Crossing Brooklyn showcases borough artists

Brooklyn’s artists are getting a special spotlight.

Among those with an eye on the art world, Brooklyn is already regarded as an epicenter of creativity in the city. But now the borough’s artists are getting a special spotlight in a new exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, “Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond.”

While the title of the exhibition indicates a focus on two neighborhoods, co-curator Rujeko Hockley said, Crown Heights, Bay Ridge, Prospect Heights and virtually “everywhere you can think of” in the borough are represented in the exhibit.

Hockley and co-curator Eugenie Tsai spent most of last summer scouring Kings County for art to include in the exhibition. Still, Tsai said, it’s important to note that “Crossing Brooklyn” is not a survey that attempts to take the artistic pulse of the borough.

“That wouldn’t be possible,” she said. “It would take several buildings. This show has a point of view and it doesn’t attempt to be comprehensive.”

While it wasn’t a requirement for inclusion in the show, the curators were drawn to work that makes specific reference to Brooklyn, including Marie Lorenz’s video, “Archipelago,” in which the artist rows from Jamaica Bay to Bushwick in a boat she built.

They were also interested in works that don’t sit on a pedestal or hang on a wall, like Nobutaka Aozaki’s participatory performance, “Smiley Bag Portrait,” which, on select days, has the artist drawing the likeness of museum-goers with a Sharpie on plastic bags.

Some works in the exhibit take visitors outside the confines of the museum, including Matthew Jensen’s piece, “Walking Flatbush,” a take-away poster that visitors can use to navigate a 10-mile walk of Flatbush Avenue (Jensen will be leading a tour through a section of the avenue on Oct. 25).

Other works, meanwhile, straddle the line between experience and object, like Paul Ramírez Jonas’s piece, “The Commons,” a riderless horse made of cork upon which visitors can pin notes on provided paper.

“We usually think of art as, ‘Hands off, don’t touch,’ ” Tsai said. “But there are works that invite touch and interaction, which actually require direct participation and activation by the viewer, as opposed to passive receiving.”

While “Crossing Brooklyn” is an ambitious new initiative, the museum has a tradition of focusing on local talent, with recent exhibitions featuring the Brooklyn artist Swoon and the artist group, The Bruce High Quality Foundation.

“We date back to the 19th century, so it’s not as though we’re suddenly jumping on the Brooklyn bandwagon,” Tsai said.

Brooklyn, likewise, has long served as a home for creatives. In keeping with that, the exhibit has more than 100 works from 35 artists representing several generations of Brooklynites, including lifelong residents as well as transplants.

“Some people seem to think Brooklyn has recently been born, but it’s important to show that there have been artists working here for quite some time. There’s a continuum and there’s also a lineage,” Tsai said.

“Brooklyn is having its moment, but Brooklyn has been around for a long time. We’re excited to be presenting this moment as Brooklyn’s star is rising and continues to rise,” Tsai added.


If you go:

Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond” is at the Brooklyn Museum, beginning Friday. 200 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Heights, brooklynmuseum.org.

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