Reflections on the work of contemporary artists
Fragile Rainbow: Traversing Habitats by ecoartspace
Featured Project: with curator Sue Spaid
The group show Fragile Rainbow: Traversing Habitats at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center in Brooklyn includes paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations addressing environmental issues by more than fifty artists from the New York City region who are members of ecoartspace. The title is based on Claire McConaughy’s oil painting, Fragile Rainbow, referencing both hope and loss. The show runs from May 7th through June 4th, 2022. Curator Sue Spaid elaborates on this large-scale group show.
What is your curatorial vision for this show and can you walk us briefly through the show?
As it turns out, organizing a members’ exhibition is a bit more complicated than curating a typical group exhibition. For one, I knew only a handful of the artists, though I had encountered many more during ecoartspace’s regular zoom presentations whereby four to five artists introduce their practice in the framework of trees, fungi, plastic, water, or abstraction (multi-monthly zoom sessions are typically thematic). Moreover, this exhibition came together rather rapidly as the gallery’s availability wasn’t secured until March. Ecoartspace founder Patricia Watts identified over fifty local artists who submitted up to six artworks along with installation instructions. Not only was I responsible for selecting artworks and creating meaningful relationships amidst this unusual space replete with radiators, windows and doors, but I had to track whether there was sufficient space to include artworks by as many members as possible.
Technicalities aside, once the artworks were selected, the idea to organize them in terms of habitat and interconnectedness seemed obvious. Even more wonderful was the way everything came together during installation, enabling the exhibition itself to exemplify interconnected habitat. Simulating a grove, one wall features paintings replete with trees, branches, flowers, fungi, roots, animals, and seeds, including pendulous cigar tree seeds (Catalpa speciosa). Two-sided drawings dangling from wires that span three columns fortuitously mimic marks and gestures visible in nearby artworks. As a result, notions of entanglement and sinuousness abound. Continuing the tradition of Plains Indian women’s drawing abstract geometric motifs, Indigenous artist Bebonkwe’s Post-Traumatic Entanglement: Opal proffers a sober counterpoint to this exhibition’s surfeit of exuberant renderings like Pamela Casper’s Forest Spectacle and Deborah Wasserman’s Migrating Crop.
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(Top image: Tessa Grundon, Invasive Species, 2018-2021/2022, Asiatic Bittersweet root systems and border fencing, dimensions variable.)
ecoartspace was conceived in 1997 by Patricia Watts in Los Angeles. In 1999, Watts partnered with east coast curator Amy Lipton, operating as a nonprofit under the umbrella of SEE, the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs in California. 2019 marked twenty years that Watts and Lipton have curated art and ecology programs, participating on panels and giving lectures internationally. Combined, they have curated over sixty art and ecology exhibitions, many outdoors in collaboration with artists creating site-specific works. They have worked with over one thousand artists from across the United States, and some internationally. Starting 2020, ecoartspace became an LLC membership organization based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
A project of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs since 1999
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