Give ‘em space: Giant exhibits take over Red Hook gallery

Drape nuts: Dancers move among the fabrics of “On the Backs of Fireflies,” part of the exhibit “Grand Installations: Spatial Relations” at the Red Hook gallery Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition.
Sam Joseph

Space is the place!

A Red Hook gallery has launched an exhibit of enormous three-dimensional art pieces, inviting audiences to lose themselves among the artwork. The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition exhibit “Grand Installations: Spatial Relations,” on display Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 27, spotlights work by eight artists from around the country in an effort to make visitors think about their own physical presence, said the show’s curator.

“We want our audience to experience this art, not just see it,” said Fritz Weiss. “We have huge installations here that force you to think about how you inhabit negative space, videos complementing the work, and visitors are even doing yoga as part of one of the pieces. It’s different. It’s exciting.”

One notable installation, a 20-foot-high, 50-foot-long sculpture titled “On the Backs of Fireflies,” uses recycled metal objects and colorful fabric to create a playful object. The artist said that she was inpired by the rusting metal that surrounded her home, growing up in rural Vermont.

“I work a lot with chain-link fencing in ‘On the Backs of Fireflies’ because I’m fascinated by the way it transforms when you put some paint and fabric over it,” said Victoria Cowles, who now lives in Washington, DC. “It was one of the cheapest and ugliest things you could buy where I’m from, but take it out of context and juxtapose it with color and texture and somehow it becomes a dignified, beautiful shape. In my art, I like to take the raw and gritty things in life and see joy.”

During the gallery opening on Sept. 21, Cowles brought in two dance teams to perform around her piece, while oscillating fans caused the fabric to move and seem alive. After the performances, said the artist, ordinary visitors also began interacting with her piece.

“Adults and kids were dancing together and they even wore some of the pieces I had set out there like clothes,” she said. “It was heartwarming. Art is sort of magically transformed when people get involved in it.”

Visitors will find their own way to react to each piece in the “Spatial Relations” show, said its curator.

“Each of the artists we chose has created an entirely different experience, both for the audience and for themselves personally,” said Weiss. “We’ve only provided them with the space to do it.”

The Artists Coalition also has two other fall exhibits on the display in its warehouse space in Red Hook: “Color,” a juried exhibition exploring the meaning of pigments, and “Fall in/Fall out,” an exhibit of work by the Coalition’s members.

“Grand Installations: Spatial Relations” at Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition Gallery [481 Van Brunt St. between Reed Street and the water in Red Hook, (718) 596-2506, www.bwac.org]. Sat–Sun through Oct. 27; 1–6 pm. Free.

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