|Looking to the Future
By Grant Moser
is an influential neighborhood in the art world, Larry
Walczak, founder of the gallery eyewash told me. There
are a lot of artists - and quality - developing here: emerging
talent as well as mid-career artists. The energy here is
making Williamsburg. It has become a destination with international
Williamsburg: Mecca for art tourists. Bad or good news?
I love this neighborhood, but the next couple of
years will decide whether it can sustain its quality, its
integrity in the face of all this attention and change.
I think it can. But younger artists moving to this neighborhood
who don't relate to the aesthetics of the mid-career art
scene that exists here through certain galleries have to
start their own spaces. Noting the increasing competition
for space with restaurants, bars, and shops, Walczak believes
future galleries will lie beyond the BQE.
Walczak might have some authority to make these statements.
One of the first galleries here in Williamsburg, eyewash
began showing local work in 1998. It is also, in part, responsible
for the attention so recently lavished on the area. Roberta
Smith covered the gallerys third show, centered around
Valentines Day 1999, in a New York Times article.
Like a shot heard round the world, people took notice
of this burgeoning, artsy little neighborhood across the
There has to be galleries who are in it as a labor-of-love
and not obsessed with marketing and sales. When Williamsburg
broke in 1998 [through the Times article] that
was the feeling it projected. Part Left Bank, part East
Village -in Brooklyn, Walczak said.
When Walczak first moved here in 1994, the diverse talent
everywhere struck him. Opening eyewash was his attempt to
recognize what was happening among local artists; to help
the dialogue between them; and to show art that deserved
to be seen and was not being shown.
This place is wide open. There is so much new, unfound
talent around us. And the art is so varied: new forms, installation,
industrial. The work being done here has even given rise
to talk of an early Williamsburg aesthetic,
Europeans visiting over the years have expressed their
take on this Williamsburg feel to Walczak. They
held the view that our neighborhood is an alternative to
Chelsea or Soho. If we don't give the art-viewing public
real alternatives than we merely become a 'minor league
farm system' to the Chelsea art market. That would be depressing.
The solution is community. A couple years back everyone
got together and did ELSEWHERE; a weekend-long art event
that brought lots of folks to the neighborhood, many for
the first time. Things like this need to happen again.
And he wants more galleries to open. The more the
merrier, Walczak explained. Its a bigger
neighborhood than it once was. It needs lots of galleries
to accommodate it. How is it bad that there is more space
For now, at least, eyewash uses whatever space is available;
it is a wandering show. Opened by Walczak in his residential
building, eyewash was closed by the building department
due to a single compliant by an unsuccessful artist and
rival gallery person. This doesn't bode well for a community
many see as supportive. But it did happen and
in the process made me approach curating in a different
way. By not having a permanent location, a curator is constantly
challenged to create an experimental exhibition, public
art event, or collaboration.
eyewash is a migratory gallery, traveling from local gallery
to local gallery, hopefully bringing the following and reputation
it has developed to new, little-known spaces. In a turnabout
from his original mission of giving exposure to local artists,
he is now giving local galleries exposure.
In April, eyewash will sponsor an exhibition of work in
the windows of several shop owners on Bedford Ave., as well
as a controversial exhibition/installation on gun owners
by Robin Michaels at ROMEarts on Havemeyer St. eyewash is
also planning to take Williamsburg art to venues
in Belgium, Amsterdam, and Germany. More information on
eyewash and upcoming shows can be found at: www.eyewash.cc
-- Grant Moser