4CHAMBERS by Jody Oberfelder at Arts@Rennaisance

4CHAMBERS by Jody Oberfelder at Arts@Rennaisance

Review by Robert Egert

Photos by Julie Lemberger

Dance is so often a spectacle, a kind of voyeuristic experience. As a member of the audience you typically sit on your ass and watch the performers do all the work. If it’s good, when it’s all over, you clap.

4CHAMBERS, Jody Oberfelder’s ambitious and engaging new piece, turns everything about that experience on its head while preserving explorations of formalism and expression through movement.   More > >

Big Things Writ Small

Christian Nguyen “Modern Surfaces” 2012 Acrylic on Plexiglas.

Christian Nguyen “Modern Surfaces” 2012 Acrylic on Plexiglas.

Small Sculpture (by big people)
Big & Small/Casual Gallery
Curated by Kate Teale

Review by Robert Egert

Scale is a blade that cuts in two directions: Big often signifies importance, especially in an environment where space is at a premium. Conversely, we all know that Good Things Come in Small Packages.

Small Sculpture (by big people) is an exhibition of miniature sculpture that is a fascinating study of how the scale of things can change our perception of space and our bodies while toying with our expectations. The exhibit delivers intimate moments of delight and surprise while forcing us to slow down, look again and reject first impressions in favor of a second examination.

Jim Osman, Floating

Big & Small/Casual is a project gallery run by Kate Teale, a painter and sometimes gallerist, whose own work plays with scale and the expectations of size that occur in the viewer’s mind. With this exhibit, Teale has been able to extend her interest in the ambiguous depiction of size by bringing together work that challenges us around what size an art object can be or should be, and taunts us with the awareness of our own physical size in relationship to these diminutive but powerful objects.

Todd Lambrix’s molded felt pieces resemble reproductive organs from indeterminate phylum. Created through molding, rolling and squeezing, they leave a slightly oddball but ephemeral impression—something akin to fallen flowers or organs that will quickly fade into oblivion.

Eung Ho Park, "I'm Looking at You"

Bix Lye’s Unfinished Temple and Vapors of Delphi evoke both classical architecture and sixties pop art with humor but utter sincerity. Both pieces leverage their diminutive scale like bonsai trees to distill and concentrate strength into a small space.

Christian Nguyen’s Modern Surfaces are reminiscent of the time-killing toys that you find in a doctor’s waiting room. But Nguyen applies sophistication and nuance to the design and construction that brings it to an entirely new level. Each piece plays masterfully with transparency, ambient light, reflective color, and space. The size invites us to pick up and reposition the pieces exploring new combinations of light, color, and shadow.

Jim Osman’s series of meticulous painted wood constructions look a bit like a sculptor’s model for a larger piece until you spend a few minutes with them and realize that their charm is wedded to their size.

For details and hours visit their website at www.bigandsmallcasual.net

“Sculpture Garden” at Onderdonk House

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Sarah Bednarek; A Piano Has the Same Mass, Plywood, paint

By Robert Egert
May 4 – June 3, 2012

Co-curators Leslie Heller and Deborah Brown have organized this year’s sculpture exhibit on the grounds of the historic Onderdonk House in Ridgewood/Bushwick. Sculpture Garden features 15 pieces by 13 Brooklyn-based artists, that are situated throughout the grounds and in the farmhouse.

Kai Vierstra, "Helft Boog, 2012" (Steel, wood bronze and plaster, 108” x 20” x 46”)

The Vanderende-Onderdonk house is an early eighteenth-century farmhouse located on the border between Ridgewood Queens and Bushwick Brooklyn. It could be something of a mascot for the emerging Ridgewood art scene: It’s a small jewel of green wedged between factories, heavy industry, and a warehouse-sized meat market. The house and its bucolic grounds are in a neighborhood that is otherwise completely devoid of trees and just a short walk from a festering canal. Arriving, the site appears like a mirage out of the mire.

This is the second year that the Onderdonk House has hosted a sculpture exhibit and this year’s is larger and more ambitious than the last. Heller and Brown began the selection process last summer and produced the exhibit without external funding making the show a testament not only to the diversity of talent in the Bushwick community but also to its energy and optimism.

From the main entrance, turn to your right to find MaryKate Mahers’ Mappings for Landscapes, reminiscent of a hangman’s scaffold with a large, menacing boulder precariously perched atop. Mahler’s piece evokes our darker historical associations with eighteenth century American history. The position immediately in front of the house’s main entrance suggests a threat and a reminder of the prevalence of domestic violence in our historical roots.

Reade Bryan’s assembly of copper plumbing pipes and fittings is perhaps a lighthearted attempt to connect the industrial infrastructure that dominates the neighborhood with the garden setting: Pipes emerge from the ground, forming a confused network that end with outlets and valves, as if revealing a mechanistic subterranean world.

Don’t miss Sarah Bednarek’s cut plywood piece, A Piano has the Same Mass, constructed in the language of a snap-together puzzle, or Kai Vierstra’s haunting Helft Boog, a piece that possesses qualities of a stream, a tree, and a sliding pond.

