As the last 36 hours closing event of the Whitney occurred this past weekend, I started to reflect on the Jeff Koons Retrospective. I saw it this summer with a group of colleagues, ART21 Educators to be precise. We had convened for an alumni summer institute and one of the activities was choosing to see a Carrie May Weems exhibit, which I knew I would love, or the Jeff Koons Retrospective, which I knew I would have trouble with. Jeff Koons’ work has always been difficult for me, for a variety of reasons. My ART21 Educator friends always inspire me to make the hard choices and throw myself headlong into serious work and so I made a decision and went for the work that was less appealing to me. As an art educator, I knew that I had a responsibility to push myself into a realm of discomfort, to grapple with understanding the work of an artist that was not my favorite and to truly try to assess what I was seeing instead of blasting out a knee jerk response and stating that the work was terrible, shitty or ridiculous.
We entered the exhibit armed with directives of identifying themes, writing down our responses and reflections and sharing them with each other right then and there in the museum. We tried to identify which piece we thought embodied the entire show and the artist’s career. In other words, we embraced the job of due diligence and intellectually and emotionally connected with the work in order to decipher what we were seeing and experiencing. It was an eye opening experience. I can’t say for certain that I’m now the biggest Jeff Koons fan. I think it’s safe to say that I have gone from being a hater to being on the fence, no, rather I’m leaning over the fence, with an increased appreciation of the message imbedded in his work.
Art shouldn’t always be easy and something pretty or cool that hangs on your wall. Sometimes the function of art is to increase our awareness, invite us to communicate, think and feel deeply and find cultural relevance. Sometimes that means we have to thoughtfully engage to appreciate and even defend why we dislike an artist’s work. And sometimes we can walk away with the same feelings before we truly assessed what we were seeing. Taking the time to understand why we like or dislike something is a component of social responsibility and art can lead us in the direction of increasing our social awareness. How cool is that?
And sometimes we are given a gift and are invited to enter a carefully curated environment that not only informs us of the artist’s intentions but also dares us to crawl into his heart, mind and soul and experience the narrative imbedded in the work. We are allowed to come in close and see the work from his perspective. For those of you who missed the opening reception of The Kingdom of Ashes and Soot, I strongly encourage you to come down and see Ryan McCarthy’s solo show at B&M before we close at the end of the month. The work is beautiful, haunting, and moving. This is a show not to be missed.
Recently, Ryan and I made a decision to close our Grand Street gallery, studio and arts education center, otherwise known as B&M Fine Art Studios. It was not an easy decision but an important one in order for us to contemplate the best direction for B&M to continue…which we are in the process of doing.
It had recently become apparent to us, that in order to sustain what we had started, we needed to return to basics. To say that we are enthusiastic about engaging everyone we meet, in some form or another, in discussing, viewing, creating and distributing art is an understatement. We essentially want all art all the time for everyone, which is a little tricky for two artists that also happen to be full-time art educators. Admittedly, in our enthusiasm, we were starting to spread ourselves a little thin. And so striping away the extraneous and returning to basics was the first of many decisions. Immersion into studio practice and reevaluating what was feasible and what was important to the future of B&M Fine Art Studios was in order.
Yes, we are far from finished. In fact, we are pretty excited about some of the things that we are preparing to embark on. While October will be our last month at Grand Street, we will continue to be delivering opportunities for engagement in the arts. We will hold a screening for the new season of Art 21 artist series (date to be announced) and our final show will be of Ryan’s newest work, The Kingdom of Ashes and Soot. The opening reception for this very special event will be on Saturday October 18th, from 7-9pm. I promise, you will not want to miss this one.
This month we are showing three new artists in two separate shows. Both shows feature photographers and while one artist works in black and white, and the other two are showing their work in color, there is an eerie quality that draws a connection between the two shows.
