The Free Library: The Riviera
The hot summer day that I visited The Free Library, Lou Reed’s cool voice filled the room, the hip gallery attendant was napping on a beanbag among books, and hanging plants were scattered around the room enjoying the gentle breeze of an industrial fan. It immediately obvious that the objects in this show were not just for contemplation: the viewer was meant to actively participate in the show and go wherever the wind blew.
Behind the collection of books, posters, and publications in the exhibit was a group of graphic designers from the UK, the Netherlands, and North America, including curator Mark Owens, a New York-based artist/designer. Each designer’s practice is conceptually driven and described as using design as something that produces "a more accessible or ‘free’ platform for their ideas." The designers chose the books to be included in the Library as well as created original work for the show.
Sections of the room were delineated by vignettes of seating, books, and objects. I plopped down in a beanbag on the side of the room next to a portable record player, ready with cavernous headphones and a pile of well-selected records. Above me was a small collection of esoteric books with topics reaching from the obscure corners of art, science, and literature. I settled into one of these books and ended up learning a few things about the history of germs.
The compartmentalized spaces and overall aesthetic of the show was inspired by the Acorn School, built in 1973 in New York City. With carpeting, circular seating, and hanging plants, this parent-owned school was the manifestation of the "power to the people" spirit. It offered an alternative to the linoleum floors and rows of bolted down desks, which went hand in hand with a teacher talking at you rather than everyone talking together. Like the Acorn School, The Free Library provided a space more conducive to discussion rather than the lecture format of a traditional gallery set up.
Caught in between the Bedford shopping strip and the bulk of Williamsburg galleries, the location of Riviera allows the show’s allusion to utopian ideas of the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s to slip between the fetishization of this era that is so popular in fashion and design and a display of art/ideas originating from this era. Am I in Urban Outfitters or the "think tank" that the show claims to be?
The show’s stated purpose was to "encourage visitors to the gallery to spend time reading, hanging out, and interacting with one another." The show succeeded in doing this, which not only made for a pleasant visit but also brought back a spirit of do-it-yourself activism that has gotten drowned out of the excessive and empty use of nostalgia in much contemporary art and design.
In Judy’s RoomBy Ben Goldstein
MARCH 2022 | Fiction
When we first meet Michael, the narrator of "In Judy’s Room" by Ben Goldstein, he has just arrived at a hospital in the Berkshires to receive treatment for an unspecified mental illness. We learn that, to Micheal, the onset of his illness is inextricably entangled with both love and heartbreak, a memory of a violent sexual rejection that he believes led him to commit his own monstrous act. The story's tension comes from Michael's journey between the past and present, his struggle to decipher the real from the unreal. One of the pleasures of reading this story for me came from Goldstein's gorgeous descriptions of the natural world and the town itself. As we navigate Michael's emotional landscape, he simultaneously moves through a setting so idyllical that it too feels dreamlike and magicala place where the townspeople have a yearly tradition of recreating a famous Norman Rockwell painting and where Judy Garland once dressed up in a gleaming ball gown and heels right out of The Wizard of Oz.
Thérèse Mulgrew: Room 126By Madison Ford
APRIL 2023 | ArtSeen
Thérèse Mulgrew developed her new solo exhibition at Freight + Volume by engaging with the tenets of cinema, conceiving of the whole as a short film caught in oil on canvas. What results is an exhibition experience unafraid to employ exactness in service of emotional resonance. To step into the gallery is to concede to a directorial pursuit and submit to the voyeurs perch.
Derek Sullivan’s Evidence of the Avant Garde Ex-LibraryBy Megan N. Liberty
OCT 2021 | Art Books
Interested in ephemera, networks of distribution, and how materials are activated through circulation and use, Sullivans latest book translates an exhibition catalogue documenting ephemera (audio tapes, manuscripts, buttons, and books) from a 1984 show at Art Metropole into an artist book. This rendering shows that history and the archive are always ongoing, constantly being revised, added to, amended, redrawn, and redistributed.
Portrait of a RoomBy Raymond Foye
MARCH 2023 | Art
For almost sixty years Jordan Belson lived in the same charming corner of San Francisco, the bohemian enclave known as North Beach, named after the region of Italy from where the locals emigratedthe Gulf of Trieste. Rents were cheap and neighbors tolerant.