A Tale of Two Summer Art Openings

Bushwick and Chelsea go head to head; whoever has more free beer usually wins

So let's take a quick look at a classic social ritual—because, as you know, these openings are never really about the art—over one hot July weekend (a weekend that, alas, will largely be remembered for the ridiculousness that was McCarren Park Pool's MGMT show). Exhibit A takes place in Chelsea's established scene; Exhibit B in Bushwick's burgeoning one.

Exhibit A

What: Exit Art's opening reception for Summer Mixtape Volume 1: The Get Smart Edition, which taps into the idea of the mixtape as a time-tested form of expression, yet one that still represents the counterculture—from the clumsy originals created as love letters and mood-setters to their current appropriation as party set lists and hip-hop outlets. The curators looked back through calls for submissions, hit up other curators and artists for recommendations, visited dozens of studios, and saw hundreds of shows before deciding on the chosen 27 New York–based artists. The result is a collection of drawing, painting, sculpture, and video that attempts to visualize the spirit of the mixtape: personality, connection, and nostalgia.

When and Where: Thursday night from 7 to 10—Chelsea's anointed time frame—at Exit Art, founded 25 years ago as a pioneering alternative art space and now serving as a respected name for emerging artists.

Who: Take nearly 30 local artists (many of them young, many of them connected, and some of them highly attractive) and add their friends, family, and fans—plus anyone else who wants a piece of the action, a piece of the artists, or a free beer. Place was a madhouse.

Standout Work: I like a lot of the artists included in this show, but I was particularly looking forward to the works by Martin Basher, a recent Columbia grad whose eerie paintings and installations are troubling and energetic; Rosemarie Podovano, whose sculptures and photographs probe beauty, intimacy, and spirituality; and Kalup Linzy, a video and performance artist who often creates multi-character narratives—and plays all the parts himself. They didn't disappoint.

The Scene: The show featured a jukebox programmed specifically for the exhibition (think Journey, Radiohead, etc.) and cover art produced by the show's artists. Attendees sported their best it-takes-three-hours-to-look-this-effortless ensembles—if Brooklyn scenesters look as though their clothes all came from Beacon's Closet, Manhattan scenesters look as though theirs came from Sarah Jessica Parker's. Thing is, though, that openings at Exit Art can either end at just the right time—you're buzzed and ready to go out—or way too early. Like if you met someone. Someone cute with whom there was an awkward goodbye. Which totally happened to my friend.

Added Bonus: A Summer Mixtape jukebox listening party this Friday, with "sonic contributions" by exhibition artist Corey D'Augustine and beloved Brooklyn noise band Knyfe Hyts; "Analog Cine Mix," a night of 16mm film inspired by summer fun, on August 13; and the closing party on August 29, with music curated by the guests (bring your iPod). For more information, contact the gallery at 212-966-7745 or ExitArt.org.

Exhibit B

What: Opening reception and auction for Good Wood 2008: Give Back, a Detroit-based art show of custom skate decks (40 traveled from Detroit, with an additional 10 provided by N.Y. artists), sold to support Stoked Mentoring, an organization that mentors teens through action sports. Brooklyn-based skateboarder and artist Bobby Puleo showcased his collection of treasures gathered on the streets of New York; additionally, Josh Stewart screened a series of his skating video shorts.

When and Where: Saturday night from 7 to midnight at Bushwick's mega-art space 3rd Ward, which that night was also co-hosting Dubai: Brooklyn—12 hours of party, from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m.—at a 14,000-square-foot knit loft down the street. We considered stopping in. Briefly.

Who: Sk8r bois OMG!

Standout Work: There were some stinkers. But there were also some nice pieces by Leo Espinosa, Dave Flaughter, and Ryan Katrina of Neuarmy—and I loved Pat Miller's submission, graphically spotted with sloppy pink cupcakes. See the entire collection at Behance.org; you can also bid on any decks that didn't sell. (If interested, check with Nikki Bagli at 718-715-4961 or gallery@3rdward.com.)

The Scene: A homemade photo booth and hotdog stand evoked the original show's Midwestern sensibility, while DJ Brion Isaacs (of 33Hz and ShindigNYC) spun hipster remixes for the beer-swillers still dancing at midnight, of whom there were plenty (particularly one memorable couple dominating the dance floor—she, ponytailed and in purple; he, his body alternately horizontal, vertical, and every angle between. Those kids had moves). Summer Mixtape was fun in a nervous-giggle kind of way, but Good Wood, like most openings at 3rd Ward, was sort of like a high-ceilinged house party, where each room had an entirely different atmosphere and set of possibilities.

Added Bonus: Just as we were leaving, a gaggle of twentysomething boys descended upon a sidewalk pile of long cardboard tubes and declared war, whooping and swinging them overhead like helicopter propellers, spilling onto the dark, otherwise abandoned street. This would never happen in Manhattan; there isn't room. Also, AllDayBuffet.org (which co-sponsored the show) posted an interview with curator Andrew Davis that received two comments—one each from Davis's grandparents and parents. From the latter: "Some people talk and some really do make it happen. You're making it happen. Good luck. Nice job. Missing you in Detroit. Love, Mom and Dad." If that's actually from Mr. and Mrs. Davis—and why wouldn't it be?—can we agree that it's pretty much the cutest thing of all time?

 
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