Greenpoint Gazette
196 Guernsey

Art on Display at Historically Rich 196 Guernsey

BY Kylie Jane Wakefield

The multi-family building at 196 Guernsey Street in Greenpoint has quite a history. When the Civil War warship U.S.S. Monitor was being built in Greenpoint, workers stayed at the home. In 1904, a devastating fire on the East River killed 1,200 people aboard the General Slocum steamboat. A survivor of the tragedy – who lost nine relatives that day – also lived there. Now, three aspiring independent curators are using the space to further develop the home’s historical significance.

Sarah Thompson, Ginger Cofield, and Lauren Haynes are curating 196 Guernsey, an exhibition centered on the idea of home. Running since August 5th, the show features mainly Brooklyn-based artists. According to the press release, “The idea for the exhibition began as a discussion about the domestic space, with a focus on ideas revolving around the inner relationships of a home, both public and private, and how these exchanges are negotiated. The works included offer both personal and universal approaches to the fundamental qualities present within most any domestic arena, such as the values surrounding human interactions, architecture, the history of a space, and material objects.”

196 Guernsey

Cofield, who worked at a Chelsea gallery and lives at 196 Guernsey Street, said, “It’s great that we have these works that are focusing on this theme and we have them in the actual domestic space. It’s outside of the typical white wall gallery experience.”

In the back of the second floor of the home is a piece by Sami Ben Larbi, a Berlin-based artist who strips down spaces to install his exhibition, a light that shines on a blank, white, plastic picture frame and canvas. Larbi flew over to install his work, which entailed tearing down the plaster in the home’s tiny closet, an original feature of the place. Thompson said Larbi’s piece is “a passageway between his own experiences that are in some way lacking. Viewers can attach their own visions to the space.”

196 Guernsey

Just a few steps down the hallway is a photograph by Robin Cameron called “All The Things My Parents Gave Me.” In the picture are paints, stuffed animals, a polo shirt, and relics of childhood the artist kept throughout her adulthood. In the basement, Julie Quon’s work is on display, which deals with her relationship with her parents. The photographs of her family’s apartment in Chinatown are part of her light, dust and passing series. The pieces portray her own feelings about her parents’ mortality and the passing of time.

The basement also contains a work by Theresa Marchetta titled, “Teddy Roosevelt’s Skin,” which illustrates the former president’s home, specifically his lion-skin rug. Marchetta’s acrylic painting captures “an essence of a very culturally specific ideology of the home from a certain period of the 20th century and a certain part of the country,” said Thompson.

Adam Taye’s humorous works occupy the second floor, and display his own version of New Yorker cartoons. His reworked captions bring a lighthearted view to the concept of home.

The backyard garden is also utilized in 196 Guernsey, holding pieces by MiYoung Sohn, Sandra Eula Lee, and Langdon Graves. Sohn’s “Fancy Fruit” series is comprised of fruit sculptures made out of aluminum foil. The artist transforms the “material function” of household items “to create a new interpretation of her daily experiences,” according to the release. Graves’ work depicts post-World War 2 American suburbia. And Lee, a photographer and installation artist, glued boat compasses on shoes, placing them atop blue and gray-colored gravel.

The exhibit, which is by appointment only until it reopens to the public the second week of September, will have a closing reception on September 17th.

By finding artists with diverse backgrounds and opinions on the concept of home, Thompson and Cofield have introduced even more stories to the already historically rich 196 Guernsey home. Thompson said, “We’re adding to the history of this home by bringing other histories into it for other people to learn about. People can relate in some way, whether they were born next door or on another continent. There’s this idea of home that is unique to this exhibition.”

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