The Dreamland Artist Club
A seaside escape for city dwellers, Coney Island is one of Brooklyn’s most mythologized neighborhoods. Developed by robber barons and political bosses in the 1850s and 1860s, the main attractions were gambling, drinking, and dancing as cabarets, racetracks, and brothels flourished alongside amusement parks and luxury hotels. In the twentieth century, Coney Island became a more populist destination for crowds of leisurely middle-class sunbathers, even though it never quite lost its seedy, sideshow aura. Woody Allen immortalized the area’s 1950s heyday of burlesque and bumper cars in Annie Hall while Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetic cycle A Coney Island of the Mind celebrates a magical romance with the carnivalesque world at the edge of the city. In recent years, though, the area has fallen on hard times, largely neglected by historical preservation and urban redevelopment efforts. The current reality is far from the postcard photos of sand packed with idle pleasure seekers that still feed collective nostalgia for a lost era.
Despite recent dilapidation, artist and designer Steve Powers (a.k.a. ESPO) found inspiration in the hand-painted signs that still adorn the rides and arcades, as yet untouched by corporate plastic. In honor of his muse and to help stem the tide of soulless vinyl, Powers began painting signs for business owners he befriended. This summer, in collaboration with Creative Time, over twenty contemporary painters and designers transformed Powers’s informal service into a site-specific display that also functions as critical urban renewal.
Presenting artists from a wide variety of visual practices, The Dreamland Artist Club’s confluence of design and contemporary art in seems natural given Coney Island’s geographical and historical specificity. It’s a world of inventive marketing, far from Manhattan’s corporate grind, filled with amusements dedicated to fun and fantasy, yet still an imminently capitalist enterprise. The pessimism of hard times was not lost on Powers, who observes that, "The reality of the situation is always going to be economic, and we fit neatly into that equation: you couldn’t beat our prices." Working with the proprietors of roller coaster rides, arcade games, and greasy food stands to integrate art into the boardwalk, The Dreamland Artist Club has begun to refresh and transform the visual landscape of Coney Island, bringing the reality a little bit closer to the fantasy.
The Brooklyn Presence at SXSWBy Nic Yeager
MAY 2022 | Film
Between March 11 and 20, four Brooklyn-based short films screened at SXSW, each shot in Brooklyn and made by and featuring Brooklynites. SXSW is known for celebrating innovation in tech and education, and these projects offer their own kind of innovation: namely, an irreplaceable artistic ingenuity that flows out of this borough.
36. The 1960s, BrooklynBy Raphael Rubinstein
FEB 2023 | The Miraculous
Its the mid-1960s in Bedford-Stuyvesant where some 15 or 20 young men get into the habit of harmonizing together after pick-up basketball games. One of them, an aspiring musician who is supporting himself as an elevator operator, notices some talented voices in the crowd, so one night he invites everyone back to his apartment to rehearse, hoping for something interesting to emerge.
79. (Brooklyn Navy Yard, Columbia County)
NOV 2021 | The Miraculous
An artist in his mid-30s living in New York and working in a 300-square-foot studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, finds himself consumed by frustration and anger. Although he is having exhibitions, after the shows close his paintings inevitably return to his studio, unsold. Hes not sure he wants to go on being an artist. A psychiatrist he consults helps him to understand that his anger revolves around his feelings about race, class and entitlement. Eventually the psychiatrist recommends that he begin working with a physical trainer, who has him start boxing and working out with a punching bag. Around the same time the artist, who is half-Choctaw and half-Cherokee, has been meeting with traditional Native American artists who tell him how the practices of dancing, drumming and beading have saved their lives. These experiences lead him to make a breakthrough in his work. Instead of focusing on painting, he begins to adorn Everlast vinyl punching bags like those he has been using at the boxing gym in extravagant styles inspired by Native American beadwork, pop culture, and everyday life. Along with beads, he adds tassels, sequins, brass and steel studs, yarn, chains, and sundry items. Some of the bags feature beaded texts quoting everyone from Simone de Beauvoir to Public Enemy.
What Do (Digital) Bosses Do?By Jason E. Smith
JUL-AUG 2022 | Field Notes
While we often think of automation and A.I. as developments that will eventually replace workers (think of Teslas partly automated tractor-trailer), those tools are already in heavy use in the workplace. And they havent replaced workers; theyve simply been brought in to manage declining working conditions.5