By Grant Moser
As one of the granddaddies of the local art scene, Pierogi
is well known. However, when it opened in September 1994,
it was little more than "a glorified art studio visit
idea," said director Joe Amrhein. "I was frustrated
with my interaction with the then-art scene. I wanted something
more vital and so just started showing artist's work on
the weekends in my studio. It turned into a gallery and
I fell into the role of gallerist."
He remembers the early days in Williamsburg as very real
and very exciting, though only in hindsight. "There
were a lot of artists moving here, and not a lot of places
to hang out. At the time, it seemed slow-paced."
Of course, that is in the past. Now the area is in the
rapid process of gentrification, increasing choices but
forcing artists to move around to find affordable space.
Amrhein still thinks the scene is exciting and generating
good work. "It is more commercialized now. That's good
and bad. But artists have to sell their work to survive."
The role of selling art has been one of learning and adaptation
for Amrhein. "I have no time anymore. But I appreciate
the work ethic of gallerists. Making art and selling art
are at opposite poles, but it is a necessary part of the
process. Part of what I'm trying to do is subvert the percentages
gallerists and artists make on shows. It used to be a standard
50-50 split on work sold, depending on the support of the
artist and set-up help by the gallery. I try and maintain
that relationship and keep my end to only 30%."
Another idea he has run with is the flat files. The curated
drawers are accessible to the public and show over 700 artists'
work: all for sale. "I look for consistency of style
from the artist, idea, a voice, or even an artist's enthusiasm
as he describes his work." He looks at the same criteria
for shows, though admittedly more tightened up. "I
like work that challenges the space we have."
Another purpose of the flat files was to be involved with
the community. They provide the impetus for a new collecting
base because the work is so varied and still affordable.
It also gives artists a vested interest in the gallery and
Williamsburg. "But the 'Us v. Them' idea is not what
I want to promote. We're all part of this texture of New
York and the world. I don't want to provincialize this scene."
However, being a Brooklyn gallery is fine with him as well.
"It means change; bringing a new feel to an old neighborhood,
and intertwining the two; that things are dynamic, that
things are possible. Williamsburg galleries are artist-run
spaces. There is credibility here."
"The number of galleries today is wonderful because
they add to the scene. The reason Williamsburg is so successful
is because it was needed. Manhattan had the high-end market
taken care of, but there was still so many other things
happening. Williamsburg filled the vacuum."
While Pierogi is devoted almost exclusively to art, the
gallery does help fill another vacuum - that of writing.
Twice a year, it releases Pierogi Press, a venue for artists
and writers. Each printing is limited to 500 editions. The
covers are by commissioned artists, and the publication
is hand-done. It is sold in various establishments around
the city and readings accompany every new issue.
Pierogi's next show is part of the Brooklyn-Paris exchange.
It runs from the April 26 opening through June 8 and features
the work of Christophe Cuzin, from Galerie Bernard Jordan.
He is an artist extending the limits of geometric, minimal
painting into the architecture of gallery spaces. Pierogi
will also feature the photography of Lisa Kereszi from April
26 through May 27.
Pierogi is located at 177 N. 9 Street between Bedford
Avenue and Driggs Avenue. It is open Noon to 6pm Friday
through Monday and by appointment. For information, call
718.599.2144, write [email protected],
or visit: http://www.pierogi2000.com.