Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dumbo Books Continues Celebrating the Quasquicentennial: The Brooklyn Bridge Art Show at The City Reliquary, Opening Night & Reception

Last evening Dumbo Books continued our celebration of the Brooklyn Bridge’s quasquicentennial (what those of you who don’t have our massive vocabulary call the 125th anniversary) by attending the opening reception of The City Reliquary Brooklyn Bridge Art Show at the wonderful little storefront museum on Metropolitan Avenue, right near our Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg. In fact, we were able to attend the reception during the hour that our laundry was tumbling in its dryer a few blocks down. How convenient!

A visit to The City Reliquary is always fun because their ever-changing display of exhibits from the permanent collection is on display. In the front gallery, under the remains of the Hebrewish font of the old 2nd Avenue Deli sign, we looked at memorabilia from the 1939-40 World’s Fair (lots of little Trylons and Perispheres), a collection of rare seltzer bottles from various out-of-business companies (our old friend from Marine Park, Ken, still gets seltzer delivered to his fancy East Side co-op from the city’s sole remaining distributor), and a display of classic subway tokens (when very young, we liked to press them into our upper arms and create body art formed by the token’s missing Y in NYC). Spotting a Piels Beer bottle, we fondly recalled the cartoon figures of Bert and Harry and the voices of Bob and Ray.

The back gallery contained the Brooklyn Bridge Art Show, “artistic projects by NYC students, kindergarten through college, that shows historic research into and/or visual exploration of the great Brooklyn Bridge,” and a rear door was kept open for one to climb up and down shaky steps to the outdoor reception, featuring an array of beverages, including our favorite (and Lyndon Johnson’s), Fresca, and snacks courtesy of Utz and Hershey.

Many fascinating people were in attendance, including the dedicated men, women and children who volunteer their time to keep a treasure (seriously!) like The City Reliquary open every weekend for the pleasure of New Yorkers. We had a wonderful time.

Now for our review of the artworks themselves. What makes Dumbo Books qualified to be an art reviewer, you ask? Well, forty years ago we were in Mr. Cohen’s class in Contemporary Art in Midwood High School. We knew who Ad Reinhardt and Franz Kline were before we needed to shave! We had a friend with an actual Jasper Johns bought by his parents in his living room! And we have taught at The School of Visual Arts since 1979, with only a 26-year hiatus from 1980 until 2006. (Try applying for employment at a place where you’d last worked a quarter of a century before and see how far you get before you make fun of us!) Also, we have mooched off famous artists’ colonies like MacDowell, Millay, Ragdale, Ucross and VCCA and lived in close proximity to literally dozens of visual artists.

Okay, okay, we’re not really qualified to do this, but here goes:

The Brooklyn Bridge Art Show is great. The artists, who come from schools like P.S. 116 in Boerum Hill and P.S. 20 in Fort Greene, have done a wonderful job in conveying the beauty and majesty of the great bridge. As a tape from the Ken Burns documentary played on a screen, we got to enjoy an art show in the way we haven’t enjoyed one since attending the Whitney Biennial (free to SVA employees because our school has a corporate membership!) a few weeks ago.

Most of the works were on construction paper, it appeared, or something similar. Oluwatobi Oniyinde’s “The NY Bridge,” a composite of Xeroxed photo and pencilwork, seemed magisterial and a bit ominous, as the words “deadly photo” could be seen on the bridge’s seamy underside. Very edgy!

“The Bridge,” a photo by Dia Sotiropoulou, age 12, had a fascinating long view from the walkway on the Brooklyn side. It’s all black and white except for one figure, a lone boy walking with his back toward the camera, and he’s got on very blue blue jeans and a bright orange hoodie. Since the photo was mounted on orange construction paper, this made for a satisfying arrangement.

Lia Fikaris’ “The Brooklyn Bridge” featured above the structure a smiling yellow-and-orange sun and birds flapping all around in ways that made them all look like cursive V’s. What did the artist mean by that? Lia’s medium is felt pen, and she is very good.

