Today’s post presents a new public art project by the Renewal Arts Collective, a recently formed group consisting of three current VCS students (Santiago Chavez, Casey Schultz, and Victoria Hristoff) and alumna Jinhee Kwak, working under the guidance of faculty member Amy Wilson. The collective is preparing to decorate the trailers that house the pre-k and kindergarten classes at Joseph H. Brensinger No. 17 Elementary School on Bergen Avenue in Jersey City, a school with about 1200 students ranging from pre-k to 8th grade.
Here are some comments by Wilson about the Renewal Arts Collective and the their plans for the school:
The project grew out of an ongoing conversation I’ve been having with students about how to bring art to the public in a meaningful way. What I’ve been finding is that many of our VCS students want to interact with communities outside of the Manhattan “elite” art world, and so I’ve been working with them, trying to connect them to opportunities that will allow them to do just that. I was introduced to the PS 17 community through a mom in our neighborhood here in Jersey City, Gina Verdibello, who put me in touch with their principal, Robert Brower. I was very impressed with both the school and the administrators there, and especially glad to see that they have a strong commitment to the arts and a willingness to expose their students to new things.
There have been some studies on student environments and the effects on learning (for example, this one and this one), and just anecdotally it’s known among educators that the overall environment—and the aesthetics of that environment—has a strong impact on students’ attitudes, behavior, retention, and creativity.
Plans for the site include priming and painting the ramp railings of the classrooms (see the mockup below and Wilson’s comments in the caption) and adorning the chain link fence around the school with crocheted decorations made from discarded plastic bags (shown above). The Collective’s Facebook page has a few images of the site and some of the things they’re preparing for it, along with more information about the project. Work at the site is going to start in a couple days, so I’ll post and update with more images sometime next week.
Here’s an update we’ve received from VCS alumnus Romke Hoogwaerts about a new project from Mossless, the photography-oriented website and publishing venture he co-founded with partner Grace Leigh back in 2009:
Thank you for following Mossless. If you haven’t already seen it, we’ve launched a new video project called in situ, a web series that follows a different photographer with each episode. We’ve already published one with Jody Rogac and today we published one with Amy Lombard.
Amy is working on a project about Meetups. We followed her as she went to a Chihuahua Cinco De Mayo/Mother’s Day/Birthday event, as well as a yoyo meetup in Washington Square park:
We hope you enjoy this new project! If you do, please share it where you can — we’re trying to spread the word about it.
VCS alumna Devon Watson is spending the summer as artist-in-residence at the Department of Signs & Symbols in Brooklyn. In addition to making her own work while she’s there, she is organizing a variety of discussions and other events to take place at the gallery.
Here’s a statement about the space that Devon forwarded to us:
The Dept. of Signs & Symbols is a pop-up gallery and project based artist’s event space housed in the long-time studio of Dumbo painter Daniel Horowitz. The space was founded by Mitra Khoresheh, Elise Herget and Helene Remmel in 2015. The artist in residence is Devon Watson who is available during the week and through appointment for studio visits and informational meetings.
She also added the following comments:
I’m most excited (beyond the few series that I’m working on now) about the open-forum discussion groups and artist talks that I’m organizing for the summer. When I have dates and details approved I’ll send you the information for late August.
I’ll be having a show in September or October, depending on if we extend the life of the space. I’d also like to organize a small group show after the summer (maybe inviting some SVA alumni to participate).
The Department of Signs & Symbols was recently profiled in a Hyperallergic article by Benjamin Sutton (shown above), which you can find at this link.
Its current exhibition is Filipe Cortez: Disenchantments, on display through July 29th. Here’s a brief description of some of the works in the show (you can also read more about them and see several images at this profile on Wall Street International):
Cortez’s new series, ‘Fossils’, consists of latex casts and plaster replicas of abandoned objects found on the streets of New York City. Cortez collects the discarded objects from construction sites and piles of waste, attracted by their forgotten state. He then castes them in latex, which when removed creates a skin that preserves the object’s shape and absorbs the texture of the surface. Flakes of paint and dirt cling to the latex membrane, embedding the original object within its copy. These skins act as reservoirs of memory, forming an archive of the abandoned objects. The skin is then used to create a plaster replica, with Cortez meticulously duplicating the found object and preserving the traces of human life. The ‘fossils’ are distinct from that which they are records of, yet concurrently retain many of the original properties. They exist as residues of past lives, recalling the passage of time and process of decay.
With the ‘fossils’, Cortez creates visual allegories for lived experience – of history, place, memory and the body. His practice breaks the recycle-cycle and questions the relationship between the ready-made and the object. The skins create an archive of abandoned objects while his replicas act as relics of the future. The poetry of his practice lies within the very nature of the materiality of latex. While creating an archive of abandoned objects, latex preserves the memory of the imprint only temporarily; as its nature pre-determines its inevitable disintegration. Cortez’s process therefore is a mix of rejuvenation and degeneration. For a moment, the fossils are boats against the current, before they yield to their determined fate.
