This weekend, we’re checking out Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy and Beyond at the Brooklyn Museum. And while we’re in the neighborhood, we won’t be able to resist stopping by Berg’n, a beer hall with something for everyone. Update: "Crossing Brooklyn" closed on January 4th. To stay updated on what's going on right now, sign up for our #YourArtWeekend newsletter here.
THE ART /
“Crossing Brooklyn,” which opened earlier this month, is the Brooklyn Museum’s most recent exhibition to showcase the artists from its own neighborhood. The title of the show was presumably taken from the borough's most famous artist, Walt Whitman, and there is more than a hint of the democratic, freewheeling spirit of his poems in this exciting show. While some surely argue that Brooklyn gets more than its fair share of hype these days, this exhibition is a strong argument that the hype is well-deserved.
A common goal of the pieces in this show -- which features work by 35 artists and groups who call Brooklyn home -- seems to be a more intimate and immediate connection between the artists and the show's visitors. The centerpiece of the gallery spaces here is Paul Ramirez Jonas’ “The Commons,” a massive cork sculpture of a horse in the style of classical equestrian statues. Instead of an imperial figure atop the horse, though, Jonas has asked museumgoers to pin bits of pocket-debris to the cork. The massive horse manages to retain some of the power-projecting force of its bronze precursors, but the collage of MetroCards, handwritten notes and other random bits of paper turns the sculpture into a kind of communitarian canvas.
One memorable piece is Miguel Luciano’s “Pimp My Paragua,” another interactive one. He has built a colorful and gorgeous street vendor’s cart, and if you’re lucky, you might run into the artist himself, pedaling the orange machine around the galleries, selling shaved ice and blasting Puerto Rican music. Another highlight is Nobutaka Aosaki’s “From Here to There,” a map of New York City the artist has created from bits of paper on which he -- disguised as a lost tourist -- has solicited hand-drawn directions from random passersby on the street. The Japanese-born artist also has a station in the galleries where he'll stop by to draw portraits of visitors in the vein of artists you might find on the street, using plastic bags with a smiley face on them as his canvases and a sharpie as his paintbrush.
This is a big, colorful, diverse, all-over-the-place (in a good way) show. There are photographs, sculptures, paintings, multimedia installations, and even a coop of live pigeons that the artist Duke Riley trained to transport contraband cigars from Cuba to Florida for an installation called "Trading With the Enemy." One piece, presented by the collective BFAMFAPhD, presents what could be the outline of a TED Talk on the economics of being a working artist in 2014 (in short: not lucrative). The lasting impression you get from all these pieces is a repeated argument that art is made by real people in the real world. That sounds obvious enough, but I think we have a tendency to forget it, especially when we spend so much time with work by distant and seemingly inhuman masters like Michelangelo and Rembrandt. "Crossing Brooklyn" is a refreshing reminder that there are people behind the art we love, right in our neighborhood.
WHAT TO DO AFTER /
Berg’n is a just few blocks away from the Brooklyn Museum, on Bergen Street. An open space with beer hall-style long tables and a garden for sunny afternoons, they’ve got something for everyone in every mood. There’s a bar with excellent craft beer, a coffee shop that serves ice cream, and the space also hosts four great mini-restaurants, where you can pick up food to enjoy with your drinks: Ramen Burger, Pizza Moto, Asia Dog and Mighty Quinn’s BBQ. Our favorites were the Ramen Burger (exactly what it sounds like) and the carbonara pizza from Pizza Moto.