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The FREEwilliamsburg Art Crawl

By Keane A. Pepper

So Williamsburg has over thirty galleries… How can anybody possibly see all of the shows without feeling overwhelmed? Well, FREEwilliamsburg approached me to write a monthly update on the local gallery scene. I’ve decided to riff on the idea of the pub crawl, you know, where you tour around the bars until you can't move. Visiting twenty galleries in a day has an analogous effect, but I’m able to write afterward.

So with a summary and a handy rating system (Greenbergs), we hope to bring some focus to the proverbial art crawl. I thought it'd be really helpful since most reviews come out after the show has come down. There's really nothing worse than walking ten blocks to see bad art, I mean bad movies become cult classics, but where does bad art go?

Apparently Bob and Roberta Smith have decided bad art should be tossed in the dumpster outside of Pierogi, which is part of their show Art Amnesty. The duo plaster Pierogi with signage that diss artists throughout history with such witticisms like "Joseph Bueys Conclusive Proof Not Everyone Is an Artist." My favorite saying was something like Fillipo Lippi sucks. At a desk in the middle you can do a "last drawing" and quit art by signing a card promising never to make art again. The joke, if that’s it, plays out well in the 'burg where everyone is an artist, right? I felt sort of bad for the 'artist' in back, Kim Kimball whose game like installation isn't strong enough to stand up to the critique out front. It seemed the Smiths might be on to something, about ruining it for everyone. (Through November 11th)

In search of something less cynical, to buoy my spirits I ventured into the immaculate space at Priska C. Juschka where I encountered the academic art of Jacqueline Fraser. I read some text formatted to look 'literary' with little brackets and quotes. Hanging above the sheets of paper were wire frame sculptures of heads and torsos with fabric blind folds and dresses. I felt is I was back at University in the English department where an ambitious deconstructionist decided to make an installation. While some of the 'poetry' about lost children in third world countries was moving, drawings of hats on fabric weren't ironic enough and killed the vibe. Fraser seems to be holding her subject at arms-length, and the effect is like reading Kenneth Cole social awareness ads in Vogue. "A clearer Portrait of the Lost Boys << in eleven parts deftly and eleven details of straining>>" runs through November 18th.

Around the corner, Momenta had a group show. Why do people always thrust concepts on group shows when sometimes its just a group of people? Wanderlust feels like they thought of the theme after hanging the show, like "Hmm, a globe, a dick. wandering lust? No, no. Must be Wanderlust!" Anyway, Bjorn Melhus has a funny, funny video, FireScene, in the back. I thought it was Jerry Lewis arguing with Dean Martin for a minute in the woods, but thank god for press releases. It's worth stopping in for alone. Just don't think too hard about the deeper meaning of the globe paintings, the sex drawings, or the bathroom photos. You might conceive of another concept for the work. (Through November 11th)

Better things were happening on the Southside of the 'burg. Roebling Hall was all dark and spooky with the eerie sounds of Bjorn Melhus's funhouse of video art. Really, his solo show is good, it's just quite ridiculous. He's got three video works on small LCD screens, all worth watching in their entirety. Melhus acts in everything, deadpanning samples from television, music, and film. I laughed, cringed, and marveled at each one. When I realized that The Magic Glass was done in 1991 I wanted to slap Charlie Kaufman. His larger installation, "Sometimes" caught me off guard. With sampled sounds from B horror flicks, a guilty pleasure of mine I thought I'd arrived at a holiday specific installation. Anyway, Halloween will be over before this hits, but Melhus's excellent show is up through November 18th. Bring your friends who don't like "art".

Am I terrible? I haven't set foot in Lunar Space in almost a year, but I do like painting and there were some interesting canvasses on the walls of Slideshow on Bedford. Elizabeth Josephson's portraits of drag queens and delinquents are straightforward expressionistic paintings. Her lush portrait of two African-American youths clutching each other is the best canvas in the room; you can feel them. Her influences are obvious, but that won't stop you from appreciating the wild color and unique subjects. (Through November 25th)

Parker's Box continues its trend of showing experimental contemporary art with a two-person show of drawings. Er, conceptual drawings, since Bruno Peinado shows paint on paper and Simon Faithful presents laser etchings and reliefs on linoleum. Peinado is the more painterly of the two, with a series of primitive drawings of backwards SEGA screens and the Boars Head Deli Logo. What's more Brooklyn than the Boars Head Deli logo? Or are we pigs? Whatever, the whole installation is pretty hip and interesting. Faithfull, an English artist, makes drawings on a palm-pilot during his travels. There's odds and ends from the city, even a series of sketches of Grand Street, which is still down and dirty despite the galleries. The idea might be cooler than the objects themselves, but I dug the whole technology progression from start to finish of a primitive act. (Through November 4th)

Over at Plus Ultra, Parker's Box director Alun Williams was on display as part of a twist on the group show concept. Finnish artist, Jani Leiononen put the work of 7 artists into clouded glass vitrines where the viewer must pay a small sum to uncloud the glass (It’s the same trick they use at a trendy restaurants with glass stalls). I was so poor I almost left, but that would have been embarrassing so I plunked down my change to see some of the artists. Don't worry if you don't have enough money to see all the art either, its not as interesting as the concept.

Leiononen has based the price of seeing the works upon fair market value, basically if you pay up, you raise the cost for everyone else. The fact that I got 15 seconds to see the work made me chuckle. The show was cerebral, but doesn't really succeed as a critique of capitalist practices. No one wants to pay to see emerging artists. The vitrine-like frames are handsome, and they recall a time when men used to cover up their 'nude' paintings with curtains for some odd reason. Try this same project at Mary Boone with collectors. (Through November 10th)

On the outskirts of civilization, Susan Black had something to say about suburbia with I Will Take You There. As a suburban escapee seeing Black's videos were like peering into my own troubled memories. I was attracted and repulsed watching the seemingly innocuous dwellings scroll by while the amusingly mixed soundtrack pulsed in my ears. Noticeably, Bellwether felt empty with only three televisions and a projection. As a framing device, it lent Black's videos some weight. Conceptually, suburbs are sort of empty too, so the presentation felt appropriate to the material. There were some decorative paintings on the wall that were mildly interesting, but I would have preferred that the gallery tough it out and keep the space empty for Black. (Through November 11th)

In October, video rules kids. If you don't get past N 6th until the middle of November, its okay, so don't worry if you forget to stop at the galleries on your way to the Turkey's Nest.

Until next month, I need to rest.


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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | November 2002 | Issue 32
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