Scaffolding is an architectural feature inherent to New York. ArtBridge, a non-profit organization aims to connect the public with the arts. What better way than to install artwork in the middle of a construction site, on view to the public at all hours of the day? ArtBridge has organized an installation titled Another New York, curated by artist Mickalene Thomas and Jon Feinstein. The works of 15 photographers are on display on the scaffolding around the construction site of the Barclays Center on view through December in Brooklyn. The public installation features the photography of Timothy Briner, Nathan Lee Bush, Maureen Drennan, Adam Frezza, Darren Hall, Curtis Hamilton, Jayson Keeling, Paul Raphaelson, Barry Rosenthal, Niv Rozenberg, Irina Rozovsky, Matthew Schenning, Luke Swenson, Wendy Whitesell and Jason John Würm.
By Devin Mathis, Jon Feinstein, Irina Rozovsky and Jayson Keeling
THE ARTBRIDGE INITIATIVE
Devin Mathis, Director of Operations for ArtBridge: ArtBridge was founded by the artist Rodney Durso. In 2008 he looked up at the massive plywood scaffolding panels shrouding his apartment building and in that moment he saw this construction scaffolding as a giant canvas: a perfect space to exhibit the work of local emerging artists. And with that work—reproduced large-scale and exhibited above the city streets—he hoped it would transform the way we experience new construction, the din of the city, and ultimately, the public realm.
Although construction and development can benefit a community in the long-term, the process itself creates temporary “non-spaces” that often feel uninviting, unsafe and unpleasant, discouraging pedestrian activity and deactivating public space. At ArtBridge we strive to turn barriers to community enlivenment into opportunities for economic and artistic development by transforming these inactive and frequently wholly avoided cultural voids into vibrant, inspirational sites that encourage congregation and interaction. Typically the public responds in shock. What is normally an uninviting, noisy construction site, now has interesting and often beautiful artwork. Passersby stop dead in their tracks, eyes up at the scaffolding, mouth agape, challenged by this art in unexpected public spaces.
At any given time in NYC, there are approximately one million feet of scaffolding erected around construction sites. Many of these building sites remain cultural voids until project completion, but ArtBridge installations act as interventions that harness the power of art to transform them into places that feel welcoming, safe and optimistic. We partner with large and small building owners all over NYC to exhibit the work of our emerging artists community. This is the third exhibition we have installed at the Barclays Center in partnership with Forest City Ratner who has been a major supporter of ours and of the arts in their surrounding neighborhood.
Jon Feinstein, co-curator of Another New York: Mickalene Thomas and I selected the photographers based on an open call for submissions of new photography about New York City. The call for submissions was simple: show us work that breaks the expectations of “New York photography,” and encourages us to look at the city in new and exciting ways. Show us “your” experience of the city. While all of the submissions were submitted digitally, for the selection process we rolled up our sleeves, printed out the images on the floor of Mickalene’s Brooklyn studio and spent an afternoon making selections based on which images we felt told a unique and personal story of New York.
There are a range of styles present in the exhibition, from Irina Rozovsky’s warm, tableaux photographs in Prospect Park, to Barry Rosenthal’s methodically organized pictures of found trash, to Timothy Briner’s dark, black and white pictures that evoke a moody, uncomfortable view of NYC. While we include a range of styles, what I love about much of the work that we selected is the overall sense of calm/ quiet that ties it all together, and what I hope gives viewers a moment to pause amidst the busyness of the city.
Scaffolding is something that is so heavily integrated into the architecture of NYC and using it as an exhibition space directly connects it to the environment, but one that might now not go overlooked as empty billboard space. Since the work in this exhibition is directly tied to NYC–whether it’s Darren Hall’s portraits of everyday New Yorkers, or Nathan Lee Bush’s abstractions of urban ephemera, its relationship to the surrounding landscape is immediately apparent.
Irina Rozovsky: The Barclays Center is just down the street from Prospect Park where I’ve been shooting my project In Plain Air for the last three years. This is the closest the photographs have ever been exhibited to the place they were made and it is thrilling to imagine the people in the photographs stumbling on these life-size versions of themselves in their home town. It also still amazes me how many different pockets of experiences there are in New York, and putting the quiet park images up in the midst of the urban chaos of the Atlantic Terminal emphasizes this strange contrast you see here–distance between places is so small but experience is so different. I liked that so much about the installation–here you are in the middle of noise and traffic looking at photographs that were made so near and yet feel look so far away. I also really liked the array of photographs Jon and Mickalene collected to portray this inexhaustible place. I wish there were more installations like this in NY–fresh and clever and aware of the surroundings.
Jayson Keeling: I produced my contributing image to ArtBridge’s Another New York exhibition, across the street from my home. The project provided me with the perfect opportunity to intimately explore divergent aspects of my community up close. In doing so I had hoped with my piece to embody new myth. One that lives and breathes in sync with the street beat and affects light and weather and circumstance. In many ways this collection of images represents a ritual of sorts one that changes daily, based on where and if people choose to look. In the end, I foresee my piece being well received, partly because it distills and transforms emotional and conceptual concerns with aura and heart into is a symbolic meditation on a community’s aspiration, loss, self-image and ultimately change. I see my contribution as a loving gesture to Brooklyn.
Featured Image: Barry Rosenthal, Forks Knives Spoons