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A certain type of magic is the best way to describe Mary Temple's and Liza McConnell's new installations premiering at Smack Mellon on September 30th. These two Brooklyn artists employ the subtle use of light and shadow in work that dances around the idea of perception making one wonder what might or might not really be there. Despite their shared sensibilities – they both create illusions albeit using completely different mediums – and the elegant paring of these two solo shows in Smack Mellon's colossal new space, these two artist's work couldn't be more opposite.

Using a low-tech arrangement of lights, lenses and ordinary objects, Liza McConnell creates virtual environments without recourse to digital technology and powerful projectors. Mysterious, yet familiar landscapes emanate from strange, glowing assemblages and rudimentary mechanisms. Liza transforms the mundane into the magical using no recorded film or pixels.

Mary Temple's fake shadows of a non-existent world have a verisimilitude that is uncanny. She makes strikingly exquisite wall paintings that function as installation. Mary creates the shadows of an exterior world, painted directly on the interior walls of the space, as if bright sunlight is casting late afternoon shadows through a landscape that is not there. Mary will create a site-specific painting on our 24-foot high by 60-foot long wall.

These new pieces are being created for Smack Mellon's newly renovated “boiler building” – the original steam generation power plant for the neighborhood in the 1800's – an imposing, monumental industrial space. It has been left purposefully raw to allow artists the greatest freedom of movement. Situated between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges across the street from the waterfront Brooklyn Bridge Park, if you haven't seen the NEW Smack Mellon yet, Liza and Mary's show is the reason to get down to Dumbo. Liza McConnell and Mary Temple will be the fifth exhibition since the inauguration last fall of Smack Mellon's new home.


Mary Temple
The Forest for the Sea

“Walking through the streets of DUMBO one is acutely aware of being near the water's edge. The looming bridges prompt the association, of course, and the air moves like it's near water…a light breeze stirs it. Still, beyond those reminders, one just senses the water. It is signified by glittery light in the distance, as one looks out the large picture window of Smack Mellon's front gallery.  Inside the exhibition space is a forest of columns that separate ceiling from floor. Standing in this room I wondered if it would be possible to provide the columns with a canopy of leaves and to trade the sense of sparkly blue for shady and cool.

 In The Forest for the Sea I want to alter the perception of the gallery environment by engaging the viewer's memory, specifically past experiences of light intersecting space. By utilizing trompe l'oeil painting, I aim to convince the viewer that a painted image is in reality light from a northern window and silhouettes from a stand of trees. As viewers begin to solve the visual puzzle and understand the reality of the environment, they are often surprised that they were taken in by a simple illusion¾that their senses were so untrustworthy. By undermining something as basic as perceptual faith, I mean to address the vulnerability of firmly held beliefs.”

Mary Temple has recently had one person exhibitions at Mixed Greens, Aldrich Museum, Martin Museum of Art, Baylor University, and Arts Club of Washington. Her work has been included in exhibitions at Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University, The Jewish Museum, SculptureCenter, Artenova-Fuoriuso, Lungomare sud, Pescara, Italy, Berkshire Museum, University Art Museum, U of Albany, and Feigen Contemporary. Mary Temple is the 2006 recipient of the Lily Auchincloss Fellowship in Painting from the New York Foundation for the Arts.


Liza McConnell

“Compound uses an optical principle similar to that of a camera obscura: an image is projected in real-time via small apertures and simple lenses. But unlike a camera obscura, the illusion does not emanate from the world outside, but is the coinciding effect of carefully arranged, simply contrived materials and the viewers‚ inclination to perceive a landscape or spatial realm where one is implied.”

Liza McConnell has been an artist-in-residence at several organizations across the United States, including the Sculpture Space, The Mattress Factory, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, The Headlands Center for the Arts, Smack Mellon Studios, Triangle Arts Association, CUE Art Foundation and the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Recently her work has been exhibited at The Drawing Center, Mattress Factory, Bronx Museum, The Berkshire Museum, D.U.M.B.O. Arts Center, The Islip Art Musuem Carriage House, The Bronx Museum and the Kunstverein Langenhagen, Germany. 

This fall, Liza's work will be part of an exhibition called Substance and Light: 10 Sculptors Use Cameras at the Munson Williams Proctor Institute in Utica, NY. 


This exhibition is made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and with generous support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Greenwall Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Eve Sussman and Smack Mellon’s Members. Smack Mellon also receives generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Council Member David Yassky and the New York City Council, Bloomberg, Brooklyn Arts Council JPMorgan Chase Regrant Program, Fifth Floor Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Goldman, Sachs & Co., The Greenwich Collection Ltd., Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Independence Community Foundation, Jean and Louis Dreyfus Foundation, Inc., Judith and Donald Rechler Foundation Inc., Lily Auchincloss Foundation Inc., Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation Inc., The New York Community Trust, The Pinkerton Foundation, The Robert Lehman Foundation, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Inc., The Starry Night Fund of Tides Foundation, The Roy and Niuta Titus Foundation, Inc., and William Talbott Hillman Foundation.


Space for Smack Mellon’s programs is generously provided by the Walentas Family and Two Trees Management.