Spacious. Accommodating. Appointed. These are a few descriptors one typically hopes for when searching for a new abode, descriptors applicable to the new digs at BRIC Arts / Media House (647 Fulton Street). Marking the return of what was formerly known as the BRIC Rotunda Gallery to its original environs of Downtown Brooklyn, BRIC Arts / Media House is now located within the historic 1919 Strand Theater, a building originally used as a vaudeville playhouse. It boasts 40,000 square feet of inviting space, including a 3,000 sq. ft. sun-filled art gallery, a performance theater, a media lab, an indoor café (manned by local Stumptown coffee pushers, Hungry Ghost), and it’s own public access television studios. Impressive moves indeed.
The inaugural art show, adroitly curated by BRIC Director of Contemporary Art Elizabeth Ferrer, is appropriately entitled “Housewarming: Notions of Home from the Center of the Universe” (through Dec 15th) and features 12 artists, working in a variety of media. Entering above the gallery, the BRIC visitor descends several steps of a large interior amphitheater (that one assumes will come in handy for public lectures and artist talks) to get down into the space. This dramatic entry works well for the large diptych that hovers center gallery like a UFO. Twin wood supports, painted slate blue and brown, proffer massive silverpoint and white ground drawings of concave, coliseum type forms, that seem composed of either white concrete or flocks of conjoined, origami cranes. Entitled, “Corpus Pianeta / Planeta Corpo” by Nathan Wasserbauer, this work gravitationally asserts itself base camp for the remaining explorations.
Nearby, a Truit-like plywood monolith seems impossibly held up by a thin, black stick. This intriguing hollow form also displays a small paper drawing of elegantly stacked wood slats and beams. Artist Esperanza Mayobre entitles the work, “Hueco, Palo, Bloque (Hollow, Stick, Block)” which seems to allude both to the solidity/fragility of shelter and the transience/permanence of human ideas of “the home”.
Seeming to embody the phrase, “home is where the heart is”, artist Keisha Scarville exhibits five large-scale black and white photographs of disembodied hands, feet and curious small objects, including toy animals, rocks, and salt. Culled from her “i am here” series, the images are said to be meditations on Guyanese cultural ritual and personal memory. It is through the artists sure handling of the photographic medium however, that these concerns move from the specific to the universal. Burned edges of a photograph against skin, deep focus on texture including wood grain and linen, and quiet lighting throughout make this series one of the strongest within the show, sharply bringing to mind our spirit’s home; the corporeal shell we take with us everyday.
Other strong showings include an interior scene by Nigerian born artist Njideka Akunyili, in which family photographs, cultural artifact and household objects collide in a domestic tableau that intriguingly conflates personal and cultural imagery with issues of origin and legacy. Tasmanian-born Garry Nichols offers fantastical weathervanes and paintings of figures, ships, and gargoyles that reference passage, exile, and adventure. Lastly, the BRIC Project Room hosts a collaborative work by Katarina Jerinic and Chad Stayrook, wherein they traverse all 5 boroughs of New York, visiting every street that has the word “Summit” in it’s name (10 in all) documenting their trip visually (with detritus and samples from various sites) in ways that allude alternately to orientation, American Expansionism, exploration, and borders.
The selections within “Housewarming” are fairly diverse, not only in media but especially in relation to its theme. While this variety illuminates and fleshes out the premise within the show, one can’t help but also see this as foreshadowing the diversity of programming and depth of offering we can continue to expect from BRIC; a promise it’s new home seems tailor made to facilitate.