A new exhibit at BronxArtSpace offers a glimpse of the variety in the borough’s arts scene, through the work of five artists.
The artists featured in Model Redux, which opened on July 12, range in age between their 20s and 60s, and differ widely in background and outlook. Two are classified as outsider artists, while others have garnered attention in the mainstream. Some relate traumatic experiences growing up in tough surroundings, and others have come up through prestigious art schools. Three dimensional walls created by one of the outsider artists, Chen Carrasco, are the point of convergence for all of the works on display.
Through works on matboards, photographs, and paintings, Chen Carrasco, Mauricio Cortes, Martine Fougeron, Jesse Kreuzer and Ray Lopez express their perspectives on disparate scenes in the Bronx’s daily life and landscape.
“We are kind of looking at the construction of the Bronx community and focusing on Martine Fougeron’s factory photographs (The South Bronx Trades series),” explained Marina Gluckman, 28, one of the exhibit’s co-curators. “And then, Chen and Mauricio (show) more domestic interiors that spoke to the brownstones throughout the neighborhood.”
A visitor is introduced to the show via a mattress in the middle of the gallery, next to which a collaborative installation serves as a reminder that artists with very different styles and perspectives can work together to yield impressive results.
“With the social upheaval of being so fearful of gentrification, how do we give a model of how culturally we can get along,” said Adrien de Monès, 26, another of the show’s co-curators, who came up with the title for the exhibit, “loosely inspired by the Model Cities program that happened in the ’60s through President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.”
De Monès emphasized that the objective of the exhibition is partly to point out “what is going on inside and outside” Bronx spaces.
“A lot of developers have been coming in to the area and saying ‘well, we could just erase all of this,’ rezone the area,” she said. “But people don’t realize that people are there. There is a lot of craftsmanship and artisanship happening in these closed spaces.”
Brooklyn native Ray Lopez’s colorful, caricaturesque artwork on paper is based on current events and art films. Lopez 43, took art classes at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, and later moved to the Bronx.
“I admire film directors like (the Spanish) Pedro Almodóvar and (the British) Peter Greenaway,” said Lopez, who uses watercolor, acrylic, marker and pen.
“Miss Universe,” ione of his pieces in acrylic on canvas, captures the eye with red and blue contrasts. “I made this big painting in 2011 concerning Miss Universe, but this could be like a transgender, could be a man or woman,” he said.
Although much of his work reflects traumatic moments, the grace in his pieces softens that sensation. “My message is to express the beauty and the expression of the artwork,” he said.
The size of Bronx native Chen Carrasco’s works varies greatly. A life-size installation contrasts with a small-scale piece of an old train riding next to a neighborhood created on matboard.
“Everything is cut precisely to make it look as authentic as possible. I didn’t want to make it look dirty, I didn’t want to make it look clean,” said Carrasco, who has no formal arts studies, but has been drawing since he was a little boy.
In a way, recalled Carrasco, the arts rescued him. While growing up in Hunts Point and Mott Haven, he saw a lot of his friends being killed or sent to jail. “So I decided, since I had this crazy idea as a teenager, to run away and go to California and become this great artist.”
He traveled across the country by himself, before returning to the Bronx, “because this is where I grew up. This is my blood. This is where I belong.”
Most of Carrasco’s drawings evoke a look into the past. His inspiration comes largely from memories. “Modern decoration is beautiful, but I just love the old fashioned stuff. I love neighborhoods too.”
Also on display are the still life paintings of Mauricio Cortes, 28, who studied at Yale and Cooper Union; the images of renowned, French-born photographer Martine Fougeron, 64; and the architectural landscapes of Cooper Union alumnus Jesse Kreuzer, 30, who created his pieces during two months drawing on the rooftops of the BronxArtSpace building itself, and of a Port Morris building.
Model Redux will be on display through August 25 at BronxArtSpace, which is located at 305 E, 140 St, Bronx. The gallery is open to the public Wednesday-Friday noon to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 5. On Saturday, July 28, Jesse Kreuzer will hold a drawing workshop from 2 to 4 p.m.