Bushwick Art Update December 2017

The work in Bushwick is vital, fresh, and there is a palpable energy here.

Barbara Laube has studied throughout Europe. She also studied in New York with founding member Joop Sanders, along with Willem de Kooning and Milton Resnick of the American Abstract Expressionist group. She has studied at Pratt Institute, New York Studio School, and the School of Visual Arts.

Wen Tao is an MFA student in Painting and Drawing at Pratt Institute. She grew up in Shanghai, China before coming to the US.

Rachel Piering is a painter of SEMI-ABSTRACT PORTRAITS of PEOPLE and ANIMALS using colors, lines, shapes and texture. Never restricted to one medium she enjoys painting on canvas, vinyl, wood and metal. She has a passion for pushing color palettes to the extreme to find color schemes that are both harmonious and loud.

Curator Interview: So-Ok Park

We were fortunate enough to interview curator So-Ok Park about her career, curatorial process and her most recent show In/visible: Things to be Discussed.

How did you get to become an independent curator?

I enjoyed scribbling stuff on papers and making things out of eraser shavings when I was young, but I never thought of myself as an artist. I honestly enjoyed appreciating art and art exhibitions more than making them. I think I always knew that I was more of an observer than a creator. But I always admired people who had creative abilities. My father was an art teacher and took me to various art exhibitions when I was young. So I can say that part of this came from my early childhood experience. Instead of becoming an art maker, I decided to become a cultural facilitator. I got some great opportunities to work at several art and cultural institutions in Korea, and I found that I enjoyed creating programs that allowed people to engage in something creative. After several years of experience at art and cultural institutions and after pursuing museum studies, I realized that, without actually making artwork, I could enhance visitors’ experiences in a creative manner.

You curated an exhibition entitled In/visible: Things to be Discussed this May. Why Invisible?

In/visible: Things to be Discussed was a co-curated show. Two of my friends from New York University and I wanted to create a show that talked about our contemporary society in a subtle way. So we selected the artwork that captured aspects of our ordinary lives that may have seemed mundane but spotlighted the hidden ideologies behind the scenes of our everyday lives. To reflect this, we tried to imply that the title had several meanings. “Invisible” means something that cannot be seen because it is transparent, hidden, or small. But if you separate “in” and “visible,” it becomes a multivocal term that implies something that you can see if you look inside very carefully or thoroughly.

How did you prepare the exhibition?

My friends and I had agreed to put a show together. So, we decided to find some institutions that would accept applications. We decided everything together.

There is no one way of curating an exhibition, but we discussed the theme of the exhibition first because we had to select something that we all wanted to talk about.

After agreeing on the theme, we searched for the artists. We went to open studios together and searched for more artists through the internet. Each of us found three artists and then we eventually narrowed down the list to six artists. To tell the truth, this was the easiest part of the process.

After finding the artists, we did studio visits, gathered all the relevant information about the artists, wrote an exhibition proposal, made a list of the possible artwork, and arranged dates for packing and shipping. Since some of the artists were based in Korea, we even had to arrange for international shipping. We had to search for the right insurance, assist with the packing of the artwork, and find a date for the shipping that worked for everyone. Installing the artwork also required some work. We had twenty-one works of art in total, including two large installation works, and one of them required a very precise installation method. It was much more work than we expected, but, as much as it cost, we learned a lot.

Since it was our first time working together, it was sometimes very hard to come to an agreement, but we eventually figured it out. I personally think it was an invaluable experience. Although I had participated in organization exhibitions at different institutions, carrying out a project of my own was very different from what I had experienced. There were more things to consider and much more work to do. And I don’t think I could have done it without my colleagues.

What is the role of a curator?

I have pointed to my own creativeness in exhibitions, but I think it is the artwork that is most important. I think an exhibition that sheds light on each work of art is a good exhibition. Thus, I think the curator should be able to oversee the artwork, the space where the works of art will be displayed, and, of course, the whole process of organizing the exhibition. The curator should be able to bring many things together. Therefore, he or she should be a communicator who can put different artists, ideas, and thoughts together in one place. I also think that a curator should be an educator. An exhibition should have something that audience members can take with them, and it should enhance the audience experience.


So-Ok Park (b. 1987, South Korea) is an independent curator based in New York. Before entering into the art field, Park has worked in the education sector at various institutions in Korea. Her experience has expanded her interest to museums where education is open to the public in a multi-dimensional way. In 2016, Park has received her Master’s in Museum Studies at New York University, writing her thesis about elitism and populism in art museum exhibitions. Her past and current experiences both in Korea and New York includes positions at the Independence Hall of Korea, Korea; Daejeon Museum of Art, Korea; Geumgang Center for Buddhist Studies, Korea; Korean Cultural Center New York, New York; and AHL Foundation, New York. Park has participated in organizing various exhibitions; 16 ‘Call for Artists’ and special exhibitions at Gallery Korea of the Korean Cultural New York, and ‘Art in the Workplace’ exhibitions at the AHL Foundation. She has also co-curated Source of Life (IGONG Gallery, Korea), In/visible: Things to be Discussed (Gallery Korea) and Out of Flatland: A Tale of Many Dimensions (TBA). She is currently interested in working with emerging artists and understanding how contemporary art exhibitions can enhance audience experience.



