Proving the theory true that "if you build it, they will come," the double opening of Brooklyn Artillery and the brand-new Castle Braid complex this Saturday drew a sizeable crowd of all ages. Judging by some quick queries, it was a mix of potential renters, art lovers, and rubber-neckers, with at least one couple having come from the far-flung Upper East Side (!).
While workers had still been pouring the concrete floors of the complex last Tuesday, four days later what the public was privy to looked slick and finished. Filled with people for the first time, the art event functioned as a dress rehearsal for what the Castle Braid might look like inhabited. From any vantage point the entry-way felt like a fish-bowl for social interaction. With a grand descending staircase that announces each guest, a glassed in gym at its rear, floor-to-ceiling windows that incorporate the courtyard, and a second-floor balcony overlooking it, the foyer alone allows infinite possibilities for voyeurism.
Guests lingered at the reception desk and then wandered through the halls, where every third apartment or so was filled with art supplied by a group of mostly Williamsburg-based galleries. As the evening wore on, the free wine offered by the gallerists and the vernissage etiquette was replaced by free beer that came from a cooler somewhere and an emboldened crowd who came to hear their friends' bands perform. The extended, atmospheric compositions of the Brooklyn-based (The) Slowest Runner (In All the World) stood out. Around 10 pm, catty-corner to the complex, one could see a woman in a sparkly dress, visibly intoxicated and leaning out of a stalled taxi cab. "Where's Troutman Street?" she shouted at the dudes hanging out in front of Willy's market. "You're on it!"
Since the majority of the art that installed at the Castle Braid for the next six weeks is for sale or consignment, sculpture, paintings, and photography dominate. At Lumenhouse's spot, the works of Tony Luib and Sara Hubbs make a good pair, since both artists deal with issues of excess, assembling scraps into novel combinations. Luib's fur, caulk, and polymer clay canvases are abject topographies of organic material infected with staph from the future. Sparkly irridescent entrails; are these the unintended results of modern medicine? Opposite Luib's work, Hubbs also wrestles with organic forms, re-configuring the leather pump to create abstract sculptures. On the second floor, a row of delicate breast plates/ necklaces are fit for the runway at Balenciaga.
In room 133, artist Ellie Famutimi gives visitors a licence to root through the bedside tables and dresser drawers of two imaginary characters' bedrooms for her "Snoop Project." A graduate of Tisch at NYU, Famutimi makes work that draws on her double background in theater and visual arts. Around the corner, the artist Billy Hahn channels Maurice Sendak by making a jungle in a bedroom, painting the walls with a psychedellic iconography of deer and jungle plants. Given two days to paint it, Hahn slept on a blow-up mattress at the Castle Braid on Friday night. This Bushwick resident and wild man has been selling his art weekly on Bedford Avenue and North 5th all summer. Stay tuned for his artist profile next week.
In Like the Spice's gallery space, Nora Herting exhibits large-format commercial-style portraits that she took while working at the photo studio of an Ohio J.C. Penney in 2005. Playing with the conventions of photo-studio formats, her works are an uncanny parody of commercial photography. Upstairs, inspired by the great self-help texts, and the work of Ricky Gervais, Ryan Roth deals directly with ideas of career advancement, or even better, failure, making failed altars to aspiring middle-managers. The source material for the acrylic portrait, "Wannabe C.E.O." was a composited Google image search for "C.E.O." or "Lawyer," resulting in an uncanny "everyman." The finishing touch in this pathetic attempt at grandeur are the gaudy faux beaux-arts gilded frame and the bronze plaque reading "Better Luck Next Time."
Other highlights include a group show at Fleetwing Gallery, "Remember Me When Dead." Two Al(l)isons stood out here: Alison Brady and the Chicago-based artist Allison Grant. Both are photographing constructed realities. Brady presents to us a series of surreal characters striking dignified poses, despite the fact that they may be half-beast or have three packages of cooked pasta erupting from their mouths. Grant, on the other hand, uses the same sleight that photographers like James Welling have employed, photographing ready-made materials at a macro level, but presenting them as traditional landscape photographs. In other works, she photographs landscapes she has manipulated herself. In one instance, the pack of white balloons she has tied to an ice float is a surreal disruption of natural scenery.
The far corner room on the second floor, overlooking a flat-fix shop on Troutman, was the perfect venue for Suzanne Stroebe's work. Her scrap wood constructions complement the hodge-podge store-front visible through the window. The sculptures brought to mind the works of other assemblage artists like Phoebe Washburn and Rachel Harrison, but were nonetheless inventive in their own right, selective in their palette, saving the bursts of bright color only for when it seemed necessary. Other crowd-pleasers were the custom flip-books produced by Michael Sheriff. Stop into the Capital B room (an offshoot Chez Bushwick) and Sheriff will film you moving to make a free custom flip-book. Capital B was also showing a cloth map of Bushwick sewn by local artists. Worth mentioning were sort of gooey cartoon cakes and the like by Jose Garcia hanging in the hallways, and at Eye-Level BQE, Malcolm Stuart's pantsuit and matching chaise longue, designed in homage to the great and eccentric Kansas City designer Peggy Noland.
Brooklyn Artillery will run out of the Castle Braid until the end of October, during business hours, every day. Upcoming events include figure drawing on Thursdays at 8 pm, a comedy night, and a haunted castle.