“Twenty-one years ago, the first Gowanus Open Studios was a handful of artists inviting their friends to see their work,” says Abby Graf Subak, director of Arts Gowanus, about the group’s origins. Since then it has grown immensely — from 150 participating artists to 350 in just the last five years — and become more integrated within the community.
As they have expanded, they have stuck close to their original mission. What this means is that unlike some other similar events, Gowanus Open Studios keeps the focus on the work. “All our efforts are focused on getting the audience into the studios and looking at art,” says Subak. There is a break for drinks and some food, but no live music, street fair or any side events that take away from the weekend’s purpose. “We don’t create distractions.”
Below is a handy guide to some of the artists worth checking out. All of their work has something, in some way, to do with Brooklyn, from photographs of the “urban wilderness” around the Gowanus Canal to paintings of intimate street views around various neighborhoods.
400 3rd Avenue
Studio # 25 — Brooklyn Art Space
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Angela Alba’s humorous sculptures and digital drawings combine soft pastel colors with amorphous, blobby objects. Her work has been exhibited at K & P Gallery in New York and the Greenpoint Gallery in Brooklyn, among other venues.
165 2nd Street
Studio # Gowanus Boathouse
A former recipient of the Robert Smithson Sculpture Fellowship at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and founding head of Brooklyn Collaborative, a public secondary school, artist Alyce Barr’s current practice involves ceramic and mixed-media sculpture.
163 President Street
Studio # Annex
A Brooklyn resident since 1988, David Briggs is not just a painter: he is also the owner of Loci Architecture, a design studio in Soho, and the Executive Director of Gowanus by Design, “a nonprofit proposing new sustainable urban strategies in the neighborhood around the Gowanus Canal.” His paintings, filled with colorful, sharp edges, bear the marks of his architectural background.
300 7th Street (between 4th and 5th avenues)
Studio # 3rd Floor
Raised in Coney Island, Phil Desantis finds his inspiration in the neighborhoods that surround him. His work, both watercolors and photographs, suggest an interest in preserving the parts of Brooklyn that are slowly disappearing, with a special appreciation for the way light falls on the steps of apartments.
698 Sackett Street
Studio # 2R
Miska Draskoczy’s beautifully detailed photographs of the contaminated wilderness in Gowanus, where the artist lives, have previously been featured in his book Gowanus Wild, published in conjunction with the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, and the subject of a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Public Library in 2015.
168 7th Street
Studio # 2L (2nd Floor)
Korean-American artist Ella Yang has been located in Gowanus for 15 years, where she has based her practice around plein air painting in historic Brooklyn neighborhoods. Her street scenes capture the vibrant colors and deep shadows of the borough with a nostalgic eye.
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