REVIEW: Loomings: “Landlessness” at Ortega y Gasset Projects and “SOAP” at Microscope Gallery

Written by: Conor O’Brien, thelivinggallery.blog[at]gmail[dot]com

 

Jennifer Nagle Meyers

Jennifer Nagle Meyers

The penultimate show at Ortega y Gasset Projects borrows its name and theme from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, from a chapter titled “The Lee Shore.”  In this chapter the whaling ship Ishmael has boarded crosses from its port into the open ocean. Here, as whenever a boundary is transgressed, there is a moment of lucidity, brief and intense, felt more than understood, which Ishmael attempts to define, as he does his speech dissolves and then ends in a string of exclamations. Ishmael, as the voice of Melville, establishes two magnetic poles of experience, one attractive one repellant: the attractive pole flows with the current, the waves, the wind, leeward, toward land; the repellant pole lies beyond these elements on an unreachable anti-shore, an unmappable point in space, which exists only in the act of casting off and pushing against the current. He deems this state “landlessness.” Ortega y Gasset Projects and the rest of the galleries previously residing in the warehouse at 17-17 Troutman Street have been asked by their landlord to vacate the building. Following “Landlessness,” Ortega y Gasset Projects will have one final exhibit and by the end of June, it and the remaining 17-17 Troutman galleries will themselves be landless.

Pablo Guardiola

Pablo Guardiola

Amanda Curreri

Amanda Curreri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trout confine their existence to the freshwater lakes from which they spawned. They never taste anything but the same embryonic atmosphere that incubated them in the egg; they do not mature, they fatten into adult-infancy; they are not born and they never die, they ripen and rot. Salmon decide early in their lives to flee their place of birth. These fish have a genetic sensitivity to another magnetic pole; from birth they can hear it, in spontaneous, incoherent impressions beyond the fog. To these fish, the embryonic comfort of home smells of putrefaction; all familiarity soon festers and stinks. So, severing their umbilical loyalties, they swim toward the ocean. And in that transition between the river and the sea, as the last, lingering gusts of freshwater fade, the saltwater that first stings its unaccustomed gills ignites a dormant set of genes, an alternate species emerges in this fresh environment, as the fish’s former being dissolves in its wake.

Nina Elder

Nina Elder

Nina Elder

Nina Elder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is this way of life that Ishmael exalts: the transition, when the magnetism of whatever invisible promised land overwhelms, and the freedom of the desert, the ocean, becomes preferable to the solid security of land. For Ishmael, the land is “pitiful” and “slavish” next to the ocean. It is a mistake to think that all forms of slavery are miserable; in its most common form, slavery is pleasant and comfortable. It needs to be so, to appeal to those who would resign themselves to it. If resistance means discomfort or even suffering, it is because the act of living is fundamentally a restless discomfort, an unnatural transition from the soil to the air, a constant tormenting transition; and everything that promises to soothe or distract from this restlessness conspires against the act of living. For Ishmael, the “highest truth,” and therefore the highest life, is found only in landlessness, in setting oneself toward an ineffable pole, against all the attractive, gravitational currents that would have one resign to the grave.

Nina Elder

Nina Elder

The artwork in “Landlessness” deal with this idea of displacement, willful or imposed, expounded upon in this section of Moby-Dick. Each artist in her or his way attempts to get at this “highest truth” which Ishmael claims resides in a state of landlessness. There are no coincidences, and it would seem that the sudden forced evacuation of all art galleries at the 17-17 Troutman warehouse is another attempt at exploring Melville’s theme. Soon, these galleries will find themselves searching for new homes, some in Bushwick or other parts of Brooklyn, some in other cities, some may perish in the “howling infinite,” and others may re-emerge entirely transformed and reinvigorated.

