|The impenetrable, over-inflated, bubble of the New York art world yields interesting results when artists resist the status quo in a formidable and energized way. Historically artists’ entrepreneurial itch has defined this city, leading to new territory, digging out niches and trenches in places that are undesirable. Galleries usually follow suit hoping to cash in on youthful energy and talent. Yet artists and galleries usually have little in common other than the commercial interest of selling artwork. As a result, economics in New York too often dictates what is shown and supported by galleries.|
The impenetrable, over-inflated, bubble of the New York art world yields interesting results when artists resist the status quo in a formidable and energized way. Historically artists’ entrepreneurial itch has defined this city, leading to new territory, digging out niches and trenches in places that are undesirable. Galleries usually follow suit hoping to cash in on youthful energy and talent. Yet artists and galleries usually have little in common other than the commercial interest of selling artwork. As a result, economics in New York too often dictates what is shown and supported by galleries. For example, during this economic downturn it’s common to see a lot of small paintings hanging from many gallery walls. Risks and economics in art should not be symbiotic.
Sam Farnsworth of Repetti Gallery started his gallery from the ground up by taking over a space in Long Island City. With the help from his friend Ron and his wife Jimmie, they built out the space into studios. This organically evolved into the creation of the gallery whose name comes from the mosaic that is on the outside wall of the building. Farnsworth does not think of himself as a gallery director, or owner, so for his sake I will label him an art enabler. Through the desire to foster a community of artists and provide support for creativity he began Repetti Gallery. This philosophy has carried through, from 1992 to their new home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which had its inaugural, house-warming exhibit It’s about Time, Man curated by William McMillan earlier in July.
Too often the pressure of not failing ruins art. This happens when the economic pressure of, simply, making rent in New York, takes its ethical toll. It’s about Time, Man was in dialogue with Olafur Eliasson’s blockbuster summer exhibition, Take Your Time. In New York, the summer of 2008 belonged to Eliasson, with exhibits at the MoMA, PS1, and his waterfalls, into which the city poured millions. Public art’s value has risen over the years, high production value that draw the masses. Yet the temporary nature of these works leaves us with little or nothing at all but memories of a nice Sunday stroll.
The exhibit at Repetti responds to the artistic superstardom of Eliasson’s fashionable, process-conscious creations. Twelve local, national, and international artists each of them responded to a different Eliasson work, installing the work in this former carriage house in Greenpoint. Tackling the status quo, while posturing for greater things to come, the opening this summer at Repetti was simultaneously critical, enjoyable, and somewhat a house of mirrors. Before viewers entered, they had to sign a waiver; this precipitous notion made them watch their step within the sagging walls of this 200-year-old structure.
The reconstitution of Eliasson’s work at the space in Greenpoint has a light touch but actively addresses the problem of art for the public’s sake. The show at Repetti reclaims a sense of place, neighborhood, and community that is lost with these high-dollar art spectacles. It pokes fun, reinvigorates, and in some cases outdoes Eliasson’s own ideas. In Leigh Ann Pahapill’s photographic installation, she documents the second floor of the historic and dilapidated space at different times of day, which is then presented in the same space as a series of photographs. Dave Shull’s convex mirrored room encapsulates and provokes with as much effect as Eliasson’s large mirror at PS1 without having to lie down with strangers. It’s about Time, Man was transgressive at times with Lara Kohl’s Wall of Fans. It is a ragtag symphony of different speeds and sounds, a low-budget wind machine that was a nice addition during a hot summer day. This is all done with an economy that reminds us that the best art is not the most expensive to produce. The most transgressive piece was Carolyn Funk’s yellow light bulbs, riding piggyback on Eliasson’s disorienting yellow lights, which desaturated all the color from viewers’ vision in MoMA’s hallways. Funk’s lights did not quite add up to the same sepia effect, but playfully addressed the differences of these spaces.
Repetti’s founding principle was based on partnership; through friends and mutual connections there remains a balance of art and business. Most of the artists in It’s about Time, Man are located in Greenpoint, and the hope is to continue its relationship with L.I.C. and to serve the Greenpoint neighborhood by connecting with locals and fostering growth within the local artists’ community. “We are progressively defining ourselves within the art world,” Farnsworth said of Repetti, and said that he hopes to “blaze new territory.” At the end of 2009, Repetti will completely renovate the Greenpoint carriage house into a new ambitious space that preserves as much character as possible, and expands into a contemporary gallery space with a connecting commercial store front. Repetti will continue to have exhibitions at the Long Island City space until the new gallery opens in 2009.