Article by Caresse Singh.
It’s been peculiarly warm this Fall, and opting to take advantage of the weather some Sundays past I visited the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition (http://www.bwac.org/). It’s a charming two floor gallery space located on the waterfront of Red Hook, Brooklyn. It’s a bit of a journey on foot, but with a beautiful pier and park nearby, as well as Fairway’s food court in case you get hungry, it’s not quite as daunting a trip as it might seem. Little fun fact: one of the first seasons of MTV’s “The Real World” as well as a scene in a recent episode of “Bored to Death,” was shot in that very area!
What’s particularly interesting about BWAC (as its’ endearingly called by artists who know of it) is that it houses all types of artwork: from sculptures to comic strips, illustrations to graphic design. I visited during regular gallery hours, but often, they have wine and cheese receptions during exhibition nights (typically Saturdays.) The gallery is not-for-profit and is operated by the very artists who have their work on display. Artists can sell or auction their work. BWAC is a definite source of eye-candy, displaying concepts, designs, palettes and techniques that would lend itself well to animation.
An instant favorite of mine was Carlos Mateu. Mateu’s series of fruits is some of the first images you’ll see upon entering the gallery. The highly saturated color evokes the juiciness of the fruits. Though the images are centered and perhaps less exciting because of it, the directness of the positioning forces viewers to examine the detail – and it is in the details that Mateu’s skill for design presents itself. I especially enjoyed the kiwi – the fractal quality of it reminds me of exquisite vector art.
Moving much further into the gallery, we are presented again with another series of Mateu paintings. This time the subject matter is birds. The series continues to demonstrate Matteu’s beautiful illustration style that boarders between cartoon and realism. The accentuated angular shapes used to portray rather organic subjects lends the pieces a graffiti sensibility.
To cater to the hippie inside you, Rusty Brockman’s mixed media “Casino” is an epic, large, psychedelic piece plush with layers, and almost overwhelming design. What I enjoy about the piece that gets lost in this thumbnail of an example, is that the detailing of the background is incorporated in the more simple faces of the foreground, except instead of with color, it’s with layers of protruding shapes. By weaving these raised levels as a thread of commonality, Brockman is able to demonstrate that simplicity does not need to be minimalist by necessity. Complexity of design, though sometimes looked down upon by the more “educated artist” can be engaging if executed intelligently, in this case: by separating context from technique.
Kathryn Pierce’s oil painting “Day 5 Part 1” uses a candy colored combination for the repeated shape of a school of fish involved in a surreal migration. Painted on top of waves reminiscent of Chinese landscape paintings, Pierce injects a more modern style into a customary type of painting. With the intertwining of the contour lines, Pierce also makes bad tangents work for her, a further demonstration of her rebellion against tradition.
For those of you more fixated on the human figure, Hope Ricciardi’s “Red Nails II” is a skillful oil painting of a more…voluptuous woman, in all her round glory. The red nails serve as a centerpiece not just for the image but also as a base color for the entire piece. It reminds me of what that love interest to Bruce Willis’s character in “Pulp Fiction” said while rubbing her slightly extruding belly – “why is it that what is so attractive to touch [and in this case, paint] is considered unattractive?” As I rub my own beer belly, I wonder the same thing.
A series of panels from a graphic novel also made it into the gallery. I only caught the last name: “Cherry” but the artist wields an identifiable style. The use of negative space, shapes and a mastered sense of tonality make these pages stand out. It would be great to see something like this in motion.
Other forms of comics also stood out amongst the fine art. John Tebeau’s large, colorful comic-styled painting, is reminiscent of old comic strips.
Clever combinations of shapes and colors were not exclusively found in the flat paintings. The sculptures, mixed media art, and mosaics were also among some of the most thought provoking pieces displayed at the gallery.
Steve Riley’s display demonstrated form of human shape as juxtaposed with highly textured and abstract sculptures. The sculptures are deconstructed versions of the paintings, as though the paintings were pushed into some sort of machine and the bottom row of sculptures emerged.
In honor of Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster, a mosaic with emerging and adorable characters makes me wonder why more mosaic based animation has not been created as there is much room for interesting visual play with the medium. How cute would it be to see these screaming mosaic-people really moving along a mosaic roller coaster with mosaic clouds undulating across a mosaic sky?
Another standout piece was “Dragon Lady” an emerging sculpture by Larry Scaturro that was tattooed by Sandy Forest.
Speaking of tattoos, Frank DePalma’s tattooed pig skin was an amazing display of imagery and craftsmanship. Each image was tattooed on pigskin then stretched and mounted onto wood.
The innovative and inventive work at BWAC is most definitely worth the trip. Mateu’s work alone has put me on a painting binge. There were so many more pieces I would love to talk about, but I’ve already reached 4 pages. I urge you to take a look for yourself and consider perhaps submitting to the gallery. If nothing else, it is a gold mine of ideas, a demonstration of good (and some bad) execution and techniques all expertly hung in a beautiful and inspiring space.