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In Matt Town’s “SOAP,” the artist’s first solo show at Microscope Gallery, the central piece is a 16mm film of the artist riding the streets of his Bushwick neighborhood in a handmade soapbox car. In light of the evacuation of 17-17 Troutman, this image of the wandering artist seems appropriate. The film and the soapbox car are symbols  alien and  familiar. The car, a minimal white box exposing only the top half of the artist’s white helmet, eliminates any recognizable humanity through abstraction; the vehicle becomes something with sci-fi signification, an unidentifiable object. Yet, the soapbox car is also a symbol of nostalgia, childhood, Depression-era America, “simpler times,” the fantasy of innocence, etc; just as the 16mm celluloid quality recalls film’s age of innocence. Inside the soapbox, photos of the artist’s home and family are posted on the walls. The artist carries these emblems of home as he wanders, just as the salmon, which uses its olfactory sense to navigate back to its freshwater home at the end of its life, carries the scent of its birthplace in its memory even as it wanders out to sea.

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The artist wades through the street, a white whale: only his eyes betray a human face, otherwise obscured by a mask of impenetrable indifference. Bystanders approach and inspect the vehicle: there is a impression of otherworldliness, of displacement, of intrusion. Against the dark grey of its environment, the drifting white cube reads as negative space. It has wandered, unaware, innocent, into an environment where it is starkly out of place, so much so that it appears a negation of its surroundings, an emptiness in the fabric it occupies. It is its innocence that perhaps is most ominous; innocence in its extreme is the annihilation of experience. Driving his giant soap bar, he harkens a return to naive blankness. Matt Town’s image of the wandering artist is literally landless: a blank hole in the landscape.

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Ortega y Gasset Projects

Location: 17-17 Troutman St.

Hours: Sat-Sun, 12-6

Contact: info[at]oygprojects[dot]com

 

Microscope Gallery

Location: 4 Charles Place

Hours: Thurs-Mon, 1-6

Contact: info[at]microscopegallery[dot]com

 

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REVIEW: Response to “You Do the Math” at Jackie Klempay Gallery

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Written By: Conor O’Brien,  thelivinggallery.blog[at]gmail[dot]com

In undressing, both body and clothing inherit a vulnerability, the aura of nakedness. Curiously intimate, encountering another’s wardrobe: an identity disassembled, dissected. The widespread use of washing and drying machines is based not only in convenience, but most importantly in the preservation of the sacred aura of privacy they afford. We treat the washing of our clothes with nearly the same attention to privacy with which we treat the washing of our own bodies. And while stricter, the limits we place on who may see our unclothed bodies are similar to the limits we place on who may see our disembodied clothes. Privacy preserves the identity’s delicate impenetrability. The image of our clothing reduced to a potential state indicates the extent identity depends on them. The symbiosis of cloth and flesh: what the body gains from the garments that adorn it, so do those garments gain from the bodies they adorn.

 

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The main installation in MacGregor Harp’s show “You Do the Math” at Jackie Klempay Gallery consists of several racks of clothing set up in the gallery’s backyard. There is a sense of displacement: these objects have been transported from inside to outside, from a place of impenetrable privacy to a place of pure vulnerability. Yet even stranger  than displacement are the accompanying senses of appropriateness and familiarity: moved outside, how closely these racks resemble trees, the floral patterns on some garments recall branches heavy with foliage. It is not uncommon for the inner and outer worlds to interact with and seep into each other. Within the privacy of our homes we allow vestiges of the outside world to adorn, flowers and potted plants, paintings of landscapes, open windows act both as barriers and portals. While outside we set up furniture, build patios and fences, extend shadows of the private world. When an item is displaced from its natural environment, it adapts to the new one. Throughout the vast cloth of civilization there are holes and windows where the flesh of nature breaks through: city and national parks, both barriers and portals.

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Exposed flesh is an empathic stimulus; is it because these sheets of cloth, the ghosts of identities, remind us of flesh that we have the same reaction when we encounter them exposed? Morbid considerations emerge: flayed skin swinging from limbs of trees, displayed here, perhaps, as a warning to trespassers, or perhaps removed in the interest of scientific experimentation (vivisection is the most extreme form of undressing). The ghost of gender is here too: the wardrobe is deliberately feminine, and belongs to the artist’s fiancee, as do the tufts of hair that sprout from the top of each rack. This gesture, the incorporation of hair into the installation, draws associations between the synthetic fur represented by the clothing with real, organic human fur. Clothing is the vestigial phantom of fur shed from our genes in millennia past. Gooseflesh is the skin’s longing for a lost protector, the present-absence of body hair lingering above exposed skin. These displaced reflexes persist, senile languages from old evolutions. The hair anthropomorphizes the clothing racks, though there is already something abstractly human in their design.

