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BWW Reviews: The Bronx Museum, Sze It Now and Burcaw's Street Mural

The Bronx Museum, Sze it now and Burcaw's Street Mural

By Barry Kostrinsky

Hop on the 4 or the D train and travel north young men and woman to see art in the South Bronx. No, that's not a typo, I did not mean to say go see the Yankees. Like many inner cities including Detroit, the Bronx is best known for high crime, poor health condition and low test scores; However these inner cities are also the breeding ground for countless innovative film makers, music makers, visual artists and thought provoking thinkers. The why and how the tough conditions of these neighborhoods breeds an aesthetic flourishing is perplexing to figure out.

Sara Sze's "Triple Point" on view until August 24th at the Bronx Museum

The Bronx Museum is a bright light for the arts in the South Bronx and arts in NYC. If you did not make it to Venice for your biennial sojourn it is your chance to see a piece of Sara Sze's installation "Triple Point (Planetarium)" far from that other water bounded land mass. Why is this in the South Bronx? Holly Block along with Carey Lovelace were the curators of the American Pavilion in Venice and they chose Sara to represent the US.

Detail's of Triple point reveals worlds of play and microcosmes within the work.

I've written about Sara's work before and it bears repeating that she is an artist worth following. In Triple Point's conglomeration of objects you sense a subtle underlying priciple. The work is not random but has the playfullness of a child with a media mix that is fun, witty and thought provoking. At times the works has the feel of an architect on acid; a good acid trip. There is a sense of Dada in the work as large C-clamps are underburdened holding light objects, matchess grow out of wood twigs and architectural ampitheatres are cut and pasted together from photos. The work is energetic and alive and makes use of common objects quite unlike the high polished stainless steel and aluminum surfaces of Jeff's money based art hanging all over the Whitney. In Sze's work there is a feel of swirling energy that hints at the underpinning of our own celestial energy. Visually and intellectual the work delivers. Historically the work seems to speak to Boccioni's development of the bottle in space set in a more modern context with less constrains and more of a social relevence driven by the various mix of media. Often works of this nature are reffered to as clusterfuck constructions and yet there are definite organizing principles and a somewhat sublime logic that permeates through the various scenes of minutia Sze creates. The show ends this Friday so it is best to book your 4 train ticket ASAP. Don't bother bringing $20 or $25 to get in. Holly Block, the Executive Director turned the Museum free with the help of a generous gift from a 1% of the 1 percenters: they all aint that bad.

Andre Komatsu's simple construction speaks miles to an open mind "Beyond the Supersquare."

Is it worth going to the Bronx to see one work of art? Yes, but there is more. The Museum has a compelling show on architecture "Beyond The Supersquare" that explores the influence of Latin American and Caribbean modernist architecture on Contemporary art. Overt pompous wordiness and an in depth read is not necessary to get this show; It is read visual quite easily. Water and wine glasses, bricks and cartons and many readily relatable forms are merged in the show to give a sense of the range of architecture and the delable line between art and architecture. The show spills over into the newly revitalized Freeman house across the street.

Stills from Alexander Apostal's video reveal an architecture less glorious than most high profile buildings.

Architecture reflects the culture that builds it. Just look at the Pyramids and you can get an indepth understanding of the religion, goals and dreams of the Eygpthian world some four thousand years ago. Will our architecture last or like Yankee stadium do we rebuild every 30 years? Indeed in itself that tells you something about our build it new, spend the money again, raise debt, city attitude. Who would have thunk Yankee stadium is an example of planned obsolesence in cement and green grass?

I have a soft spot for the South Bronx. It has always been a warm and friendly place for me and I have been lucky to know and see the Bronx Museum grow and change leadership over the years. While walking the show this past Thursday I spied Lady Pink giving a tour to a group of kids and family members and Sergio Bessa, Holly's number one much like Spock was to Kurk and Riker was to Picard. Somehow I never see Glenn Lowry walking around MOMA.

SHYU Ruey-Shiann's outdoor installation on the second floor deck at the Bronx Museum

Did I like everything I saw the Bronx Museum? No. SHYU Ruey-Shiann's outdoor installation of buckets being popped up and down off the ground seemed less to recall crabs and their random motions on the beach and more to remind me of the chattering teeth I saw at Disneyland over 45 years ago. Nonetheless this is a piece of contemporary art that is easy and friendly for kids.

When people think of the South Bronx arts often grafitti comes to mind. Yes, TATS CRU and many other great grafitti artists are in and were in the Bronx. Now, a different breed of artist has emerged in these once burning neighborhoods that have had a tough time shaking their unflatterning past. Matthew Burcaw, a good friend and art fair companion of mine is just such an artist. His work, like most artists today ranges in expression from painting to sculpture to small miniscule drawing and yes, to a new kind of grafitti.

Matthew Burcaw's mural across from the Bruckner Bar and Grill.

Burcaw's quickly applied paint on the underpinning walls of the Third Avenue Bridge is adjacent to where Sherman McCoy (played by Tom Hanks in the film) took a wrong turn in the Tom Wolfe classic "Bonfire of the Vanities." Burcaw's work speaks of a different kind of grafitti. Grafitti tags and their 'writings' are at the top of my list of cool graphic arts. But Burcaw incorporates more from traditional high art forms and techniques and Trompe- L'oeil tricks to bridge the gap between just cool letter proclaiming your name and art that is reflective of the larger city and aesthetic concerns.

Matthew has the tool box of a successful artist; He has the skills of a draftsmen, the imagination of a creative genious and the passion for art in all forms including teaching kids art in the Bronx through Agnes Gund's "Studio in a School" highly succesful project. He has been heralded by Anthony Haden-Guest, an important arts writer and one time friend of Tom Wolfe who is a model for one of the characters in the famed story, as an important artist to take note of and watch.

How has Detroit and the South Bronx against all odds birthed so many creative global talents? Carol Reed's intriguing and mysterious character Harry Lime, played by Orson Welles sums it up best in the film classic "The Third Man." Welles rants through the lense of Harry Lime, " In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare terror, murder and bloodshed, yet they produced Michaelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that porduce...the Cuckoo clock." Maybe art needs discord. Was there art in the garden of Eden?

It is worth a $2.50 subway ride to see what it going on in the South Bronx. Burcaw's mural is across the street from the Bruckner Bar and Grill- home to great burgers and salads, a block from Charlies Bar and Kitchen, a cool spot for drinks and Ceetay, the spot for sushi on Bruckner Blvd. You will come back with a feeling that you saw something real, something edgy, something Greenwich village once was long ago and something Brooklyn was 7 years ago. It is still alive and well and happening in the South Bronx.

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From This Author Barry Kostrinsky

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