Saturday, August 2, 2008

Crane Street: Always on Display

If you appreciate graffiti as art - made by artists working from dusk until dawn, balanced precariously on ledges to fashion their names and political statements - the Crane Street Studios are worth a visit.  The elevated tracks of the 7 train in Long Island City, Queens surround the studio buildings which are unmistakable even from a distance: the walls are covered from top to bottom in bright inscriptions.

But if you prefer art on canvas to art on edifice, a jaunt to Crane Street Studios might be even more dazzling.  Inside the painted building you'll find a thriving colony of artist workspaces: on the second floor is Marshall Harmon of Brooklyn.  His paintings combine topography and cartography with nature, geometry, and building form.  Name at the Gate: Moment, for example, is vivid and saturated with color, its content - leaf-like textures and tree-trunk patterns - arranged in a modernist structure.

A bit down the hall is Robert Lucy with his collection of extraordinary paintings of antique-mall-findings he calls "American Dolls."  When asked about these vivid portraits, Lucy states, "These paintings reference religious icons and political propaganda posters, yet [as a whole] they seem to be empty, unavailable, and hollow."  My gaze shifted to a an impressive portrait of a green-eyed doll with a huge, silky, blonde beehive hairdo.  Upon close examination, every inch of this painting is provocative and inundated with bold color, and as I peered into her eyes, her magic pulled me into her doll world.

The last artist I visited was Tommy Mintz, who, with his "Strip of Buildings/Window Project," has created a voyeur's dream-view of the city.  Mintz selected snapshots of people in their apartments found on Flicker and inserted them into the windows of buildings he photographed in his neighborhood, Astoria, Queens.  In addition, Mintz has also created a New York City Public Toilet Map.  You can order your own for $2.00 (plus $0.50 for shipping) - click here for link.

The saturated exterior of Crane Street Studios reflects the energy of the spaces inside.  Artworks being produced there feel all the more vivid and imposing - bright monuments emerging from an arcane and industrial location.  Here lies a refreshed vision of the 1980's New York City, where art that has grown within these graffiti-wrapped walls is budding to attract the new urban yupster.  The artists here will surely move on and others will come in for the next showing, but for now the residents at Crane Street live peacefully in the industrial backwoods of NYC.

Visit Crane Street Studios: by subway...E, V trains to 23rd St./Ely Ave...G train to Court Sq....7 train to 45th Rd./Court House Sq.  Visit the website for more information.

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