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The work in MacGregor Harp’s exhibition makes use of subtle gesture, minimalist arrangement, and understated display: one installation, a bowl of cigarettes set in a corner on the floor, could easily be overlooked by inattentive passers-by. Another piece, a pack of cigarettes displayed on top of a printed cloth, simply presents the object for uncomplicated consideration, where the full weight and irony of the phrase “American Spirit,” coupled with the native mascot, speaks for itself. Cigarettes, an omnipresence with a tinge of the forbidden, somehow ubiquitous, mundane, and yet generally frowned-upon, a commodified taboo, a dangerous comfort, a self-destructive system, that functions in disappearing: these associations reveal themselves. Harp’s choice of subjects is not particularly biased; cigarettes and flowers are the two major ones, and are juxtaposed in some ways (the size and white-grey scheme of Cigs contrasts starkly with his Flowers series), though the artist also incorporates into his work sports logos, newspaper comics, and, of course, clothing. The artist’s fascination lies with these overlooked objects and symbols, which have a consistent but rarely considered daily presence, and in representing them Harp employs a delicate playfulness that slides from the abstract, to the personal, to the absurd.

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Location: 81 Central Ave

Hours: Saturday, 1-5pm

Contact: klempayj[at]gmail[dot]com

I’m Eli Lehrhoff.

1) Please state who you are and all the amazing things you do!

I’m Eli Lehrhoff. I make visual art and play a bunch of improvised music. I was half of avant-dub morons Dubknowdub (note: the video in the link features my parents, prominently.) with the artist Sto; i handle the beats in dance/sax/jazz/spazz project Hair Jail with Raul de Nieves (haribo),  Nick Lesley (necking), and, my brother, Zach Lehrhoff (ex models, beech creeps); Zach and I also play in Rat Attack with Annegret Faulkner (ovary action); i jam with, and make backing tracks for, Raul and Alex Drewchin (guardian alien, eartheater) quite a bit; i currently put most of my time into the a/v band BRAT PIT, with Ryan Soper (with whom i have the duo 10,000 Idiots) and Ginny Benson (with whom i have the duo Johnny Depth); I also make music by myself as Smhoak Mosheein. i guess i’m kind of busy.

photo credit: Brian Hershey and Dan Mcneil

photo credit: Brian Hershey and Dan Mcneil

2) How do you feel humor plays a role in your social circle?

I don’t know about my whole social circle, but I personally relate to people through humor, almost exclusively. As such, the people that I spend the most time with tend toward the humorous, whether they’re aware of it or not. I’d like to think the common element is an understanding that the world is a serious place, but laughing at it is the only reasonable response.

Changes Part 1 Changes Part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Some say: “Laughter is the sound of freedom”- What does this mean to you?

In my experience, the best laughers are the oppressed. The best jokes are about the worst things. Laughter is the acknowledging of the struggle, the striving for freedom.

Smhoak & Pals @ Shea Stadium

 

4) Do you think humor in art and conversation masks and avoids truth and meaning, or reveals truth and deeper meanings?

Humor, like any advantage, can be used towards many ends. I think the level of humor and seriousness in all things just needs to be appropriate to the situation, and one’s roll in said situation. One shouldn’t laugh at another person’s tragedy, but laughing at tragedy as a shared concept is entirely necessary. Bully’s laugh at, comedy laughs with.

My visual art is made alone in a room. Solitude doesn’t inspire much humor in me. It’s the interaction with others that produces the laughs. Music, as i make it, is an interactive endeavor and, thus, humor is a more common result. The intrinsic egotism of being watched by others is a constant source of laughs.

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5) Does your own art have a specific meaning?

Each piece or series tend to have individual meanings, but process is always a focus. I get bored pretty easily, so it’s necessary to keep on it.

 

6) What do you think Bushwick is lacking in, i. e., is there something missing within the Bushwick Community?

I’ve lived in and out of Bushwick since 2004. At this point it feels like there’s kind of too much of everything.

