Friday, January 21, 2011

Authenticity in Life as in Art

Express/Local calls attention to the way art is made and shown. Other alternative or collaborative New York-based endeavors could be considered as precedent for the project. Exit Art’s exhibition,Alternative Histories” last year, (now being prepared as a permanent archive) presented a history of New York City alternative art spaces and projects since the 1960’s up to the present. Two examples of artist-run projects, 112 Greene Street and 179 Canal, took place a generation apart, but make for a good comparison.

Last week, New Yorker Magazine ran Peter Schjeldahl’s article “Proto Soho, Gordon Matta-Clark and 112 Greene Street about 112 Greene Street, the seminal, artist-run gallery founded in 1970 by Jeffrey Lew, Gordon Matta-Clark and Alan Saret. According to the article, it launched a “nationwide wave of do-it-yourself ‘alternative spaces,’” The gallery’s earliest years were its best, Schjeldahl observes. Stripped down, raw responses to the economic recession and anti-Vietnam War sentiment fueled the collaborative artwork and performances there. He recalled this time as an era where there was “an assumed dedication to authenticity, in life as in art, that shrugged off concerns of mere personal happiness, not to mention the trivia of conventional success.”

While not housed in an academic institution, as Express/Local is, 112 Greene Street’s founder, Matta-Clark had been recently “sprung” from Cornell University and La Sorbonne in Paris, bringing a philosophical, open-ended query to his working method. Matta-Clark (whose work from this time is now showing at David Zwirner in Chelsea) tapped into the city’s indigenous resources – growing a cherry tree in the gallery’s basement soil and showing photographs of graffiti. He went on to create a series of works called “Anarchitecture,” in which he surgically altered condemned, abandoned and dilapidated structures in and around New York City. New York City was both his medium and his inspiration.

112 Greene Street eventually became the alternative space, White Columns, now in the West Village. Late last year White Columns presented an exhibition about another more recent pioneering artist run space, 179 Canal, who’s address-as-name recalls its SoHo predecessor. Artist/Founder Margaret Lee similarly rejected aspects of the current artworld such as depersonalized professionalism in league with stale art ideas and institutions. Once again, the art produced during her 15-month project, which started in 2009, responded to these liabilities, along with the economic slowdown and our current global environmental, societal and political disruptions. In researching the project for an essay in the December 2010 issue of The Brooklyn Rail179 Canal/Anyways,” I found that, like Matta-Clark, Lee actively questioned art contexts and artworld organizations and in doing so attracted other artists to her collective. At 179 Canal, I found that, “Lee made an art family and an art home for herself. A home is where we live in the deepest sense. It is where our thoughts settle, where we can accept change.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Welcome to the Express | Local Exhibition

EXPRESS+LOCAL : NYC AESTHETICS is a three part artist residency and one part art exhibition focused on artistic exploration of Queens to reveal possible regional aesthetics in contemporary New York art.

Fifteen artists from around New York City come to Queens College Art Center for a one-month artist residency at the gallery space to complete proposed works for viewing in the culminating exhibition. Depending on their chosen residency, the 15 artists, writers, musicians, photographers and curators will work separately or together within the gallery space to visually respond to the idea of place in New York aesthetic. EXPRESS+LOCAL offers insight into the varied studio practice of artists and showcases their creative response to New York and the borough of Queens. The exhibition features three diverse groups of artists together from around the five boroughs and outlaying suburbs and exhibits both their studio response to Queens, as well as the artwork created during the residency. While some of the artists are very familiar with Queens and Queens College and others have no direct experience, EXPRESS|LOCAL leads to each of the artists forging a new sense of place. This exhibition is an curatorial experiment seeking to answer the question of whether or not artists are affected by New York City and the borough of Queens, and, in turn, if Queens and Queens College will be affected by them.  EXPRESS+LOCAL seeks to answer the question “Will a collective effort to explore the geography of Queens reveal a regional New York City aesthetic?”.

Express+Local came to fruition to stress the importance of offering support to contemporary artists living and working in New York City. The 15 featured artists range in age, medium and scale, and the artists’ time in New York ranging from present to a lifetime, but each has a constant evolving artistic relationship with the City. Given its size, diversity and proximity to Manhattan, Queens could be a potential candidate to uphold and continue to offer unique insights on the contemporary art world.

Curator Tara Mathison is the Assistant Curator of Queens College Art Center and curated over 25 artists and 15 exhibitions at the Art Center since 2007. She has over 10 years' experience curating exhibitions, focusing on contemporary artists and visual culture. An artist herself, she received her MA and MFA in Printmaking while teaching Drawing at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. A member of the Brooklyn artist collective 3rd Ward, she has exhibited extensively in the United States and internationally, with her work in collections around the world.

GROUP A | #A Participants (January 28 - February 27) include:
Focusing on writing Haiku influenced by the City, Ellis Avery is a Manhattan-based novelist who teaches fiction writing at Columbia University. Her first novel, The Teahouse Fire (Riverhead Books). Exploring extravagance within domestic life, Becky Franco is large format muralist from Brooklyn, NY. Erin Hanke will web cam her daily practice sessions for viewers. Hanke is a harpsichordist working in New York City. Tommy Mintz is a photographer whose work captures the day-to-day life of City dwellers and he will photograph the entire community at Queens College to visually showcase the diversity of Queens.

GROUP B | #B Participants (March 1 - April 1) include:
Carl Gambrell and Rob Kimmel, both Graphic Designers, who will physically explore Queens to create a map that illustrates their new-found personal understanding of the cartography of Queens. Photographer + Web Programmer Derek Vandala captures the decaying manufacturing areas of Queens. Derek Vadala is the author of O'Reilly's Managing RAID on Linux. Czech artists Kristyna + Marek Milde explore ideas of consumerism within the New York home. Queens Artist Howard Lerner’s sculpture is made from local found objects. Lerner is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Painting and a Connecticut Commission on the Arts Individual Artists Grant.

GROUP C | #C Participants (April 1 - May 1) include:
Painter Anne Sherwood Pundyk strips away the secrets of her practice to create new work centered around the private vs. public. Naomi Grossman explores the body through sound. Re-imaging commodity and space, Antonia Perez reconstructs barriers and divisions of personal space through reusing everyday materials, such as plastic bags. Keeping in line with Ray Johnson, mail artist April Nett uses the USPS to construct a Queens Utopia. Musician and New Media artist Jonathan Wohl composes a visual musical piece in response to Queens. Listen to his new album at:

The culminating exhibition (May 5 - June 30) will showcase one piece from each of the artists that they completed during the three months of residency in the gallery space. The exhibition is free and open to the public. The public is invited to visit the artists during their residencies while they work in the space. Images, as well as biographical and sales information, are available upon request. A accompanying catalogue will be published after the exhibition is complete. For information on additional events to be scheduled, please visit