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Friday, June 15, 2012

Artful Neighborhood

Glen Baldridge's sunset display

No big news flash here: the neighborhood around BAM evolves daily. It’s not unusual to notice a missing facade, or a just-opened store, or a sidewalk bridge suddenly sheltering your pathway. But come next week, there will be several new elements around the BAM environs that will be very different and even more thought-provoking than usual—three large-scale art projects and a series of media boxes. The artists in BAMart: Outdoors, part of the institution’s 150th anniversary celebration, were selected by a jury through an open request-for-proposal and application process.

The three large artworks will be on or adjacent to the BAM Harvey Theater. Visitors to that venue are familiar with an open, paved site just to the right of the theater entrance at 651 Fulton Street. There, Timothy Hull and Future Expansion Architects (Nicholas and Deirdre McDermott) will install The Accelerated Ruin. Three foam mesa-topped peaks of gradually ascending height, made of a biodegradable, foam-like substance formed around rebar, comprise the piece. The shapes will erode over the course of an estimated year as the weather takes its toll, revealing the artwork’s skeleton and evoking themes of loss, memory, and transience. Its continuous transformation will engage neighbors and passersby in an experiential and visual give-and-take.

The relatively modest size of the Harvey Theater entrance doesn’t proportionately express the theater’s volume, which extends back and to the right in an extruded, three-dimensional “L.” You can see a large brick expanse that rises a few stories above the nearby apartment building’s gardened entryway off of Ashland Place. On that wall will be Ed Purver’s hyperrealistic, digital rendering of a patch of cloud-strewn blue sky, seen through a large “puncture” in the wall. Purver toys with concepts of the inscrutability of façades and the unknown activity that hides behind walls. This wall in particular is ripe for parsing as it hides the Harvey’s widely varying and ever-changing performances that come to Brooklyn from all over the world.

Glen Baldridge will install on the window elements of the façade of the Harvey (in partnership with 651 Arts) a digital perforated vinyl mural of a blazing sunset. One effect will be to imply an internal energy source, resources for self-perpetuation. It also plays with technological advances in materials used primarily in advertising and the idea of one-way visibility.

"The Accelerated Ruin" by Timothy Hull/Future
Expansion Architects. Photo: courtesy the artists
Who among us hasn’t both praised and cursed the utilitarian newspaper box? While they provide much needed sources of information, they seem to multiply on their own, and quickly become weathered and plastered with stickers. In answer to the quotidian plastic or metal box, five news racks will be created by 10 paired artists (Swoon, Ryan C. Doyle, Gabriel Spector, Leon A. Reid, Adam Void, Gaia, Cost, Revs, Noah Sparkes, and Cassius Fouler). They will be stocked with a revolving series of independent print publications curated by Showpaper. Prototypes display a range of approaches, from surreal to folkloric, but whatever the approach, they’re sure to stand out.

BAM has a history of partnering with visual artists. It features seasonal artists on its BAMbill cover, onstage in performing arts collaborations, in exhibitions and site-specific installations in its many sundry spaces, through the publication of special limited edition portfolios, in its annual silent fundraising auction, and other ways. Indeed, the main Peter Jay Sharp Building at 30 Lafayette Avenue has itself been part and parcel of artworks: from Vik Muniz’s CandyBAM, which deliciously wrapped the under-renovation façade in a digital gingerbread BAM, to Leo Villareal’s wildly popular kinetic LED installation Stars, fabulous bling in the signature arched windows.

And now, BAM extends its art offerings into Fort Greene, where it has been since 1908. Ever since 1987, when the Majestic Theater (now the Harvey Theater) was renovated to house Peter Brooks’ opus, The Mahabharata, the BAM campus has stretched between the poles of its two theaters. This summer will see the opening of a third venue, the BAM Richard B. Fisher Building, at 321 Ashland Place, housing a flexible 250-seat theater; it also features an exhibition space in the lobby area. New art projects will further BAM’s neighborhood connections.

The BAMart: Public projects were chosen by an esteemed jury, which included trustees Donald R. Mullen, Jr. and Danny Simmons; Kalia Brooks, former curator at nearby MoCADA; and Sara Reisman, director of NYC’s Percent for Art. Managed by BAM curator David Harper, projects were reviewed with an eye to degree of visual impact on the neighborhood; artistic merit; and feasibility. So keep your eyes peeled, and they may be rewarded.

Susan Yung (reprinted from the June BAMbill) 

There will be an opening reception on Tuesday, June 19 from 68pm to celebrate the launch and unveiling of BAMart: Public. RSVP on Facebook.

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