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A NEW NEIGHBORHOOD FOR SCULPTURECENTER — IN QUEENS

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by Sarah-Beth White

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Natural history merges with abstract art to launch SculptureCenter, the latest addition to Long Island City’s growing art community. SculptureCenter, which recently made the exodus from Manhattan to Queens, houses a museum, a library and an artists’ residency center. It hopes to become a haven for up-and-coming artists, providing the resources necessary to develop their talent. “We want to foster young talent through our exhibitions. We tend to work with artists early in their career, or mature artists who haven’t yet had the recognition they deserve,” says Mary Ceruti, executive director. The premiere exhibit, “About 86 Springs”, by native Queens artist Jimbo Blachly, takes you on a romantic journey through New York City’s past. “Jimbo is an example of an artist who is artistically accomplished yet relatively unknown among critics, collectors and curators,” Ceruti says. “The work does not fit neatly into any category; it can be representational or abstract, and comes in the form of performance, sculpture, installation and drawing.” Based on the book Springs and Wells of Manhattan and the Bronx: New York City at the end of the Nineteenth Century, by James Reuel Smith, the exhibit pays tribute to a time when natural springs and wells laced the emerging urban landscape of New York City. Blachly has tried to put himself in the place of this gentleman scholar from a hundred years ago. Using organic materials like wood, paper, moss and water, along with modern photographic images of the spring and well sites, Blachly provocatively hints at the ecological imbalance of modern urban progress. His use of water, the essential ingredient of life, fortifies this insight. Its reflective nature sparks the remembrance of fading natural resources, causing viewers to contemplate our lost past. “Jimbo Blachly wants to give people a new view of the city,” Ceruti says. “There is a strong visual and aesthetic feeling about his work, which, of course, he wants people to enjoy…but, beyond this his research has given him a new perspective on the city. He hopes this gets conveyed as well.” This exhibit runs through March 10. Another current exhibit, “From Clay Club to SculptureCenter: A Timeline”, traces the origin of SculptureCenter from a 1928 Brooklyn artists’ cooperative called the “Clay Club”, through its evolution into the current center. In 1948 the organization expanded, changed its name to SculptureCenter, and moved to a carriage house on East 69th Street in Manhattan. Maya Lin, the creator of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C, has designed its present Queens locale, a renovated trolley repair shop. The exhibit conveys the fascinating history of SculptureCenter through source materials like photographs, old catalogues, 1940s reviews, and letters. “SculptureCenter is an historical arts center that has always renewed itself,” Ceruti says. “Different stages in art’s development inspire new artistic needs. We are constantly reinventing ourselves accordingly.” To complement this goal, all areas of the 6,000-square-foot space, including the building façade and stairways, will be adorned with contemporary sculpture. Twenty-two artists will contribute original artwork for SculptureCenter’s new home in its “In Practice” series. Have you ever wondered what the world looks like from the inside of an outhouse? You can get the inside scoop from Patrick Killoran’s exhibit, “Glass Outhouse”, on view through the spring. Art meets function in this working plastic porta-potty, with a one-way mirror exterior that explores the relationship between private and public space. The museum hopes to attract family and community audiences with future interactive hands-on exhibits. Twenty-five artists have been selected to participate in “The Paper Sculpture Show”, which will run from September-November. Each artist will design unique artworks that will be printed on paper. Gallery visitors will be invited to cut out the artworks and assemble them into three-dimensional paper sculptures. These handcrafted sculptures will be displayed in an ongoing, ever-growing exhibit. Olav Westpahlen’s “Blimp Race Project” will be on display June 22-August 9. Westphalen will construct a blimp racetrack in SculptureCenter’s main hall; working with local schools, community groups and businesses, he will design remote-controlled blimps for the races. The project will come complete with a bleacher, commentator booth and sound system. The museum will explore feminism and the myths of womanhood in its spring exhibit, “Architectures of Gender”, presented in cooperation with the Polish Cultural Institute. This exhibit of contemporary Polish women artists will include a series of complex sculptures and reflect on the nature of women in Polish society today. It will run April 11-June 8. SculptureCenter is looking forward to developing educational and community programs to meet the needs of its new neighborhood. Every Saturday at 2pm, it will host an artist or staff-led tour of the exhibitions. “I’d encourage families to come and get on our mailing list, so when our programs develop, we have an audience for them,” Ceruti says. “My hope is that viewers will come away with new ideas every time they visit. We want to display the variety of things artists can do and the endless possibilities of what sculpture can be.”

SculptureCenter is located at 44-19 Purves Street, in Long Island City. Admission is FREE but donations are welcome. For more info, call (718) 361-1750, or access www.sculpture-center.org.


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