“In French, avant garde is the front guard (lit. “advance guard),” said Daniel Aycock, Director of Roebling Street’s Front Room Gallery, explaining the name of his art space. Aycock, the founder of Wag Mag, the monthly Brooklyn art guide, as well as Front Room, has kept his studio true to that title, showcasing some of North Brooklyn’s most innovative artists.
Since opening in 1999, Aycock and co-director Kathleen Vance have dedicated Front Room to showing contemporary artwork with a concentration on photography, conceptual art, video, audio art and installation. They’ve exhibited impressive pieces from artists such as Thomas Broadbent, Sasha Bezzubov and Stephen Mallon, who gained fame from his “Brace for Impact: The Salvage of Flight 1549,” a series of photographs documenting the salvaging of the US Air flight that Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger emergency-landed in the Hudson River in 2009.
The current Front Room show, “A Fine Line”, features new works by Rob de Oude, Rodger Stevens and an artist known for introducing the works of others to the neighborhood – Rosa Valado, curator of the annual Greenpoint Film Festival.
“Rosa was one of the starting points to thinking about the organization of the show,” said Vance. “In speaking with her about the repetitions of the lines and the layering in [her work], we thought about artists that we’d had our eyes on for a while and how we could include them into the program.”
Valado’s untitled contribution uses a variety of metallic light-reflecting materials. Together, they create architectural forms that interact with the viewer. Known for massive public sculptures, her current work is a smaller “table-top” version. Her latest piece was inspired by geometry, physics and nature, and has been likened by gallery-goers to “dream cities and cosmic-scapes,” said Valado. “Someone called it a World’s Fair idea. [Others called it] dream buildings, possibilities, urban-scapes, etc. One little kid at the opening thought it was like an electrical circuitry kind of grid.”
The labor-intensive installation – just one strand took an hour and forty minutes to weave – features a linear design with a repetitive pattern. Despite being constructed from industrial materials, like electrical wire and wire mesh, Valado’s technique of looping and wrapping gives the piece an embroidered or lacy feel. The reflection of light adds a unique, indescribable component that Valado said brings a strong psychological effect.
The forms themselves are also informed by architecture. “Architecture is very important to me because of the effect it has on our human selves, our psyche, our whole experience,” Valado explained. “If you sit in a room like this, you feel one way, a smaller room, another way, a room with a pointy roof will make you feel a different way, a room with or without light [has another effect]. Space is very important to human beings, the way we design our urban cities or even conceive of them…Space is really the focus of the work.”
In de Oude’s paintings and drawings, multitudes of lines are meticulously placed and repeated to reveal geometric shapes. His painting process is painstakingly rigorous: layering and weaving matrices of straight strokes to create contrasting colors and crisscrossing patterns.
Stevens’ sculptural works bring two dimensional forms to life in an overwhelming room-sized installation. His contribution to “A Fine Line” creates shapes that, while not always recognizable, are “homages to often underappreciated things, like Egyptian hieroglyphs of our current times.”
What makes showing the three artists together work so well is “a sense of the hand in everything in [all our] work,” said Valado. “Even though it’s based on lines, repetition and the illusion of looking through layers and repeated forms, there’s that sense of the hand – it’s not computer generated.”
Aycock and Vance knew they had a curatorial hit by the end of March 29th’s opening. “It’s exciting to see Rob, Rodger and Rosa’s work together,” Vance said. “Each artist speaks in a different language, but in a similar context.”
“A Fine Line” will be on display at The Front Room (147 Roebling Street) until April 21st. Showings are Friday – Sunday from 1:00 – 6:00PM and by appointment.