Generally, the galleries in Williamsburg and Greenpoint are small, windowless rooms hidden away on side streets or third floor lofts. But on Wednesday evening I attended a group art exhibition on Bedford Avenue between N 8th and N 9th in one of those beautiful brownstones. Featuring nearly twenty artists throughout the entire five-story building, this show, “Permeate The House”, acted as the inaugural exhibition for a new gallery/collective/artist residency in the heart of Williamsburg called The Hollows.
Initially a Bushwick operation, The Hollows is an artist-run collective and residency program hosting exhibitions and hosting international artists with bedrooms and studio space. Since its founding in late 2014, The Hollows has hosted 28 resident artists from 15 counties and exhibited works by nearly 100 international artists.
Supported through funds from the artist residency program and proceeds from artwork through a typical curator/artist relationship, The Hollows and its eight artists-in-residence, recently moved from their Bushwick space to the building at 151 Bedford Avenue.
The current exhibition runs through April 17th, open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays 1pm-6pm. Inside the building, artwork is displayed everywhere: hallways, stairwells, bedrooms, on the fireplace mantel. While it was unclear if the furniture had been temporarily removed or was never there in the first place, the brownstone felt very much like a weird installation more than a proper gallery housed in a brownstone. It felt like the building itself was the installation.
In the main room of the first floor is a video installation depicting the artist, Margarete Hentze, in one of the bedrooms exploring a white geometric paper structure with black outlines, similar to the aesthetic of the room itself, creating a surreal and claustrophobic feeling of a room within a room within a room.
In one of the second floor bedrooms is “StoryHut”, a child’s tent inviting the viewer inside where a hand-painted scene of animals is found on the walls of the tent/cave and a pair of headphones reveal a soft-spoken narrative with effects something like a sound play child’s fable.
The work I found most interesting played to that notion of space and residence… a wall-mounted tangle of orange extension cords was on display in “the kitchen”, which spoke to me more about the hardships of construction or renovation than notions of connectivity or entangled relationships.
In another bedroom with stark bare walls an overhead plywood light box held a photo of a serene blue sky and bright green tree leaves, a skylight simulacrum titled “Overhead (Foilage)”, an artificial connection with nature.
On the top floor, a small, empty room with a single window presents Jakob Hentze’s “Little Universe”, a multi-colored glowing orb composed of triangle subsections of various sizes and colors hanging from the ceiling in the center of the room. The scale of the work juxtaposed with the size of the room manifested notions of colorful artistic ideas or aspirations within the small, cramped space of a Williamsburg brownstone bedroom.
At its core, this exhibition seems to speak to the subject of space, specifically space for art, and fundamentally space for the arts. I was surprised to learn of the exhibition, presumably a kind landlord loaning the vacant soon-to-be-sold brownstone to the artists, but talking with a member of the collective, the co-curator Baptiste Semal, I learned that indeed they rented the building and had signed a three-year lease.
With average price per square foot in Williamsburg at $735, I find it extremely impressive The Hollows was able to set up shop in a brownstone building on Bedford Avenue. Who knows if they’ll be able to sustain it—you can donate to their Kickstarter here. But for now, at least for a little while, some of the artistic energy that initially drew me to the neighborhood 10 years ago, is back on main street, even if it’s a residency programs sold to predominately European artists. It still beats condos bought and sold by affluent investment bankers!
The fact of the matter is that so many of us have watched the neighborhood change over the last decade: galleries and artist enclaves have been replaced by big brand stores, luxury condominiums, upscale boutiques, homogenized pharmacies, coffee shops, etc… “I feel like I moved but I didn’t go anywhere,” I said, chatting with a woman at the exhibition. “But I hate nostalgia, so let’s just leave it at that.”
“That’s not nostalgia,” she explained. “It’s not nostalgia because you haven’t left, you still live here. Nostalgia is when you miss a place you used to be, an old home. What you’re describing—feeling sad because of the changes around you—that’s called solastalgia: feeling sad because your environment has changed, the space around you has changed but you’re still here.”
I took a gulp of the cheap white wine in my plastic cup and looked out the window of this brownstone gallery space. There, across the street, I saw a vacant storefront with a sign in the window: FOR RENT.
The Hollows inaugural exhibition at the new Williamsburg location, Permeate The House, is on view now through April 17th, open weekends, 1-6pm
For more information visit: Hollows.info