Tacita Dean’s Retrospective

Tacita Dean’s retrospective exhibition at Museo Tamayo in Mexico City shows the artist’s progression from 1986-2016. The works show large and small paintings, photos, and manipulated postcards. She targeted her more ephemeral and poetic works for her Mexican audience. Her series: A Concordance of Fifty American Clouds (2015 – 16) are a collection of paintings that communicate the morphing identity of clouds. For Ant, Teotihuacán (2016), is a series of four found postcards manipulated with gouache, based on her experience at Teotihuacán. While at the archeological site, Dean sat at the base of the Sun Pyramid and stared at an ant crawling around a rock, imagining its dimensional time-space. She thought about how, perhaps, this rock was the ant’s own Sun Pyramid


Bruce Conner 1933-2008

Bruce Conner 1933-2008 was a San Franciscan artist who was a major part of the development of found art and experimental film in the US. It’s All True reveals Conner to be a simultaneous critic and admirer of American culture, the earliest works on view are thickly painted, quasi-monochromatic paintings made of oil and other substances on Masonite. Many of Conner’s “BLACK WAX SCULPTURES,” made between 1959 and 1963 feature half mummified bodies presented in a disturbing light by being shown on broken structures.

Artist Interview: Jain Kwak

We were fortunate enough to interview Jain Kwak about her Governors Island Art Fair 2015 standout exhibit ‘Unwritten‘. Building on her great 2012 Governors Island show ‘Souvenir‘, ‘Unwritten‘ is one of our favorites at this year’s Governors Island Art Fair.



2015, Plexiglass

Unwritten (Governors Island)

Governors Island Art Fair, 2015

Unwritten Epic

2015, Plexiglass size variable

Can you tell us about your process in creating Unwritten?

So I start with the watercolor paintings first. I would write down something on my watercolor paper—diary, letter, messages, etc. Then I would paint the negative space around each letter, then erase the writing in it. I then scan that painting to make digital files of the painted negative space, then get the Plexiglas sheets to be lasercut according to the shapes from the digital files of watercolor paintings.

What made you decide to include something that was manufactured by a computer-guided laser in the same show as something as delicate and imprecise as watercolors?

Unwritten (Governors Island)

Governors Island Art Fair, 2015

I never was interested in showing the original watercolor paintings. Because,  just like you mentioned, they seemed and felt too delicate and emotional. The writings that initially got me started on this project were quite emotional and even painful. Making a series of artwork based on a not very happy incident or experience, to me, is cathartic, and gives me closure from that dark period of time. Furthermore, I did not want to be reminded of that time by the sensitivity and delicacy represented by watercolor.

Why Plexiglass?


2015, Plexiglass

Unwritten (Governors Island)

Governors Island Art Fair, 2015

Since watercolor paintings felt too personal, I wanted to create a distance from that work to present to the viewers. To me, Plexiglas was a medium cold enough to distant myself from the piece emotionally and shiny enough to create a reflection of a viewer on the surface.

Clearly you changed your mind about the watercolors since they’re now included in your Untitled show.

Unwritten (Blue)

2015, Watercolor on paper

Yes, now that some time has passed and I can see the original watercolors without relating them with a negative feeling, I do think it is important to show what I truly felt. And my thoughts on revealing personal and emotional aspects of artwork are also changed; now I think it is okay to expose my vulnerability. That’s why I’m displaying both versions now. And aesthetically, I think they show two very different expressions although they derived from one idea. I’m kind of enjoying that difference.

Why black Plexiglas?

Like I mentioned above, it felt cold yet inviting enough to somehow include viewers. I went for black pretty straightforwardly to express my emotional state. Black Plexiglas almost works like a mirror; another main reason why I chose that particular material.

Since you use black Plexiglas, are you hoping the viewer sees the piece or the negative space it creates?

I guess the work itself screams out what was once negative space. My original plan for that specific plexiglas series is to use the shadow of those sculptures and make it more of a work that a viewer should actually experience. But I quite liked the way the work turned out without having to use the light source to create a rather overwhelming or heavy looking shadow. And now, I don’t care too much about which physical part of the piece the viewers are interested in seeing, but more of conveying the nuance. I’ll be happy if the viewers can think, ‘Oh, this seems like some form of a writing. I guess there must have been something that was written. I’m wondering what it would have been.’ 

Tell us about ‘Everything in the Kitchen Sink’ why do you say its “ongoing”?