MaryKate Maher, "Mappings for Landscapes, 2012" (Concrete, wood, bronze and resin, 8’ x 4’ x 2’)

The Onderdonk House is open on Saturdays from 1-5pm and will be open during the following hours of BOS weekend:

Friday June 1: 3-7pm
Saturday June 2: 12-7pm
Sunday June 3: 12-5pm, closing reception 3-5 pm

Massive Attendance at Fountain Art Fair


Thomas Broadbent, "Fall," (watercolor on paper).

By Robert Egert

Fountain Art Fair, which was held last year on the Frying Pan, a retired light ship docked on the West Side of Manhattan, graduated this year to the 69th Regiment Armory, on 25th Street. The irony is that the “Armory Art Fair” is held at the piers at 55th street while the scrappier “Fountain” is in the actual armory building.

This year’s Fountain attracted over ten thousand visitors in three days, according to publicist Brianna Green, and had a packed opening that featured a 17-minute aerial performance led by performance artist Seanna Sharpe. “The opening night party was stupendous and packed to the gills. There was a line around the block to get in, and we did get Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith at our booth!” said artist Patricia Fabricant.

Fountain takes its inspiration from Marcel Duchamp’s famous sculpture of the same name (It consisted of a urinal inscribed R. Mutt) and from the Armory show of 1913—a signal event in art history, where European modernists like Picasso, Duchamp, and Cezanne were first introduced to American audiences.

Since its first incarnation in 2006 in a FedEx warehouse adjacent to the West Side Highway, Fountain has moved through a number of venues and locations. “Obviously the Armory is a step up from last year’s Frying Pan, with twice as many galleries, very big booths, and a very accessible location,” said Daniel Aycock, one of the founders of the event.

Patricia Fabricant, "untitled" (guache on paper)

“Since the current Armory Art Fair (on the pier) is not related to the historic Armory Art Show 99 years ago, we thought it would be in the spirit of Duchamp to stage our own rebel fair across from the institution and use his ‘Fountain’ as our logo,” added Aycock.

In this big, brightly lit venue, it was a lot easier to see what was hanging on the walls than on the dimly lit Frying Pan—a blessing for some and curse for others. Twice as large a space, there were twice as many galleries represented this year. It is a relief to get away from pristine white galleries and overproduced art extravaganzas and at Fountain you could take comfort in a simpler, direct approach to exhibiting. But bright lights revealed both strengths and weaknesses, and even the best work can be difficult to discern when it’s crowded or poorly hung.

Stephen Mallon, "Pool" type C photograph.

Nevertheless, Fountain represented an opportunity for some lesser-exposed but excellent artists to garner some well-deserved exposure. Among the independents, Brooklyn artist Patricia Fabricant’s spellbinding biomorphic gouaches were a stand-out from among the Hullabaloo Collective booth as was Seoul-based surrealist artist, Soo-Young Moon’s, otherworldly Some Dream 24.

A few galleries stood above the rest as well. Such as Front Room artist Thomas Broadbent’s large watercolor paintings of books (yes, the paper kind) and Stephen Mallon’s images of retired subway carriages in the process of being dispatched to their watery grave. Kesting / Ray gallery presented layered resin-embedded drawings by Stephanie Dobson and the offhand, effervescent canvasses of Danni Rush.

Next February will mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the first Armory Show, which was officially known as The International Exhibition of Modern Art and rumor has it that Fountain organizers hope to hold the exhibit at the armory building again next year.


“Where Were You Then?”—A New CD by Shelley Hirsch

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Shelley Hirsch and Simon Ho will perform “Where Were You Then?” in a nine-person ensemble, at Roulette in Downtown Brooklyn on March 29 & 31.

By Robert Egert

Where were you then? Greenpoint vocalist Shelley Hirsch and Swiss keyboardist composer/arranger Simon Ho’s new CD is an evocative, nostalgic, and stylistic exploration of personal and cultural memory.

Hirsch was born in East New York, Brooklyn, and has been a seminal and influential presence in the new music and performance art scenes. Throughout her rich career Hirsch has been able to continually broaden and deepen her work musically and emotionally while still making every song sound like a revelation.

This album is a song cycle built from recordings and arrangements created collaboratively and individually over an extended period beginning in 2006. Together Shelley and Simon weave songs, spoken word, and instrumentals into a panorama that encompasses childhood, love, animals, travel, and death.

The first track, “I Love Glider Planes,” brings to life a distant memory from childhood. Arranged with a chamber sized string ensemble, it evokes not so much the day itself, as the impact of the day as seen through the romantic lens of nostalgia. Deeply personal, the song is kinesthetic and layered with inscrutable meaning in the way that only childhood memories can be. We can’t relive the experience with Shelley, but she can rekindle the magic of the day and the surprise and delight of being.

“Never Should I Have Seen You,” a bittersweet narrative ballad, is arguably the most accessible and inviting work. Its structure is that of an Edith Piaf ballad complete with
accordion accompaniment, but the syntax and the grammar is totally Yiddish. The familiar structure of the song plays the perfect straight man to Shelley’s slightly comic, slightly bizarre, but ultimately sincere channeling of Yiddish culture through her vocal style and personal experience.

