Greenpoint Gazette

Off the Grid: A New Show at 17 Frost

BY Michael Cesarczyk

Artists are pushing the envelope again on Frost Street.

On May 7th, 17 Frost Theater of the Arts hosted “Off the Grid,” a night of experimental art and music centered on the themes of patterns and subtle twists.

The title of the show works on many levels. It is a clever nod to 17 Frost itself, which has proven to be an oasis of outsider art ever since opening in 2007. The performance venue/gallery has made it a point to showcase works from off the beaten path, whether exhibiting street artists such as Aakash Nihilani and Poster Boy or presenting performances by avant-garde electronic bands like the Phonometricians on Cosmic Fire. Joanna Hartell, “Off the Grid’s” curator and one of its contributors, followed this tradition in her choice of artists.

“The artists themselves are just not known in the inner circle of art,” said Hartell. We live in a city that’s so art-focused and yet they’re not known. I don’t know why. They’re great and they certainly could be on the grid. They just aren’t represented in Chelsea right now.”

“Off the Grid” also nicely sums up the overall atmosphere of the show. Despite their use of a wide spectrum of media and subjects, almost all the artists’ works utilize a grid-like structure. These range from David Moriera’s simple designs and Margaret Heffernan’s mixed media abstractions to Elizabeth Ennis’ quirky photographs.

“I like to put my own work in a grid,” explained Joanna Hartell. “And I just wanted to find others who worked in a similar format, who could complement that form. That’s when I realized…gosh! A lot of people work in a grid!”

Even while working within the grid, many of the artists found their way back off with different manipulations and variations. Some of these manipulations are quite blatant, such as Deborah Adams’ acrylic grids on 7×4 sheets of paper, which are obscured by whirlpools of paint. Others are slight, such as “Skin,” Hartell’s collage of 77 photographs of the body’s largest organ. Although they seem to be regular pictures of flesh at first glance, a further inspection reveals that they are all close-ups of old skin, a view that challenges traditional views of physical beauty. Other works include Patricia Sprott’s oil paintings of trees and haze, Hillary Moore’s six “Molecular Memory Portraits” of women and a surreal video by Lili White.

The show’s most prominent piece is Jeanelle Marie’s light installation “As the eye, so the object”. Literally working off the power grid, “As the eye” is a dazzling web of light bulbs, plugs, extension cords, and wires that stretches from the floor to ceiling in the center of 17 Frost. It could perhaps be best described as a waterfall of light designed by Dr. Seuss, and is a visual treat whether viewed during a clear afternoon or when fully lit in the evening.

Music at the opening was curated by electronic artist Matthew Ostrowski and featured performances by Ostrowski, David Linton, Andrea Parkins and Kamran Sadegi.

“Off the Grid” will continue to run for the rest for the rest of this month and can be viewed during other shows at 17 Frost. For more information on the exhibit, visit www.artcat.com/exhibits/13557. For more information about 17 Frost, visit its website at www.17frost.com.

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