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Pierogi Gallery
By Grant Moser

at Pierogi
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:

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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | May 2002 | Issue 26
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