a lot of weird noises.” But Ms. Pope’s installation, which involves an artificial, meticulously gold-leafed version of a paint-flaked ceiling, channels a more benevolent supernatural ethos, transforming two of the residents’ abandoned old rooms into more of a chapel than a corner of a haunted house. “There’s something about those rooms, left the way they are,” she said. “They definitely have a holy quality.”
In Another World by Natalie Hegert The Sixth Borough
Governors Island is only minutes away from Manhattan yet it feels like another world, or a step back in time. Missing is the hustle and bustle of the city, the routine, theup-down-and-cross town, replaced instead with leisurely pace of bicycles looping the island, swaying hammocks in the coastal breeze, and the curious adventure of exploring the rather mysterious island dwellings once inhabited by military personnel. With its jumbled mix of architectural styles, from forts and castles to dilapidated modern high-rises, Governors Island recalls aspects of NeverNeverLand and, with its eerie grouping of little yellow houses, the village of the "Others" on Lost. Indeed, the island does seem to house a strange “energy” and many secrets. It’s this sense of displacement and mystery that No Longer Empty’s exhibition, the Sixth Borough, explores, “this paradox and the paralel realities of the mainland and the island which exist in spatial proximity but in different states of being”. The exhibition brings together nineteen artists to complete
site- specific commissions and insta lations in four brick houses on Colonel’s Row. Part of the fun is simply snooping around the old houses—with notebook in hand, peeking around corners, checking out kitchens, I felt the thri l of house hunting and the accompanying and unavoidable sensation of self- projection into the livable space. True to No Longer Empty’s manifesto, there are no blank slates or ga lery wa ls, but the art pieces interact with, envelop and inhabit their spaces, engaging with the history, past lives, and unique properties of the architecture. With every turn, every door opened, the curatorial statement was upheld with a certain grace and commitment, the stately homes transformed into immersive environments drawing out and playing with the particularities of their place in space and time. For a cogent contrast, the neighboring exhibition by the Sculptor’s Guild uses the house as if it was a ga lery, the sculptures merely set inside with minimal interaction with the architecture. This is not in any way to the 20
detriment of the artwork—the sculptural work is exce lent and in many cases quite impressive—but the contrast reveals how very different the two exhibitions are in intent and mission, and underscores how successful the Sixth Borough is in rea ly engaging with the space and its history. Andrea Mastrovito conjures up the first inhabitants of Governors Island with a sprawling insta lation of flowers, butterflies, rodents, ducks, cats, squirrels and other flora and fauna, emerging from what looks like pop-up books. Alan Michelson invokes the island’s Native American history with corn and beaver sku ls, painted white to match the wa ls, situated and arranged like decorative colonial crown molding. The piece is rendered nearly invisible, easily overlooked, and subsumed within the architecture. This subtle, simple gesture speaks volumes, making this piece particularly poignant and revealing of the history of the Island, indeed of the entire continent. Vladis Turner’s fabric pieces speak to another invisible minority, hidden within the domestic sphere —with cakes made of painted pantyhose, and a “dowry” assembled from prize ribbons draped over a bed. Trong Gia Nguyen’s politica ly charged work comments on the island’s military connections with a co lection of photographs of hands saluting an American flag that, Exorcist- style, shows a fragile “help me” rising from the surface. Communication with the past, memory and the metaphysical properties of the sites proved ripe areas for exploration for many of the artists. Monika Weiss’ insta lation of books ritua ly burned and marked with charcoal and Kaarina Kaikkonen’s sewn-together dress-shirts encircling a table and chairs, evoke a spirit of meditation, séance, and a desire to communicate with the spirits of those long gone from these spaces. The architecture itself proves a playground for artists like Adam Cvijanovic, who, inspired by the many-doors-syndrome (endemic in Victorian times) of the house, multiplies them in a trompe l’oeil mural in one of the rooms. The open doors disturb the continuity of the house and, dreamlike, lead to broad poppy fields beyond. On the other side of the
room two closet doors open to pictures of explosions displayed on shelves within. Natasha Johns-Messenger invites us to litera ly step into a liminal space, creating endless ha lways—a disorienting, displacing labyrinth of mirrors. Wendy Wischer’s sculptures made entirely of mosaic disco-ba l glass startle with their bri liancy and effortlessly activate the entire space with tiny flecks of sparkly reflected light. The curation and insta lation of the Sixth Borough is absolutely ste lar. The artists’ works communicate fluidly with each other, with the space, and with their place in time. My only criticism is a very minor detail: the overwhelming amount of wa l text, which often didn’t add to the experience of the art, but rather distracted from already very strong works. They are easy to ignore, however, but the strength of artistic vision and talent represented in this intriguing show, supported by the undeniable ambience of its setting wi l be hard to forget. --Natalie Hegert
The Future of Governors Island by Natalie Hegert
Sometimes you just need a break from the city. Especia ly in the summer. Luckily, and it seems unbeknownst to tourists and even most New Yorkers, there’s an island getaway here, just a short, free ferry-ride away on Governors Island, open on the weekends throughout the summer. Besides the enticing attraction of the Sixth Borough exhibit as detailed above, there are many reasons to visit. With grassy parks, historical fortifications, bike paths, tree-lined rows of colonial houses and a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline, the only thing lacking, in my opinion, is a swimming pool. Perhaps we can request it as part of the proposed development of the island which can be accessed here: http://www.govislandpark.com/ Governors Island functioned for 200 years as a military base, which closed in 1996. Its new purpose as a public park and historic site is a very recent development, only open to the public since 2003, and only for the summer weekends. Yet 2010 is proving a pivotal year for the future of Governors Island as the plans
for the park’s new design has been announced which wi l radica ly change the vision and landscape of the island. The north side of the island, with its historic forts and residential dwe lings and natura ly ro ling hi ls wi l remain intact. The south side, a flat extension of the island built in the early 20th century from the excess rubble from the Lexington Avenue subway tunnel, wi l be drastica ly changed. The Dutch landscape architecture firm West 8 has proposed to build large hi ls on the south side of the island to visua ly complement the skyscrapers of Manhattan, built out of the rubble from the dilapidated modern structures.As with a l available space in New York City, the prospective usage is contentious. The city is currently accepting public feedback on the design for the parks, but the demarcated “development zones” remain ambiguous. Some of the buildings wi l become “residential” (who wi l live there?), others devoted to non-profit and commercial uses. Judging from the welcoming environment for the arts fostered on the island in recent years—with artist residencies, outdoor sculpture parks, performances, exhibitions, an artist-designed mini-golf park—Governors Island appears fortunately to be committed to the presence of art and artists. This year is the time to visit before the 22
first stages of development begin to change the shape of the island, to experience its odd juxtapositions of the restored historical sites and the overgrown modern utilitarian buildings, the contrasts of the natural and artificial. Governors Island is open Friday-Sunday through October 10th. Arrive early as the last ferry back to Manhattan leaves at 5pm, and youâ€™ l want every last minute you can get out here. For ferry schedules click here.