BRIC's most ambitious exhibition to date, not only does the BRIC Biennial: Volume II, Bed-Stuy/Crown Heights Edition feature the work of over 40 visual artists, it is also spread out over four venues local to the neigborhood spotlighted. Here, we take a closer look at the work presented at the Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library, located at Grand Army Plaza, and on view through January 31, 2017 in the building's main lobby and Children's Wing.
A smaller outpost of the BRIC Biennial, the show consists of the work of five artists: Kumasi J. Barnett, Aaron G. Beebe, Asuka Goto, Hidemi Takagi, and Chris Nosenzo. The subtitle and theme of the portion of the exhibition at the library is Translations and Annotations.
The artists displayed in the Central Library use existing texts and documents as source material that they reinterpret, annotate, and translate to reflect on issues like personal loss, social issues, and reimagining the self. In conversation with the exhibitions at BRIC House and Weeksville Heritage Center, these artists explore the affective dimensions of textuality by putting on display the marginalia produced in the process of reading, which map the reader’s own references and critique. These artists also pursue tactics of appropriation and reinvention, while considering forms or writing and reading that have emerged with the advent of the digital. With the ability to hyperlink and tag, and the emergence of electronic databases that are supplying physical libraries, the experience of writing and reading becomes pointedly personal, refusing the per ceived linearity of the bound book. The exhibition at the Brooklyn Public Library also includes a Special Project by photographer Hidemi Takagi, a study of the central role of barbershops in African American urban neighborhoods.Kumasi Barnett’s
The Amazing Black Man series works within the genre of the comic book, appropriating the aesthetic to reframe issues like police brutality and racist stereotypes. Drawing on a childhood nostalgia for collecting comic books, Barnett’s covers reenvision the simplistic contests of good and evil that often underlie these stories through satire.
Aaron Beebe, a visual artist and curator, has worked extensively with arcane archives and his map-making practice reflects this aesthetic. Using ink and vellum in the age of digital cartography, Beebe’s maps juxtapose the experience of exploring personally fraught spaces with and the authoritarian discourse of cartography, through collages of personal photographs and hand-drawn maps. The play between the photograph as an indexical text, and the map as a personal drawing, blurs boundaries between individual memory and institutional archive. Beebe’s notes to the reader about personal events in these spaces overlay partial and subjective knowledge to a document typically treated as objective truth.In Lost in Translation, Asuka Goto attempts to translate a novel written by her father in the 1970s from Japanese into English. The process of translation becomes her own journey into a language that isn’t hers, as well as an act of textual intimacy with a parent she hardly knew. Goto’s marginalia and annotations make explicit the difficulty of thinking across cultural idioms as a diasporic subject. The two languages sit in uneasy juxtaposition on the page, suggesting not only linguistic, but cultural and political incommensurability as well.
Echoing the desire to memorialize loss, Chris Nosenzo describes Lost Art as a “catalog of post-modern artworks that have suffered material destruction,” serving as the only remaining proof of their existence. However, the piece plays with the genre of the art catalog by blurring the line between fiction (in this case, forgery) and reality, since the attributed artists never created the referenced works. Instead, Nosenzo’s tongue-in-cheek catalog is itself a work of art, simultaneously art object and art criticism, original and fake. Similarly, in Klein- Fünke Comparison, Nosenzo publishes a series of catalog essays for a fictional exhibition of conceptual artist Yves Klein’s work with the oeuvre of Tobias Fünke, a character on the television show Arrested Development. To take the comparison seriously is to free Klein from his exalted place in the canon of modern art and make his work more approachable in conversation with mainstream culture.Hidemi Takagi’s Barbershops series, on view in the Children's section of the library, presents photographs documenting the neighborhood institutions of barbershops that are central to public life in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights as they are under threat from real estate development and rapid gentrification. Takagi’s photos capture the sense of style and artistry that the barbers and their clients share, celebrating a predominantly male public culture that has been central to the development of a distinctive Brooklyn aesthetic.
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Text by Elizabeth Ferrer, photos by Abigail B. Clark