Saturday, January 24, 2015

Printed Matter at the 80 WSE Gallery

by Drew Martin
I just ended my last post thinking about a 1930s hand-cranked press, which was relevant to politically active artists of the show who could make copies of their work to "get the word out." 

In a way, this manual aspect of that show continues down the street, unbeknownst to its curators. If you leave NYU's Gray Art Gallery, hang left and walk a block south on Washington Square East you will find the 80 WSE Gallery. The current show, Learn to Read Art: A Surviving History of Printed Matter, is up until February 14. The exhibition is a physical timeline of the artists' book organization Printed Matter, established by the likes of Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, and others.

From the galleries press release:

As a non-profit institution that has always been located within New York City’s gallery districts, Printed Matter has remained unique in its ability to democratize the field of contemporary art. In their space, books by Ed Ruscha sit next to zines by unknown young artists from rural parts of the United States and heavy metal guitar players perform while high profile art collectors browse alongside high school students. This sustained and evolving notion of democracy is at the core of the organization’s work.

That being said, in a back room of the chockfull-of-art-books/magazines/zines gallery is a big workshop room were a handful of artists-in-residence create a range of works, which are sold in the front of the gallery. Exit through the gift shop, in a good way.

What I liked as much, is a mini exhibition space at the 80 WSE Gallery, which has up a show until February 5, Re[intent]ion: Adaptation +Subversion of the Wearable.

The piece that I really like there is Brincos, an art-shoe project that speaks about migration. The shoes were “designed” for Mexicans trying to cross the border into the United States.

Judi Werthein (Argentinian, b. 1967)
Brincos, 2005
Mixed media

These sneakers are the result of the public art intervention Brinco (“jump” in Spanish)…Designed to aid migrant workers when crossing the Mexican/U.S. border, the shoes include a flashlight and a compass, a map of the border region imprinted in the insole, and a pocket on the tongue.  The sneakers are manufactured in the colors of the Mexican flag; they also feature the eagle that appears on the US quarter, as well as the Aztec eagle, which signals the point of origin of the migrants. The picture on the back heel of the shoes depicts the Patron Saint of Migrants in Mexico.

One thousand pairs of Brincos were produced in China, with half of them given for free by the artist to possible migrants preparing to cross the border, while the rest were sold at a boutique in San Diego for $250 a pair.