On August 6th, the gallery will open the exhibition limit work by Steph Gonzalez-Turner. The show’s press release includes the following information:
The Dept. of Signs and Symbols is pleased to announce the exhibition: limit work, Steph Gonzalez-Turner’s first solo exhibition. The exhibition will feature a series of hand-sewn acid-dyed silk paintings, along with an installation of the artist’s density columns created in situ. The body of work explores the intersection of craft traditions with a medical narrative in both process and material. Limit work will be on view from August 6 through August 30, 2015. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, August 6, from 6 – 8 p.m.
Limit work, the exhibition title, comes from a term coined by the feminist scholar Elisabeth Grosz to describe the seemingly paradoxical proposition that “‘the outside’ only makes sense in relation to what it is not – the inside.” In considering existence and knowledge through this threshold, “the limit itself is an intercorporeal space, where the extreme body is opened, altered, and created.” Accordingly, Gonzalez-Turner’s silk paintings, which utilize the same acid dyes used in medical research, reference the interior body and its varied landscape of organic materials. The corporeal abstraction in the works deftly juxtaposes irregularity and deformation with beauty and delicate materiality, all while miming biological cycles of repair and regeneration. Gonzalez-Turner’s investigations of the body, a central subject in feminist art and theory, and her employment of textile art as her medium, with its long history as an interrogation of gendered craft, synthesize concerns and open up new dialogues in feminist art discourse through a prism of science, a traditionally male-dominated field, mirroring the paradoxical nature of Grosz’s theory.
The Department of Signs & Symbols is located at 54 Hudson Ave in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 6 pm. For more information, visit the gallery’s website or contact them at email@example.com
You can learn more about Devon and see some of her work at her website. I will post announcements and updates about her residency at the Department of Signs & Symbols from time to time as it become available.
VCS alumna Shellyne Rodriguez was featured today in a Hyperallergic article by Jillian Steinhauer dealing with controversy over a current exhibition staged in the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse by the arts nonprofit No Longer Empty (NLE). The space has become a flashpoint for protests over gentrification in the area, including criticism of NLE’s plans to host a party for real estate brokers in the space during the show’s run. The news angered Bronx residents who have seen several attempts to convert the building into a local cultural center thwarted since the early 1990s.
Steinhauer‘s article discusses Shellyne’s initial involvement in the controversy:
What people didn’t seem to know about was the brokers’ party. The artists in the show didn’t (or else didn’t care) — they only learned about it when one of them, Shellyne Rodriguez, stumbled upon it on NLE’s website a few days after the opening. “No one saw it; it was just quietly announced on their website,” she says. “So I screenshot-ed it and I emailed it to all the artists. I was like, you guys, what’s going on here?”
The article presents a detailed history of the situation, including an account of Shellyne’s continuing involvement since her initial discovery of the brokers’ party, and a few comments on her feelings about the situation:
“Me being from the Bronx but being an artist, I wear two hats,” she says. “I am critiquing the show and talking shit, but I’m in the show. You see what I’m saying?” Rodriguez’s relationship to the courthouse runs deeper than just being from the Bronx (like a handful of others in the show). The last time her mother was in the building, she was pregnant with Shellyne. And during the summer of 1977, Rodriguez’s uncle was briefly locked up there during the blackout riots. Two of her pieces in When You Cut Into the Present harken back to that time: magnetically expressive small-scale ceramic sculptures that portray her family members as allegorical figures. They’re among the works in the show most carefully attuned to their surroundings.
Still, Rodriguez has no illusions about what it means to be a working artist in New York today — even one from the Bronx. “Artists are not the root cause [of gentrification]. But artists are well aware at this point that we are the bees to the honey. We’re strike breakers, is what I say. The New York tenants, they’re on strike. They’re fighting for their lives, and we’re coming in as scabs for developers. So, if you know that — you know that’s the model — then are you using yourself as bait to developers in order to gain access to interesting spaces without really fully thinking about the repercussions?”
The article provides a lot more information about the controversy and its history than I have here, and is well worth a read. In addition to the situation at hand, it touches on broader issues that are crucial to both the city and its art scene right now, including the demographic and economic changes that have profoundly transformed much of the New York City area in recent decades, the ambiguous role art spaces are playing within those larger transformations, and the abiding tension between residents and developers in the Bronx and elsewhere.
VCS alumnus Jonathas Nazareth will be going to Turkey this September to participate in a one-month painting residency during the 13th AspatArt Painting and Sculpture Symposium in Aspat Bay, Bodrum. The residency will culminate in an exhibition and catalogue, and I’ll post an update here with images once it’s over.