Wonky - 31 Grand
By Grant Moser
You know, just kind of off," explained Megan Bush,
co-director of 31 Grand. That might be the perfect description
of the gallery, what it aims to show, and how it has fun
doing it. Past shows have included: an exhibition of skulls
made of bread which guests could sample; an artist who painted
vases found on Ebay and then sold those paintings on Ebay;
and a joint exhibition featuring a maker of miniature houses
with porcelain figurines of glamour models, and a photographer
who is a part-time model.
"We like artists who enjoy what they're doing,"
said Heather Stephens, the other co-director. "We don't
necessarily show 'outsider art' in the sense that they have
never had formal training or were found at random outside
the art world, but we try to incorporate the essence of
outsider art - someone who is interconnected with their
art, that uses the other parts of their lives in their art."
31 Grand is two and a half years old, and in the beginning
was planned as studio space for several artists with a small
gallery up front. That idea evolved to its present incarnation
as a formal gallery. It shows artists from the world over,
as well as from Brooklyn. Both Bush and Stephens have creative
backgrounds; Stephens is a printmaker and Bush is a clothing
stylist and has her own clothing line and store in the East
Village. And both were in the Williamsburg area well before
the gallery began.
"The growth of the neighborhood has been great for
us," said Bush. "Visitors to the gallery have
picked up, and collectors are making their way out here
in greater numbers. They are showing interest in the work,
but for the most part are still waiting to buy. Though I
think that's beginning to change."
"Of course, as it grows it loses some of its flavor
and might turn into the same-old neighborhood as you see
in Manhattan," Stephens added. "I've heard the
rumors of an artist exodus and the complaining of the rising
rents, but I haven't seen an exodus really. And the art
community is still very supportive here; everyone comes
out to openings and helps out if they can."
Still, the rise of the neighborhood's profile in the art
world brings with it money and expectations. "Sure,
it's crossed our minds when putting on a show: Will this
sell? But it never happens that way. We always end up putting
on the art that we really like, that's really good,"
Bush said. "The idea of Williamsburg as an idea or
a genre is misleading. There is so many different types
of art happening here that generalizing about it is just
false and limiting."
When asked about what the area will be like in five years,
Stephens said: "More clothing stores. You know, like
Chelsea or Soho. The galleries remaining will be more established.
And the exodus will probably have occurred by then because
of those changes and the increased rents."
Still, 31 Grand is optimistic about the neighborhood and
the talent they've seen in it. They are committed to continuing
good shows. "We care about the artists we show, and
the viewers. We'll explain about the show if they want,
or we'll leave them alone - whatever they want," Stephens
Bush added, "It's very important to let people make
their own opinions about the work. I hate having artist
statements shoved down people's throats. Good work doesn't
need a statement."
One of their recent shows is a good case in point. The
statement of the artist, Edwin Vera, was: "I am inspired
by the beauty and perfection in fashion magazines and by
Wonky. But good.
31 Grand's next show is Pop Life (featuring David
Henry Brown, Jr., Michelle Cortez, Juno Doran, Greg Goldberg,
Philippe Nuell, and Sherri Wood) dealing with the pop subcultures
that mold and define the artists' lives. It opens June 8
with a reception from 7-10pm featuring DJ Kid Magic, and
runs through July 14.
31 Grand is located at 31 Grand Street and is open Saturday
and Sunday from 1pm to 7pm, or by appointment. For more
information, visit http://www.31grand.com, or contact the
gallery at [email protected] or 718.388.2858.