Noelle Fikaris (perhaps a relation to Lia?) featured boats making their way around and under the bridge, all in broad colorful strokes, while Cherokee Williams, employing a broad black crayon, created a work reminiscent of German expressionism, with a close up of the bridge with figures on the walkway postmodernly labeled “Lynn,” “Perran,” and the mysterious “Sciysnngpiate.” The horror! We guess some people share our feelings that the bridge sometimes seems a little scary.

There were a lot of other good works we are not mentioning because they were over our head. We are somewhat deficient in height and couldn’t see the art well enough to review it properly but it looked good from what we could tell, with a number taking on a Spider-Man motif, adeptly juxtaposing the superhero’s famous webs and the spidery cables of the bridge.

Of the lower-positioned (eye-level) artworks, a skillful collage by the artist known only as Rafiu featured a Xeroxed photo of the bridge surrounded by blue penstrokes. Another very stark and beautiful work was a watercolor of the bridge’s anchorage among the rocks, by an artist whose name was not on his or her drawing. Who is this anonymous master?

It was fascinating to see such varied interpretations of the Brooklyn Bridge. Natalie Pagan, who signs her work with a heart over the lower case “I” in Natalie, created a triptych that resembled a greeting card. George Sotirpoulou, age 8, combined his visual expression with a poem, “Brooklyn Bridge Safety”:
When you walk the Brooklyn Bridge,
You won’t be scared at all.
But when you come to the wood floor,
You might freak out and fall.

So let that be a lesson,
That you should always know.
But if you disagree,
You might end up below!

Nice going, George. If you have an entire poetry manuscript, Dumbo Books is thinking of someday having a contest with a fairly low entry fee. Keep us in mind.

Dylan (no last name) created a work titled “THE BK BRIG NYC” which is a construction featuring not only the bridge but also an octopus (often seen in the East River, of course), a crab, a matador, and a clock with ears in which the time is either 1:30 or 6:05, the ambiguity perfectly capturing our feelings, at least, about the bridge.

Aisha (again, no last name – these kids are already marketing themselves shrewdly) used the “125” motif repeatedly in her portrayal of the wonderful bridge. And Jeremiah Williams employed the repeated text WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW around a drawing of what seems to be, with its arch, the Bayonne Bridge. But, hey, the Bayonne Bridge needs some attention from the art world, too.

Braxton J. King, a playful member of the art community, created a game in his work. Twenty objects are hidden within his rendition of the bridge; among them are a nail, a brick, a “meatal wire,” a baseball bat, a basketball and a figure labeled Braxton J. King. We love slyly self-referential art that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Braxton J. King is someone the art world needs to be aware of.

Rina Sotiropoulou, age 6, perhaps the younger sister of poet George and photographer Dia, had a marvelous contribution to the show: a gorgeous yellow-dominated watercolor called “Colors of Brooklyn Bridge” that made us smile. Very cheerful!

There were many other wonderful artworks that will make you smile, too, if you attend the Brooklyn Bridge Art Show at The City Reliquary. We were smiling as we walked down Metropolitan Avenue at the start of the holiday weekend to pick up our laundry.

Everyone seemed happy, especially the teenagers making out on a bench at the Jaime Campiz Playground under the shadow of the elevated Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Isn’t life wonderful!

The City Reliquary
370 Metropolitan Ave
near Havemeyer, Williamsburg
(G/L to Metropolitan/Lorimer)

1 comment:

Christina said...

My daughters are Lia and Noelle Fikaris, who were mentioned in your report. I am very proud of both of them, both are very prolific artists, and Noelle is an aspiring fashion designer. They are proud to have been a part of your beautiful, inspiring art show at the Reliquary. Thank you for mentioning their names here. Do let us know if you have any other art shows in the future!

Christina Fikaris