Brooklyn Show at the LBI Foundation of Arts and Sciences

By PAT JOHNSON | Aug 02, 2017
Artwork by: Amy Weil ‘Bubble Gum August’ encaustic and collage painting by Amy Weil.

People are particular about their section of Brooklyn, as the crowd at the opening lecture by author William Helmreich proved by asking questions: “How about Flatbush? Did you go to Coney Island? I didn’t hear anything about Dyker Heights.”

“Yes,” answered Helmreich, “I was there, I walked every block of every street in all of Brooklyn, all 816 miles.”

Helmreich is the author of The Brooklyn Nobody Knows: An Urban Walking Guide and also The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City, but it was Brooklyn people who came to hear about and to look at the artworks on exhibit from artists primarily from the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, an up-and-coming neighborhood.

“Many of the 44 neighborhoods in Brooklyn have changed due to gentrification, but some have remained lost in time,” said Helmreich.

His passion for NYC and its boroughs grew out of a game he used to play with his father, starting when he was 7 years old until he was 12. “He would pick a destination, and we would ride the subway to the last stop. Canarsie was the vaudeville line; comedians working the circuit would take this line, and it ended in marshland. It was like the end of the world – that’s where bodies would wash up.

“My father lived to be 102, and he was walking 5 miles a day into his 80s. Walking is the healthiest thing you can do. Walking forces you to slow down. How could I not walk every block? I would miss something.”

Before he started his first book on NYC, Helmreich, a professor of sociology at City College, said he “really wanted to understand the entire 6,048 miles. If I did 30 miles a week, that’s 1,500 miles a year, and so it would take four years. I didn’t want to focus on what everyone else does – Lincoln Center, the museums. I was looking for things nobody sees.”

On Eighth Street, a residential street in Brooklyn, he noticed one brownstone had a sign with Grocery Store over the door. It also had two signs for beers that are no longer sold: Schaefer and Ballantine. What was it doing on a house? He asked a neighbor: “Now nobody in New York wants to talk to you, so I just walk up to them and start speaking.

“I rang the bell and asked the lady, and she told me the father was from Naples and had the store for 20 years and would only leave the brownstone to his children if they left the grocery sign up. But a couple of months later, the grandson was there and he said that was incorrect. They left the sign up because they wanted to be reminded of their grandfather’s immigrant journey, how hard he worked …. So you always have to check your story.”

Helmreich also took all the photos in the book, and he particularly wanted to show the graffiti artists in Fort Greene and Bushwick. “Go to the corner of St. Nicholas and Traffic Street; I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

He had many more oddities to tell about his travels: Harmony Park in Prospect Park, where the playground equipment includes musical instruments; a house on Gorham Street decorated all over with buttons and beads; an advertisement in the Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood featuring two minks talking in Yiddish about how they want to be made into hats; and the “Mushroom or Gingerbread House,” built in an arts and crafts style in Bay Ridge.

Gowanus Canal is being touted as Venice, he said, if you close your eyes and hold your nose, but it is an area that was urban pioneered by artists.

The Brooklyn that photographer Miska Draskoczy has captured is Gowanus, and her strikingly beautiful shots of urban landscapes, filled with trash trees and plastic bags and lit by streetlights or covered in a dusting of snow seep into the heart. “Street Jungle” and “Spring Tangle” remind us of that particular yellow glow of the urban night. She has collected 50 of her photographs in a book, Wild Gowanus, which includes a smattering of her sensitive poems. The book is available at the Foundation.

Artist Abby Goldstein’s large installation of typographic maps of the 44 neighborhoods, “Re-imagining Brooklyn,” have been colorized and domesticated.

Kara Kramer’s “The Order is Beyond Me” has created a three-dimensional, peeling collage much like Parisian poster kiosks. She also creates pieces made of swirling, colorful dots of paper in relief.

Susan Newmark makes multi-layered found-paper collages that have a ghostly narrative, such as “The Adventures of Nancy and the Fox Hunters.”

Landscapes of Brooklyn views by British-born artist Linda Adato are spare and lovely; her aquatint color etchings soften and humanize the architectural imagery. “Brooklyn Bridge” and “Skylight” are just two of them.

Susan Ziegler also finds beauty in the streets by creating mixed media, as in “Shadow Play I and II.”

Three-dimensional works by Ward Yochimoto, “Passion” and “Whoops,” use hardware cloth to create playful words and cages that contain balls or bottles. Tegan Brozyna’s “Flatbush” and “Remnants IV” trap paper shapes in a loom of colored string.

Floating above the Foundation gallery are biomorphic shapes ingeniously made of cable ties; this is the wonderful “Mostly Cloudy” installation by artist Sui Park.

Mary Chang leads the pack in abstract painting with her stunning “Blue Region” and “Interchange.” Amy Weil adds encaustic to her painting surface and serves up “Bubble Gum August,” an abstract to sink your teeth into. Smaller paintings such as “Halcyon Summer” are equally tasty.

This fantastic exhibit took two years to organize and bring to the Foundation by gallery committee Carrol Nussbaum, Melony Fisher, Gunna Mundheim and Daniella Kerner. The exhibit is up only until Aug.14. Don’t miss it – it’s fresh and welcome. 


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