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Brooklyn's Latest Brush With Art

Bushwick Area Is Winning Street Cred With Its Offbeat Venues and Daring Displays


By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Things change in New York City's art world in a matter of moments. Bushwick's moment is coming.
"It's happening fast. There is a whole slew of emerging artists moving to Bushwick," said Sara DeRose, marketing communications director of the Brooklyn Arts Council. "It's the next big place."

Over the past few years, the two-square-mile Brooklyn neighborhood has been attracting visionaries outpriced by neighboring Williamsburg or disillusioned by Chelsea's artiste scene. Studios, galleries and spaces that defy categorization are appearing in former bodegas, 99-cent stores and other non-glamorous structures. The pieces on exhibit are daring, a tad risque and sometimes befuddling. (A mountain of melted plastic? Hmmm.) The art spills outdoors as well, with multi-story murals electrifying drab exteriors and graffiti adorning surfaces that can't defend themselves.

"There is a lot more experimental art here, partially because people don't have the structural constraints where they are trying to keep up with the galleries," says Laura Braslow, an organizer with Arts in Bushwick, a volunteer group that supports local artists and plans community projects. "The Bushwick art scene is not about sipping wine and looking at white walls."

The neighborhood is about 35 minutes from Manhattan by subway. Take the L line to the Morgan Avenue stop; once there, you may have some walking to do. Bushwick's venues are haphazard: Four spots, Ad Hoc Art, Factory Fresh, English Kills and Pocket Utopia, are close to one another, but others require a bit more navigation. In addition, signage can be minimalist to nonexistent, so look for street numbers or ask. The artists may try to bend your mind with their latest works, but they don't bite.

Here is a sampling of Bushwick galleries and places with a creative streak. Be sure to call ahead to check hours, which can be spotty, and upcoming exhibits. For more information, visit BushwickBK.com, a Web site that covers the community, and Arts in Bushwick (http://www.artsinbushwick.org), which also lists events.

· Ad Hoc Art

The art outside imitates the art inside Ad Hoc Art, which specializes in pop surrealism, street art and lowbrow art, among other underground styles. The current exhibit, "In the Language of Angels," focuses on six young female artists' interpretations of pop surrealism (lots of saucer-eyed waifs with cuddly creatures), while in the adjoining Project Space, artist LogikOne taps into such raw nerves as race, sex and violence with cartoonish depictions of a bomb-toting baddie and curvy women in scant clothes. "This is very, very current," says scruffy gallery director Andrew Michael Ford. "We are showing what's coming down the road."

Info: 49 Bogart St., Unit 1G, 718-366-2466, http://www.adhocart.org.

Squished between Ad Hoc and a health-food store, this kick-back coffee shop is filled with people who ooze creativity, if only by way of their unconventional dress code. Find comfort in a cup of java and grilled cheese prepared one of three ways, including the classic yellow American cheese. The back of the shop is a movie rental place, with most flicks organized by director, so you'd best know who made "La Dolce Vita" if you want to watch it.

Info: 49 Bogart St., 718-381-1944.

· English Kills Art Gallery

Owner Chris Harding doesn't care if anyone buys the art; he just wants your attention. "We don't have to stress out about selling stuff from our show," he says. "That's a luxury." To be honest, Harding might be hard-pressed to find someone with enough square footage to fit such behemoth sculptures as, say, Jason Peters's spiral of illuminated plastic buckets that seems to stretch forever, thanks to cleverly placed mirrors. The gallery's works tend toward paintings and massive installations, though, Harding admits, "we are open to anything." Even a procession of plastic buckets.

Info: 114 Forrest St., 718-366-7323, http://www.englishkillsartgallery.com.

· Pocket Utopia

This narrow nook multi-tasks as a showplace, salon, social space and site of an artist-in-residence program. "We try to bang on all eight cylinders in the art world," says Austin Thomas, brightly dressed in purple tights and grayish-blue frames. "For me, this is like an extension of my artwork." The owner-artist explained that her mission is not to show emerging talent or her friends' pieces. She is about ideas -- something to think about, perhaps, while staring at Fred Gutzeit's trippy floor-to-ceiling wall coverings. Or share those thoughts at one of the lectures held in conjunction with each exhibit.

