brooklyn art

The Neglected Abstract Masterpieces of the Williamsburg Houses

 

The Williamsburg Houses in 1941

For years brilliant avant-guarde murals lay hidden inside a local housing project, but thanks to an intrepid art history detective they were rediscovered and everyone today can enjoy their genius. It is a local story worth recounting. In 1936, America was suffering the effects of the Great Depression. No one was harder hit by the depression than artists who watched the market for their work shrivel and completely dry up, but Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal offered artists a lifeline.

Their art would be used to beautify the massive building campaign that was at the heart of Roosevelt’s recovery plan, called the Works Progress Administration or WPA. One of the buildings that artists would beautify would be the Williamsburg Houses (164 Ten Eyck St.), which contain 20 buildings in an area around Leonard and Scholes streets. The chief architect of the project was Richmond Shreve, and the design team of nine other architects was led by the pioneering Swiss-American modernist William Lescaze, whose Philadelphia Saving Fund Society building of 1928-32 was one of the first major International Style buildings in the United States.

The design of the buildings was bold, daring and futuristic for the time and the design team wanted to decorate the interior of the complex with art that was equally bold. The four-story houses Lescaze designed included basement community rooms decorated with murals in “abstract and stimulating patterns” designed to aid relaxation.

Abstract Mural by Albert Swinden

The Federal Art Project (FAP) commissioned a series of murals, to be painted in the community rooms at the Williamsburg Houses. The head of the New York Murals of the FAP division in 1937 was Burgoyne Diller, who bravely decided to commission a series of abstract murals from avant-garde, relatively unknown artists. Abstract paintings, like those in the murals, were hard for the general public to appreciate. The artists who painted murals in the Williamsburg Houses eventually won recognition as giants in the field of abstract painting. The painters were Paul Kelpe (1902-85), Ilya Bolotowsky (1907-81), Balcomb Greene (1904-90), and Albert Swinden (1901-61). Diller, an abstract artist himself, put his own art career on hold in order to promote the abstract style in murals before it was accepted in the United States. Diller faced criticism and had to justify every abstract mural he placed in the houses, but he won and the art was installed. Continue reading

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The Other Art Fair Returns to Greenpoint and Greenpointers Get FREE Tix! (11/9-11/12)

The Other Art Fair returns for its second US edition to Greenpoint’s own Brooklyn Expo Center (72 Noble St) this week on November 9-12. Presented by Saatchi Art, the fair showcases work by 120 talented emerging artists from Brooklyn and beyond, each hand picked by a committee of art world experts.
Art lovers can visit the fair with confidence that they are buying from the very best and most promising emerging artists in a unique and immersive experience. With artwork prices starting at just $75 there is something for everyone! Alongside the exhibiting artists, visitors can discover exciting an unusual features including live hand poked tattoos by Brooklyn’s Bluestone Babe, The Guardian virtual reality, an engaging talks program by Saatchi Art and a hidden secret bar…
Claim your free ticket to The Other Art Fair using code GREENPOINTERS on nyc.theotherartfair.com/comp. Don’t miss out!

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Weekend Art Roundup: Sept 16 – 20

Bill Murray inquiring about lemonade out front of Paulie Gee's.
Bill Murray inquiring about lemonade outside of Paulie Gee’s.

Hey guys,

There are exactly 10 cool things happening and around Greenpoint this weekend. Eleven if you count Bill Murray bartending at 21 Greenpoint, but that doesn’t count, does it? There are at least 10 cool things happening this weekend.

I double dog dare you to get to more than three of these events. Choose wisely!

See you in the streets,

Andy

 

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Get Your Art Crawl On! Greenpoint Gallery Night is Happening this Friday! (3/20)

GreenpointGalleryNight_2015_550px

There’s no better draw for a cool, fun-loving crowd than art and booze. Greenpoint Gallery Night, which we are once again media sponsors for, returns this Friday (3/20) from 7-10PM to bring this winning combo to our cozy little neighborhood.  Several local galleries and businesses open up their doors after normal operating hours to give Greenpoint the opportunity to start the evening immersed in art, while sampling tasty, boozy libations along the way. So join us in kicking off the weekend with great drinks in great company, while getting a glimpse of what the art world in Greenpoint has to offer!  RSVP here.

While each location is in close proximity to one another, we want to be sure to hit up every spot so have strategized a route for the most efficient art crawl.

Here’s our guide:

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Gowanus Open Studios this Weekend! (10/18-10/19)

If you couldn’t get enough local art at Greenpoint Open Studios, why not travel along the G train to our sister Superfund neighborhood for another full weekend of Gowanus Open Studios!

320 artist studios and arts venues will be open to the public on Saturday, October 18, and Sunday, October 19, from noon to 6pm. Get a sneak preview on the Directory of Artists. Additional special events take place during the weekend.

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Art + Pasta Jewelry at New Franklin St Gallery Rekover Projects

Tristan Fitch & Katie Hartsough of Rekover Projects

While real estate snooping, I spotted a 2500 sq. ft. space on Franklin St, sandwiched between the newly opened People of 2Morrow and the half block of scaffolding that will soon become even more prime retail space on one of Greenpoint’s most booming blocks.

I thought to myself this spot would be perfect for an art gallery and a few weeks later POOF! – Rekover Projects (77 Franklin St) opened – just like that. The first show titled “Before Intersections” is a solo exhibition by space lessee and artist Tristan Fitch, who runs the project space with his partner and women’s accessories designer Katie Hartsough. Continue reading

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“Via Delorosa: Meditation on Mortality” Opens Tonight at Messiah Church (3/5)

Lutheran Church of the Messiah hosts sacred art show

Last night, I met with Pastor Amy Kienzle at Lutheran Church of the Messiah (129 Russell St) mid installation of an art show that opens tonight at 7pm. For all you heathens, today is also Ash Wednesday.

The show titled Via Delorosa: Meditation on Mortality is a “sacred exhibit” – a take on The Stations of the Cross, which are different scenes of Jesus’ crucifixion from his arrest and conviction through his entombment.

Half of the show takes place at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Williamsburg (334 So. 5th St) and was co-curated by the Pastor there – Ben McKelahan, along with Pastor Amy and Baxter Alexander – a local musician and artist.

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New York Mag Has NO LOVE for GREENPOINT Art (loves BUSHWOOD tho)

I heart New York Magazine. This week’s “cheesescape” photos and the self-portraits of heroin addicts were brilliant – and especially disturbing back to back.

I do have to give them some shit this week for Jerry Saltz’s nifty tear out art guide because it perturbingly shows NO LOVE for Greenpoint or Brooklyn in general. Continue reading

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Greenpoint Gallery Night Photo Recap

Greenpoint Gallery Night © Fabian Palencia

This past Greenpoint Gallery Night was a success despite the frigid temperatures. Greenpointers strolled the neighborhood seeking out fine art and good times. Photographer Fabian Palencia brings us images from galleries on the outskirts. Check out all the photos in this Facebook gallery. Continue reading

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Greenpoint Gallery Night Map (2/7)

Greenpoint Gallery Night (2/7/14) Map

Greenpoint Gallery Night is this Friday 2/7 from 6-9pm. While in the past this map has only been available online for download, the Gallery Night HQ Galleries at 67 West St will have printed maps available for those of you still using flip phones.

Last week we introduced all the new galleries in Greenpoint, but there are over a dozen locations where you will find great local art on exhibit. See you Friday!

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