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Okay, I’ll admit that Bushwick as an art scene was not quite on my radar but this past weekend, two catalysts pushed me on the L train, and soon I was smack in the middle of Brooklyn’s latest burgeoning art colony. Thank you New York Times for the Bushwick section in last Friday’s Art Trek article and thank you to the “Up Close and Personal” exhibition at Fuchs Project in Bushwick for making the short subway ride worthwhile. Bushwick – a gritty industrial area in the midst of gentrification – has its own urban charms and they can only continue to grow. The building where Fuchs Projects is located – 56 Bogart Street – is filled with galleries and studios, so there’s certainly enough here to fill an afternoon of browsing. As for the new exhibition at Fuchs, there’s much to see and enjoy in Up, Close and Personal. Curated by Ruben Natal-San Miguel, a collector and photographer, it features 55 works by 31 artists, including Natal-San Miguel and gallerist Fuchs Most fall into the mid-career and emerging category. (I suppose Annie Liebowitz fits this definition since she took the portrait of Merce Cunningham in the show in 1993 –- is that mid-career?) Some of other more recognizable names here (at least to me) include Zoe Strauss, Dawoud Bey, Phil Toledano, and Michael Wolf. Broadly speaking, the show is one of the more eclectic seen recently—there is truly something here for everyone.
There’s conceptual work, street photography, portraits, documentary, painting, sculpture –all ostensibly with some link to photography. On entering the gallery — a relatively small two-room space –- I felt that the salon style hanging accentuated the diversity of the work and added to the exhibition’s energy. Pictures are stacked three or four high—your eyes go where they want to go –- mine were drawn first to the largest, in your face images. The work by Hank Willis Thomas grabbed me -— a tight close-up of a mouth of gold teeth with “Black Power” inscribed on them in diamonds or some gemstone. It’s very 1980s, very close and personal.
I couldn’t help but notice the gallery’s wall covering –– a blow-up of “My Family” by the gallerist Fuchs –– is the background for much of the show. The image shows his parents dancing in their living room in 1983 and the wallpaper pattern is now part of the exhibition. While it’s very effective and obviously very personal, I don’t favor gallerists or curators showing their own work on home turf. In any event, many other artists work stands out here. I had to take a closer look at Ariana Page Russel’s “Index II,” a disturbing yet intriguing image of her “Dermatographia,” or skin writing. When people with this medical condition scratch their skin, it causes raised marks that usually disappear within 30 minutes. Sheri Lyn Behr’s series on surveillance cameras reminds us that Big Brother has its eye on us – in one corner is a TV screen shot of a camera with the caption “Smile! You’re being watched.” I was drawn to Amy Elkins’s work about life on death row, which includes a prisoner’s sketch of his cell. I liked the humanity of David Carol’s street photography and the intimacy of Jennifer Loeber’s series on her mother.There’s a lot to see and savor here -– and then you’ll still have the rest of Bushwick to explore.