Capturing Brooklyn Art

  • Posted on Jan 30, 2012 by

Gowanus. DUMBO. Red Hook. Bed-Stuy. These Brooklyn neighborhoods, among others, represent the borough’s notable status as a thriving hotbed of arts and cultural production. At the Brooklyn Museum, highlighting the work of Brooklyn-based artists ranges from a series of exhibitions known as Raw/Cooked to documentation in the Library and Archives.  Moreover, we are making previously hidden information on Brooklyn art accessible in the Library and Archives, with the support of a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

Lan Tuazon, On the Wrong Side of History, second exhibition from the

Raw/Cooked series at the Brooklyn Museum, Nov.  4, 2011–Jan. 15, 2012.

Art produced by Brooklyn art organizations is well documented in the Library’s institutional files in the form of gallery announcements, press releases, clippings, and brochures;  exhibition catalogs; and in the records of the Brooklyn Museum’s Community Gallery (1968-1986) and the Brooklyn Museum Art School (1941-1985). Most of this information is unavailable elsewhere and reveals valuable insight into the role played by the Brooklyn Museum and other arts organizations in presenting and interpreting art and artists from a wide range of backgrounds.

During the initial phase of the current project, a survey of the institutional files of Brooklyn galleries resulted in finding exhibition materials containing enough substantive information for them to be cataloged. The file for the Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook, for example, held over fifteen exhibition brochures with names of artists, descriptions of works and subject matter, dates, etc. An artist book by Brooklyn artist Dale Williams (published on the occasion of a solo exhibition at Kentler in 1996) was found in the institutional file; it was not recorded in Arcade or WorldCat, so the book was cataloged and is now accessible.

In the Archives, surveys of the records of the Brooklyn Museum’s Community Gallery and the Art School also yielded significant information about Brooklyn art, in the form of exhibition checklists and press materials. The Community Gallery was established in 1968 in response to community requests to show the works of local artists. The mission was to expose the art of diverse groups of local artists and to bring new audiences into the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibitions reflected the variety of artists’ backgrounds by: ethnicity (Native North American Art, one of the first exhibits of contemporary Native American art in NYC); age (Art of the Elders of Brooklyn), sensory ability (blind artists), and walks of life (Inside Outside: Art from The Brooklyn House of Detention for Men). The Community Gallery closed in 1986. Its exhibitions as well as educational programs were innovative in making art accessible to all, diversifying visitorship in return.

 

Asian Artists of Brooklyn, held at the

Brooklyn Museum’s Community Gallery, May 4-June 23, 1986.

The Brooklyn Museum Art School, a non-degree-granting professional school, opened at the Museum in the summer of 1941. The Art School provided instruction for artists until 1985 when it was transferred to Pratt Institute’s Continuing Education Division. Its caliber is perhaps best measured by the faculty it employed – prominent artists such as Max Beckmann, William Baziotes and Reuben Tam all taught at the School and details of their service are included in the collection.  The Exhibition series contains information about faculty one-person shows such as Daniel Serra-Baduè’s Paintings and Lithographs: Their Visual and Literary Antecedents (1984-1985), as well as special exhibitions featuring contemporary artists, such as Attitudes (1970) that included the works of Donald Judd, Robert Smithson and Dale Chihuly.

The Library and Archives is continuing to acquire documentary materials on Brooklyn-based artists and art organizations.  One recent acquisition is the archives of the A.M. Richard Fine Art Gallery which was located in Williamsburg from 2006 to 2010. This collection includes checklists, artist books, interviews and biographies on several exhibited artists such as Bill Burns.  In addition, we continue to build the collection of artist books with a focus on ones made by Brooklyn-based artists. An example of this is Records by Brooklyn artist Eric Doeringer. It will be included in an upcoming installation at the Brooklyn Museum in April 2012.

Eric Doeringer. Records. 2011.

Also, we maintain contact with Brooklyn artists, galleries, and organizations, and track information about their openings and closings. We continue to collect books and ephemeral materials to be cataloged or added to the institutional files. The profusion of these galleries makes documentation of the local art scene in the borough all the more important.

Plans in the near future include reviewing and cross-referencing data compiled in several databases that provide more in-depth access to information about artists and exhibits held in Brooklyn over the past fifty or so years.  Our mission is to further reveal the artistic production in the great state of Brooklyn. Stay tuned for more ...



Eunice Liu, Project Librarian, Brooklyn Museum


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