 

7) Do you have a plan for your future? Do you feel it is necessary?
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8) Any last thoughts you would like to share with your readers!

This about sums it up.

http://www.firedrive.com/file/E44FFD040B305357

Meet Photographer Walter Wlodarczyk!!

1) Please state who you are and what you do!

My name is Walter Wlodarczyk and I’m a photographer. My work focuses on my inspirations – music, art, creativity, New York City, the night. I explore life with my camera and document my experiences. I also play guitar in the band Space Meow.

 

2) How do you think social media outlets such as Instagram have changed photography?

The changes have obviously been huge, and I think they’ve been a function of both social media and the fact that we now have small, Internet-connected cameras with us at all times. We can basically document anything at any time, which brings great social benefit when you think about checking the power of the government and the police, but also has huge negative implications where privacy is concerned. And there’s the challenge of being present while being connected, too.

In terms of art and creativity, I think social apps like Instagram are great because they encourage anyone and everyone to create. Everyone should have tools to be creative and express themselves and escape the mundane. The drive of the Internet is to democratize everything in that way, and that’s great. We can publish our own work, you no longer have to be some kind of wizard to build a Web site, and so on. Instagram whatever you like, I say. If your cereal is that rad, Instagram it, if that’s how you’d like to express yourself. The trick is to not forget to experience it, too.

The Internet and social media have also made it possible for me to meet and connect with so many amazing creative people, and to learn so much – way more than would ever have been possible without. It’s amazing. Doubly so for those of us who are introverts.

3. Do you ever find that having a camera and viewing events through a lens distances you from experiencing certain concerts or events on apersonal level?

Quite the opposite. Photography is a very personal thing. My camera is part of me and the photos that I make are inseparable from who I am as a human being. When I photograph a show I am really interacting with the performance, just in a quiet and personal way. To photograph a show is to play along with the performance in a visual dimension. I process everything that’s going on — sound, movement, energy – and try to depict that in a photograph. I’m watching, anticipating, thinking, really trying to feel what’s going on and make photographs that capture the spirit of the performance. It’s also just how I get into the performance and have fun and express myself. Not unlike going to a show and dancing – I’m just creating photographs rather than movement.

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4. What are your thoughts on immortality and photography? Do you feel like a photograph can in a sense make one immortal?

It’s a matter of perspective. I definitely don’t frame anything in my life around any idea of achieving immortality, certainly not photography. For me, photography is about capturing things that I find inspiring and beautiful in the present and sharing those things. It’s about experience, connection and creating something meaningful while it’s possible to. I hope I create photographs that people will still look at after we’re all gone. But to me that wouldn’t mean any sort of immortality has been achieved. It would just mean that I created something that is meaningful, which is the entire point. Having said that, if someone I photograph views that as immortality having been achieved, then for them, that’s what it would be. It’s all about your perspective.

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5. What do you think a photograph of a photograph is? Is it the same thing as a painting of a painting?

I think it depends entirely on the intent of the person who makes the photograph, and how the photograph is presented. This made me think of artists who have created bodies of work based on Google Street View images. Those are photographs of photographs, and there are photographic processes, and photographic thinking and seeing, that all go into creating that work. It’s not photography in a typical sense, but it’s photographic. I guess that work inflamed some people, but it’s interesting to me. An automated photographic process created images, (if one searches them out), that are really very similar to what we consider classic street photography. It also captured some crazy situations, just rolling by. That really made me think about some things.

 

6. Even with all the technological advances people have still clung to analogue, it’s vintage and “cool” in a lot of ways. Keeping this trending mind, how do you see the photography evolving in the next few years?

For those who grew up with film and who enjoy shooting film, it will always be special. I find it interesting to shoot film and think about what I do differently compared to when I shoot digital. However photography evolves, I think it will be driven by technology. Better technology is continually being fit into smaller cameras, mirrorless cameras are now capable of making very high quality images (though they are still no replacement for SLRs, to me). And I’m sure there will be developments we can’t even imagine. But photography will ultimately still be about experience and the moment, no matter what.

 

Links to follow my work:

Portfolio: http://www.walterwlodarczyk.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wlodarczyk.studios

Tumblr: http://blog.walterwlodarczyk.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/wlodarczyk