Everything in the Kitchen Sink

2012-Ongoing, Origami Paper

Because I continue to work on it and have plans to make other, bigger size installation using the origami cranes. I hope to develop the project further and make enough cranes to fill up a bath tub

Your previous work ‘Souvenir’ has an interesting juxtaposition between the mirror like surfaces that draw the viewer in and their almost disturbing shapes. ‘Unwritten’ seems more overtly dark. How did your art progress between Souvenir and Unwritten?


2012 – 2014 Plexiglas mirror Size variable

Diagnosis (Governors Island)

Governors Island Art Fair, 2013

Souvenir, which is a combination of four different projects all using Plexiglas, mainly mirror, I was more interested in the plastic (literally) nature of Plexiglas. Since I use a laser cutter to cut Plexiglas in various shapes, some distortion always occurs because of the heat created by the machine. I focused mainly on the Plexiglas as a distorted mirror, and how it does not reflect something correctly.

In ‘Unwritten’, Plexiglas was chosen as a tool to cover up some emotional and directly personal aspects of the series. The appearance of the work itself has gotten more personal in Unwritten (with indicated brush strokes or shapes) than from Souvenir, and if it seems darker—color wise and/or general atmosphere wise), it must be because it was made in my dark time.

Although choosing Plexiglas for Unwritten was a way to reveal myself less in the work, I have become less self-conscious about showing myself in the artwork in Unwritten. I realize that my work will reveal myself no matter how hard I try to distant myself from it, so I have become more comfortable showing and talking about my personal struggle through the artworks.

You have used Plexiglas for Unwritten, Souvenir, Trophies, and Somebody Else’s Nostalgia. Do you see yourself continuing to use the medium going forward?


2012 – ongoing Plexiglas mirror, digital c-print, mirror paper 4’x8’x12″

Trophies (detail)

Somebody Else’s Nostalgia

Plexiglas, shoelace, flashlight, 2012 *Artwork must be viewed with the flashlight provided then the light needs to be handed to the next viewer

If it’s the right material and medium to express certain ideas, sure. But for now, I want to try to use other materials as well. It’s funny how my interest toward art mediums kind of stay in the plastic world—what I am interested right now is PVC vinyl.

All of your works have an undercurrent of darkness, a good example being ‘Prayer Request’ while it has playful colors and its size and shape draw the viewers in, typically you only ask for prayer requests during difficult times. Can you talk about how the playfulness of your work intersects with its darkness?

Prayer Request

Elastic bandages from 99 cent stores all over NYC, 3″ x 25″ diameter, 2012

 It can be both ways: my work can be about a playfulness during difficult times, or it can be about a small portion of tragedy that’s always hiding somewhere even in the happiest times of our lives. For my work, I think I tend to make a piece when there is an emotional turmoil or hardship. It could be a defense mechanism to escape from a stressful situation. When I start working on a project using a traumatic or stressful memory as a source, I soon get tired of feeling miserable. It always helps me to have one funny moment to laugh about myself even when I’m feeling awful and making an artwork off of that. And I guess that also appears on my work.

Samuel Jablon’s Solo Show at Freight + Volume

Sometimes art transports you and I was happy to walk into Samuel’s Jablon’s solo show at Freight + Volume. He applies traditionally kitschy elements to wood boards and creates an uncomfortable feeling for the viewer. Not knowing if its art that should be denegrated or elevated in a big bright way. Text is the primary vehicle for his statements. With things like: Must go on, Can’t go on, Must go on, I’ll Go On written in bold lettering.  All of Jablon’s pieces melt together and shout at the viewer to listen.


Alchemy and Metaphysics

This past June I was able to visit the Trestle Art Projects in Brooklyn for the Alchemy and Metaphysics show which was curated by Kiley Ames, Jacob Hicks, and Lily Koto Olive. It was a fascinating project where many highly academic artists came together for a show that sometimes disappointed but was worth the ride to the show. It will keep Trestle on my radar for the future.

Bushwick Open Studios 2014

Every June Bushwick artists give fans the opportunity to see their works, studios and works in progress. Its an interesting opportunity and below are some works and studios that I liked a lot.

Paperazzi 3 at Janet Kurnatowski Gallery

Showing 134 small works on paper by mostly New York artists, the exhibition at Paperazzi 3 at Janet Kurnatowski Gallery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn was a treat to visit.

Greg Lindquist’s Mono Lake study was exciting but also reminded me of a tragic Cinderella music video. The lake has a haunting quality but the Cinderella video distracted me.

Shane McAdam’s Sharpie Landscape was also an interesting work that spirited me by the thick use of sharpies

Kantinka Mann used paper pulp to create a 3D work that was exciting and also understated.

Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui


Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui is an interesting exhibition that is made out of discarded liquor bottles. Initially inspired by a trip to Nigeria, Ghanaian artist El Anatsui is making a strong statement on being an african and the history of the African continent. While the pieces have an almost gold and high art quality the use of disposed liquor bottles bring the pieces to a consumerist level. The flowing nature of the work is beautiful but with a almost longing quality