“Julius,” a dark reminiscence of love in the shadows, brings to mind the music of Kurt Weil and the ambiance of exploring dark, empty streets. Whether Julius is really a street dog or just an extension of the old saying, men are dogs, is ultimately of no moment because the song is about love—sandpaper tongues, panting breath, and all.

Shelley’s style has always been polyglot in its influences but the result rises above its sources and emerges as a unique sound that is unlike any other, residing at the boundary between epiphany and emotional collapse. Part performance artist and part chanteuse, her appeal has as much to do with her emotional presence (and vulnerability) as with the formal structure of her pieces.

In this collection we can hear ancient Jewish chanting and Middle Eastern vocal modalities vie with pop and new music tropes. What keeps Shelley’s music coherent is her unique extended vocal style combined with her expressive narrative powers. Every song, no matter how abstract or literal, tells a story infused with emotion and personal truth.

While many of Hirsch’s narratives tell stories with a beginning, middle, and end, they don’t all function that way nor do they need to. Simon Ho’s crystalline arrangements and the songs’ formal clarity create their own logic. “Giselle (Carousels)” is the perfect pathway into this magical mysterious musical memory box. It brings to life the evocative sounds of a calliope and a verbal stream running a circular course in and around the moving horses.

More sobering, “The Nursing Home,” is your invitation to accompany Shelley on a visit to her mother in a nursing home. Structured like a chant, with echoes of the synagogue and Philip Glass minimalism, it is a path down a road that we don’t want to travel. On pieces like these, her music is perhaps closer to a form of poetry than song.

Shelley Hirsch will be performing selections from her new CD at the release party at Roulette on March 29 & 31, 8pm, 509 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn. Call (917) 267-0363 for more information.

Where Were You Then? Shelley Hirsch and Simon Ho

Personnel: Shelley Hirsch (vocals); Simon Ho (accordion, piano, organ, keyboards, sequencer); Karel Boeschoten, Misa Stefanovic (violin); Stephanie Griffith, Sibylla Leuenberger, Karri Koivukoski, Daniela Bertschinger (viola); David Gattiker, David Inniger, Kathrin Boegli, Tomas Ulrich (cello); Dave Hofstra (tuba); Tony Buck, Michael Suchorsky (drums, percussion); David Simons, Andi Hug (drums).

Robert Egert is an artist, UX designer, and writer.
Twitter: @psychomotikon
robertegert.com and motikon.com

Jaqueline Cedar & Kyoung Eun Kang

cedar_jaqueline_Hand on Shoulder, Hand on Head

A. M. Richards Fine Arts
(5/8 – 6/13, 2010)
328 Berry Street, 3rd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Review by Robert Egert

Jaqueline Cedar

It’s unusual and refreshing to see ambitious, large-scale paintings today, especially from an artist just starting her career. Jaqueline Cedar’s new paintings manifest an admirable attempt to synthesize and reinvigorate figurative abstraction and to reconnect with themes and formal issues that have mostly been retired into art history books.

Citing Paul Klee and Orphism (If like me, you need a refresher, Orphism was an art movement of the early twentieth century that focused on bright, colorful abstraction in a shallow, lenticular space), Cedar uses the figure as a starting point for a fragmented environment filled with light, color and movement. Cedar’s paintings are reliant upon large scale for the optical effects that happen when the viewers’ field of vision is practically filled with the canvas.  More > >

Deuce 7 + friends @ Secret Project Robot

Photo courtesy Secret Project Robot c. Jaime Rojo

Deuce 7 & Friends mural. Photo courtesy Secret Project Robot (c. Jaime Rojo)

“Mystic Stylez:” Deuce 7 + Friends

Review by Robert Egert

Deuce 7 is a prolific street artist from the Midwest whose work you’ve probably seen even if you aren’t familiar with his name. He’s got something of a following with people who follow street art but also maintains a low profile and there’s definitely an air of mystery surrounding him. This is probably appropriate given the hit and run tactics required of the form. Deuce 7 seems to want to avoid conflict and erasures: he often chooses buildings slated for demolition, concrete barriers and other surfaces that don’t have proprietary owners. Deuce 7 represents the breed of street art that is more image-based than typographical. He also stands apart because he works with a broader range of techniques and materials in addition to traditional spray paint.  More > >

Art Review: Margie Neuhaus and Patrick O’Hare at {Gg Gallery}


Patrick O'Hare's "Sam's Club, Waterbury Connecticut,"2004. C-Print on Fuji Crystal Archival Paper, 20 x 24"

By Robert Egert

The human body as a subject in art tells us as much about our society as anything intended by the artist. Even representations of the inner workings of the body reflect social beliefs and cultural perspectives. The ancient Chinese, for example, had no tradition of autopsy and as a result had no clear mapping of the internal organs. Despite this, they were able to develop a sophisticated system of medicine based on the outward signs of inward disease.

Today’s dominant perspective on the human body is a systems approach (circulatory system, central nervous system, etc.). This can be interpreted as an expression of the way we educate and organize physicians professionally rather than an empirical truth.  More > >