Curated by Kathleen Gilrain
Gretchen Bennett, Ellen Driscoll, Rebecca Graves, Lisa Hein, Elana Herzog, Drew Shiflett, and Jean Shin, and Brian Ripel
April 19 to June 1, 2003
Artists are invited to make site-specific projects that respond to the unusual architecture and history of Smack Mellon's beautiful 19th century building.
Upon entering the gallery one will be welcomed by Jean Shin & Brian Ripel's Glass Block, a wall of glass bottles that fills the opening to the main gallery. Find your way around the wall of glass and into the gallery, where the piece glows as the light from the opening fills the empty bottles.
At the top of the stairs, on the balcony, Gretchen Bennett's collected stickers crawl the brick wall. She creates "a paper trail of cracked roads, an accretion of paper cairns, gathered, then revived as a sticky web, reframed as mimetic wallpaper, phrased from stranger's leaves and logos." As she winds her way through her Brooklyn neighborhood she "retrieves the left stickers, markers of territory and wandering, then brings them inside to form an interior map, a facade of home."
On the balcony Rebecca Graves presents two works, one of peace and one of war.
A large scale mural uses images of desert camouflage, Islamic patterning and Miss America to investigate President Bush's decision to wage war on Iraq. In the small room behind this mural Graves presents a video work that evokes a great sense of peace. The artist, who spends each winter working on a ship, has filmed the ocean from her porthole window and projects the hypnotizing image of the sea as seen from the safety of a large vessel.
Downstairs in the main gallery Drew Schiflett responds to the varied textured surfaces of the gallery walls and structure. Her wall reliefs are abstract in nature but reference landscape, architecture and textiles. Handmade paper, cheesecloth, styrofoam and polyester stuffing are used in a cumulative process of layering and building linear and planar forms to create textured, translucent surfaces.
Centered below the two girders in the main space, Ellen Driscoll's 18' long featherweight girder, held by two 8' wooden rings, acts in conversation with the structural girders which reinforce the Smack Mellon ceiling. "The rings, wheel-like, appear to be caught in the act of moving the girder. The girder itself, made of light, stiff, translucent cloth, creates a ghost image of what is above, rendering in the intimate materials of dressmaking, an industrial 19th century architecture. The entire image conjures the idea that the architecture has shed its own skin, and undergone transformation from its past to its present--as a metaphor for the more intimate changes of the body."
Lisa Hein's "irrational ductwork system connects the gallery's skylights to its darkest corner. Flowing down from 40' ceilings, SunGutter roves like a curatorial eye. How far can we range and still be connected? SunGutter is a process of gathering and distillation whose end we see first and beginnings last."
In the front gallery Elana Herzog's carpets are embedded in the existing walls. "Carpet and tapestry are an extremely widespread form of material culture, whose uses range from providing comfort, to symbolizing wealth, to telling stories, to religious practices. Oriental carpets originate as highly specific cultural artifacts that have been produced largely for export and distributed in the west, and on such a scale as to be almost ubiquitous. These carpets, which vary so dramatically in quality and condition, are to be found in every imaginable corner of our society, from the garbage heap to the museum, and of course, at Wal-Mart. They run the gamut of production and use values, employ various technologies and embody a range of motivations, from spiritual to economic. They form a kind of cultural currency, which migrates demographically and temporally, as well as geographically."