New York: Precisely because a big shot Real Estate mogul is positioned for America’s next president, it is a good time to reflect on the meaning, place and power of Real Estate development. An exhibition GUT REHAB does just that! The show, ironically, is held in a working realtor’s office (!) called Realty Collective, in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The show uses it’s bourgeoning Red Hook neighborhood as a fish bowl to examine the dynamics of spatial occupation, not just in New York city, but globally, beyond national and international lines. Artists, of cross disciplines, were given the words: Air Rights-Colonies-Co-ops-Development-Drones-Food-Fronts and Backs-Garbage-Gentrification-Grocery stores-Habitat-Landscape-Maps-Migration-Occupation-Parks-Public-Private-Racial Isolationism-Real Estate Legistration-Redaction-Schools-Sculpture-Sidewalks-Stoops-Sustainability-Territorial….. to creatively riff on. The project includes an ongoing exhibition of artworks, as well as events, performances and it’s very own newspaper.
The exhibit is the brainchild of Rachel Owens, an artist who has lived in the Red Hook Brooklyn neighborhood for many years. She has seen this location, which in 1990 was listed as the most dangerous neighborhood in ALL of America, to a place where, merely 25 years latter, multi million dollar townhouses are being built and sold even before the construction is completed. The Real Estate office ‘Realty Collective’’ which is hosting the GUT REHAB show is also listing same such properties. Realty Collective’s website touts “At Realty Collective we believe Brooklyn is the greatest place to live, to create, and grow.” As someone who lives in Brooklyn, I whole-heartedly agree. I love living in Brooklyn because of it’s home grown ethnic and economic diversity. “This land is my land, this land is your land…this land was made for you and me”. I applaud the Realty Collective office to both develop the Red Hook area and simultaneously support the artists who are living within its borders. If you think about it, Artists have always been inadvertently complicit in the gentrification of negligible neighborhoods. The artists and galleries are often the first colonizers. Once artists move into a neighborhood they make it cool. Presently, Red Hook is a very mixed use area and finger’s crossed it retains it’s quaint, funky, mom and pop shop charm where artists can continue to afford to live, as the surroundings blossom and begin to welcome the upper echelon into it’s fold. After all, the new tony owners will be the ones buying the art the artists make. I am a firm believer that the glass of water is always both half empty and half full.
The first artwork you see upon entering – is by Rachel Owens called ‘All of Brooklyn From Gowanus to Coney Island’. She made this piece for this show. It is a stunning glass menagerie reproducing (in broken glass and resin) the 7 objects the Dutch West India Trading Company paid the Nyack Indians for this afore mentioned region of Brooklyn. The objects the colonists traded and which Ms Owens singularly depicted here are: 6 Coats, 6 kettles, 6 small looking glasses, 6 axes, 6 chisels, 12 knives, and 12 combs. She also includes, in her signature glass sculptural style, seashells and bricks. The seashells, she says, represent abandoned housing (clever!) The bricks were cast in glass from actual bricks that were taken from demolished manufacturing buildings in Red Hook. While the glass objects are meaningful they are also beautiful to look at, and look through!
Less visually appealing, but equally conceptual, are the framed letters received by Red Hook resident and artist Richard Fleming. His piece ‘Collected Letters’ are examples from his extensive collection of Real Estate junk mail. The works exhibited are specifically unsolicited letters he has received in the years since 2003, when he became a homeowner. The letters are seductive inquiries about selling his home. While fascinating to read, the letters are also relevant to recent history. Red Hook is on the water and was hard hit during the super storm Sandy. Post Sandy, developers bought out desperate homeowners in deals that mimic the one the Dutch pulled off initially in Red Hook.
On a less local and more global scale, are the 3D printed sculptures by artist Art Jones. The artist recorded ambient sounds in what he calls ‘De-gentrified Zones’ around the city. He fed these audio files into a 3-D printer creating what are titled urban futurist architecture. Jones says, “ the responsibility of the artist in the midst of this reality is to document that which is, but soon may no longer be”. HIs display also includes a building he lived beside while he was on a US State Department artist residency in Pakistan. Mr Jones was ultimately removed from the residency after being identified as American and threatened by local gangs. What does that say about land, ownership, territory, habitation and so forth! On the subject of ownership, young artist, Jennifer Dawson offers 4 stacks of (hand signed on the back) postcards to take with you. The images on them are selfies she took of herself cradling artworks by Giacometti, Nevelson, Bourgois, and Belmer. Apparently, the artist is employed as a personal assistant to an art collector. In her accompanying artist statement she says” I claim their collection as my own. Millions of dollars held in my bare hands.” Hmmmm
The show also has a few video works (but of course). One is an animation by Tricia McLaughlin, where she uses a 1917 speech by Emma Goldman on ‘Patriotism’ called ‘A Menace to Liberty’. McLaughlin uses red and blue animated apes to relay the sentiment that Goldman espoused back then claiming Patriotism is a tool to self promote and make monetary gain. I won’t state the obvious here in reference to the current political situation. I will segue though into a piece I didn’t see but absolutely love. I saw an image of the artwork on the cover of the exhibition’s newspaper. It is called ‘The Trump Hut’. It is an actual livable wigwam crafted out of Mexican straw into the shape of Donald Trump’s hair. The artists are Douglas Cameron, of Canada, Tommy Noonan, from USA and Roxana Casillas from Mexico. The materials are Wood, Oaxaca Straw, Luxury Hotel Rug, Solar Powered Decorative Lights, Ikea Stools and Champagne Cooler. The hut is too big to fit through Realty Collective’s front door but the hut was positioned out front on the sidewalk for the opening of the show. ‘The Trump Hut ‘ will be transported and used by protesters during the upcoming Republican National Convention. In keeping with today’s Republican zeitgeist from it’s star Real Estate presidential nominee, the artists are providing ‘The Trump Hut ‘because “it brings luxury to protesting and commands respect’
Words: Lizanne Merrill ©Artlyst 2016