Greenpoint Gazette

Artistic Fusion and Optimism at Cameo Gallery

BY Elizabeth Brady

If New York’s art scene has been suffering amid recent economic gloom, it wasn’t evident on Thursday night at Cameo Gallery. The art space at 93 North 6th Street hosted a multi-faceted opening for their debut group show, with live music and bold art pieces that complement each other thoroughly.

Located in the rear space of The Lovin’ Cup Café, Cameo Gallery “seeks to articulate the intersection of art, music, food and company by bringing together a multitude of people and genres into one space.” The “white cube” storefront feel of most galleries is absent at Cameo, and has been replaced by black walls and the vibe of an intimate and hidden venue.

The layout compliments the artwork on display for the group exhibit, many of which incorporate bright colors and abstract shapes, or blazing black-and-white imagery.

Painter Carrie Elston’s neon sensibilities are palpable against the black walls of the space. The gallery asserts her craft as “pieces creating a three-dimensional psychological world that sits brashly on top of the smooth surface.” Elston said, adding that “the black walls are perfect for vibrant colors.”

Also flowing amidst the current of florescent colors are Ivana Salander’s works, which employ raw materials in a “controlled explosion of neon abstractions.” Particularly prominent are the slats of wood covered with vivid paint, which Salander revealed as the result of “working with nature, and transferring that energy.”

Ben Bronfman – best known as musical sensation M.I.A.’s husband – makes a single contribution to this group show with a portrait of an old man surrounded by bright flowers. Elsewhere throughout the gallery hang black-and-white images of women by Lukas James, who has made a reputation with a “post-Pop approach that brings into day-glo focus the dark vision at the corner of the spectator’s eye.”

The reception was enhanced by a musical element, with electronic composer James Tunick’s experimental sound. New York City-based bands Daddy Long Legs and The London Souls also performed. The groups have received a good deal of attention recently and with good reason, commented Josh Sampson, co-owner of The Lovin’ Cup and Cameo Gallery. “They are both just effortless rock bands,” he said.

Salander noted how the live music element can support an art event or opening, and that the combination of bands with artists is a great way to expose people to both. “The music world is more accessible to the average person,” she said on Thursday.

Nicolette Krickl, a co-owner of the space, reflected on her expectations for the gallery, stage, and bar/restaurant to reinforce each other and to “offer something new, and to offer value” to the public. To her, the key for an art space surviving in trying financial times is to be creative and make a more manifold effort. By working with artists and musicians who are all friends, as was the case for Thursday’s opening, the gallery can offer something authentic and original while still retaining that “family affair” feel.

Other neighborhood galleries have expressed a similar desire for pragmatism. When reached for comment, Tyler Dobson of Greenpoint’s Real Fine Arts said “I think the problem with a lot of galleries is that they bite off more than they can chew, and then in times of economic hardship they find that they are having a hard time catching up.”

By operating as more than just a gallery space, Cameo is securing its future. It seems that neighborhood art spaces must make one of two decisions right now. They can simplify and, as Dobson puts it, keep “operations low budget to avoid these kinds of problems.” The alternative, as is embodied with Cameo Gallery, is to incorporate other business ventures into the project to help supplement the space and its artists.

The artists at Thursday’s opening spoke with optimism about the scene’s potential during economic flux. Elston noted how New York’s artistic community has perhaps become too submerged in money and auctions, and less connected to the art itself. “I’m excited,” she said on Thursday. “I think this will be a rebirth for New York.”

Salander also expects to see a positive transition for artists amid the City’s financial woes. She talked about “the changing energy in the community” and her hopes that rents will go down, and that subsequently, creatives will stay in the neighborhood.

Ben Bronfman, Carrie Elston, Lukas James, and Ivana Salander’s work will be on display until March 12th. Cameo Gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday from 12pm-6pm.

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