The Bushwick Biennial is a collaborative exhibition of Bushwick-area artists hosted by NURTUREart Non-Profit, Pocket Utopia, English Kills, and Grace Exhibition Space. The directors of each space (Benjamin Evans, Austin Thomas, Chris Harding and Jill McDermid respectively) were invited to mount exhibitions of work celebrating the diverse talent of the ever-growing arts community in the area. Relying on the diversity of mandates and visions of each of the galleries to ensure a wide range of artistic practices are represented, the Biennial is both one show and four.
NURTUREart is exhibiting artists exclusively drawn from its artist registry, and includes work revolving around themes of utopia, urban change, and the role of a place in artistic identity. It is also informed heavily by the history of the area, both the transition from the old town of Boswyjk to modern Bushwick, and the strange spacio-temporal borderlands of neighborhood identity.
Keeping with the theme of utopia, Pocket Utopia presents the work of eight artists in a show called "Finally Utopic". The aptly-named exhibition will be the last at the space, which was originally conceived as a two-year, multi-leveled art and social project by artist/director Austin Thomas. Pocket Utopia has been very deliberately involved with the neighborhood and its artists through micro-residencies, exhibitions and events, and represents a unique and successful crossing of institutional and disciplinary boundaries. "Finally Utopic" includes several artists who have worked with the gallery in its relatively short but very rich existence.
As one space's project comes to completion, another just digs in for the long haul. For English Kills, the Bushwick Biennial is not only an exhibition of area artists, but the first formal exhibition of its newly-complete lineup of "resident" artists. Director and curator Chris Harding shares with Pocket Utopia a strong connection to the community at large, and also the way in which a community can form around subtle institutional hubs. English Kills is well known for its tremendous generosity to artists, allowing them to utterly transform the space into wildly divergent incarnations, and this spirit of radical transformation pervades the work of all the artists in its lineup.
Grace Exhibition Space is geographically on the opposite border of NURTUREart, and it also shares an interest in being in a tenuous borderland. Dedicated exclusively to exhibiting live performance-based practice, Grace Exhibition Space's contribution to the Bushwick Biennial takes the form of a performance series by Bushwick artists scheduled throughout the months of June and July. Stressing the range of performative approaches taken by area artists, each event not only proposes a different view of live art practices, but also the variety of thematic material available explored in this anti-media media.
By combining the very different curatorial purposes of each of these different people and the organizations they represent, a huge range of work is available while being placed in its own specific context. Rather than forming a curatorial unity, the individual organizations are left entirely autonomous and distinct, registering the importance of only vague institutional alliances to the maintaining of the anything-is-possible, DIY, somewhat anarchic spirit that makes this community so worthwhile.
All the artists in the shows of all the galleries are compiled into an extensive exhibition catalog, complete with essays by gallerists, local historians, and urban planners. The catalog will be available soon - watch this space for details.