The first artist, Lorna Stovall, will be showing CU20$: the Salton Sea Series. Her work in this series is of the decrepit Salton Sea area in the Southern California desert. She has used infrared film and caught the stillness and decay of the putrid water that is clogged with the skeletons of dead fish…and yet somehow, her work captures the beautiful stark and unapologetic return to nature of this failed man-made oasis.
The second show, Otherworldly, features the very colorful work of Bil Laschke and Joe Mays. Bil’s work is bright and colorful and gives us a macro view of plant life, a human face and a landscape that depicts the contrast of a man-made environment and a billowing sky…all are ultra bright a-typical colors. It’s brilliant. Joe Mays is showing us two separate figures against a black background. They both have projections of different light and color and the effect almost seems as though the bodies are actually landscapes. The result of both of these artists works is well, otherworldly in my opinion.
Definitely come and check these two shows out. CU20$: the Salton Sea Series opens on September 16th from 6-8 pm and Otherworldly opens on September 23rd from 6-8pm. Both shows run through October 11th. We are B&M Fine Art Studios, located at 332 Grand Street, New York, NY.
One of the most exciting things that happened this summer, was creating a body of collaborative art works for the show, 4daPeeps. We learned a lot about permission, acceptance and trust. All pretty important stuff.
Something else that is important and not lost on us is our core of support. We are fortunate in that so many of our friends, family and fans have attended or participated with enthusiasm, our openings, education events, film screenings and TASK events. Even our peeps who live far away and cannot attend in person, do so in spirit and kind words of encouragement. So as a thank you to everyone who has stuck by us and as an invitation to those who have not yet visited the studio/gallery, we share with you the images of the collaborative works of 4daPeeps, an unusually affordable art show. We will also be featuring the work of Alfonso Kellenberger, Frank G. Oswald, Amelia Calsi, and Tara Sheppard as well as other work by Ryan and myself. Please join us on Saturday, the 23rd of August from 5-8 pm at B&M Fine Art Studios 332 Grand Street, New York, NY.
This has been a tough blog entry to write, which may explain why I have procrastinated posting it.
Matt Garza, our incredibly brilliant and passionately driven, highly energetic and very positive minded Educational Coordinator is leaving to move on to new opportunities. He is the kind of person that I have no doubt in my mind, that many many doors will open for as he moves on in his journey toward bigger and better things.
Matt set B&M on a course of implementing so many wonderfully thought out young and adult artist classes and events for which we will be ever grateful. Matt has been such an inspiring educator to collaborate with on so many projects. He also introduced us to so many wonderful educators that did youth workshops with us. Did I mention how much he will be missed?
We wish him well in his new position. Matt Garza is a friend for life and should he find himself back in NYC and wanting to coordinate an impromptu TASK Party, we hope that he knows that he will always have a home with us.
Matt Garza, Education Coordinator
We have been busy at B&M with all sorts of new and unexpected things. While we have been adjusting to switching gears from being full time teachers, back to full time artists, we are also using this lovely summer break to ponder new ways to utilize the space and engage our greater community in the arts while also are finalizing details for new shows going up. In addition, we have been hard at work, challenging ourselves and stepping outside of our comfort zone as we prepare some special collaborative work that we will be sharing with you all in the near future.
This Sunday, July 13th, B&M will be closed to the public as we are pleased and honored to be hosting a private event for the alumni of the ART21 Educator program. The program offers educators from varying disciplines, an amazing opportunity to participate in a year long professional development and ultimately become a member of a network of brilliant, inspired and thoughtful educators. For more information about ART21 and the ART21 Educator program, please visit http://www.art21.org.
ART21 Educators working on a concept based fashion show.
The image that you see here, is of Loi Kratong #4 and a site specific installation. This evening we will be having a closing party for New York artist, Feargal Doyle. If you haven’t had a chance o see his work in this show, I urge you to be spontaneous, revel in flexibility and change whatever plans you have in place and come join us at B&M Fine Art Studios as we continue to celebrate this artist’s work!