Info: 1037 Flushing Ave., 917-400-3869, http://www.pocketutopia.com.

· Factory Fresh

Friends help friends display their art. That's one reason Ali Ha and Ad Deville opened Factory Fresh. "I own the gallery," said Deville, whose hair hovers like a mushroom cloud. "I'm in the gallery." Fortunately, the two innovators have interesting pals, such as Belgian Gaetane Michaux, who deconstructs her obsession with puzzles, and a coterie of photographers who snapped pictures of abandoned, decaying spaces in New York City. (The next exhibit is a collaboration featuring a seven-foot-tall maze and "street art shaman" Stikman, plus others.) The pair also encourages visitors to express themselves. In the rear courtyard, Deville had no objections when a guest started tagging his cop-car mural.

Info: 1053 Flushing Ave., http://www.factoryfresh.net.

· 3rd Ward

This sprawling structure caters to artists in need -- of radial arm saws, sand blasters, digital media lab stations, etc. But even if you don't have a work in progress, you can still take partake in the 3rd Ward community. The facility organizes a host of events that often incorporate homegrown talent, such as sample sales (one of the residents is a fashion designer); Moviehouse, a showing of local films; and Drink-n-Draw, which involves pencils, paper, a nude model and lots of Pabst Blue Ribbon. "After two beers, everyone gets really comfortable and lets everything hang out," says J. Perelmuter, education coordinator.

Info: 195 Morgan Ave., 718-715-4961, http://www.3rdward.com.

· Northeast Kingdom

At the Northeast Kingdom restaurant, the arts are divided by floors. Upstairs, find the craft of cooking: pork pâté with cornichons, pan-fried squab with crisp pumpkin, orecchiette pasta and French raclette. Downstairs in the DK Lounge, a fireplace-warmed den reminiscent of a Vermont cabin, visitors can attend a variety of cultural activities, such as acoustic performances by local musicians, film noir screenings and Anti-Oxidant Local Artists' Films, an assemblage of videos, films and shorts. And for homey comfort art, settle in with cartoons on the weekend.

Info: 18 Wyckoff Ave., 718-386-3864, http://www.north-eastkingdom.com.

· Goodbye Blue Monday

Hoarders and free-form music lovers will feel at ease at this bar and performance space that is like a flea market with garage acoustics. Steve Trimboli crams his space with objects that were orphaned or salvaged from dead people's homes. Nearly every item on display is for sale: a 5,000-record collection, old cross-country skis, a bionic Venus lamp. Every night, a parade of musicians well known (Vampire Weekend) or unheralded (Captain Ronzo) perform on a stage nearly smothered by stuff. Out back, an artist named Linus welds Dadaesque pieces that become part of the interior design (e.g., the bicycle seat chair at the bar). In addition, starting this month, indie, experimental and classic films will be screened in an annex featuring a wall hanging of plastic baby dolls.

Info: 1087 Broadway, 718-453-6343, http://www.goodbye-blue-monday.com.

· Lumenhouse

Depending on Aurora Robson's needs, Lumenhouse is either her workplace (she builds outsize sculptures made of recyclable bottles) or an exhibit hall for artists on the rise or in mid-career. Robson prefers to focus on one or two individuals at a time, though the current show, "A Grain of Rice," is a thank-you to 14 newbies who spent the summer volunteering for her. Impressively, a piece sold on opening night, but weeks later, Kevin Graham's Post-it note drawing of a red cottage still seeks a buyer. The price: best offer.

Info: 47 Beaver St., 718-942-5395, http://www.lumenhouse.com.


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My god.....culture. Or do the murals merely represent territorial markings, like the way dogs use fire hydrants.


Infidel, have you no regard for the finer things?

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