I had the pleasure of meeting Donna Cleary in 2013, when we collaborated with the artist Jesse McCloskey to curate a pop-up exhibition on The Bowery. The show was a success, and inspired by the experience, Donna decided to hold exhibitions in her own apartment the following year. She named the project after her apartment number in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, and thus, 184 Project Space was born.
Conceived as a means of building community by bringing together artists, curators, and collectors in a casual context, 184 Project Space has since held thirteen exhibitions over the past three years, serving as a valuable platform for artists and curators (my self included) to experiment with installing contemporary art in a domestic setting.
Donna recently moved location to Bed Stuy, and to inaugurate her beautiful new sun-soaked apartment, she has curated a stunning group show of seven women artists working in diverse media, including video, sculpture, performance, installation, augmented reality, and painting (both analog and digital).
The show is titled MIS, in reference to a character of the same name from Irish folklore who, bereaved at the loss of her father in battle, is metamorphosed by grief and rage into a fearsome creature with both feathers and fur. The title “MIS” carries associations with both the negative prefix “mis-” and the standard feminine appellation “Miss,” thereby highlighting the fierceness of this all-woman cast, emphasizing their power for transformation of—and through—art.
The exhibition theme is addressed most literally through the work of Julia Oldham, who’s “Coyote Woman in the Cascades” (2016) hangs above the living room couch, depicting a woman in the woods, seemingly contorted in agony as she transforms into a coyote. The image is in fact a photographic self portrait, digitally collaged with an image of a coyote and then painstakingly “painted over” with a stylus on a computer, such that the hybridity of the wolf-woman is reflected in the hybridity of the art process. The bottom half of the image is intentionally left checkered like the ground upon which photos are manipulated in photoshop, a knowing wink to the growing pains of the artist living on the cusp of a new media revolution.
A leading player in that revolution is the artist Jung Hee Mun, who’s site specific augmented reality installation, “I;therefore;Exist” humorously occupies the 184 Project Space bathroom. Invisible to the naked eye save for a few stickers pasted around the room, the installation is viewed through an android tablet, which when pointed at the stickers, uses image recognition technology to activate animated sequences.
Most of the stickers depict “the mouth of truth,” a stone-faced fountain in Rome which is fabled to clamp down its jaw on the hand of anyone who tells a lie; when these fountain-faces trigger the software, they begin to spout water all over the place, and a strange woman appears, and begins to worship at the porcelain altar. Her skin is a textureless checkerboard, echoing the unfinished background in the Oldham print, and suggesting that this could be an avatar for any of us.
Another sticker reads “This Is Not An Exit,” triggering thoughts of Sartre, as well as a sequence in which our protean every-woman rocks back and forth on the can, as if lamenting some tragic loss, or perhaps suffering from extreme constipation—which, in the context of creative expression and technological experimentation, might be read as a reluctance to let go of the old and embrace the new.
The show makes use of the entire apartment, with work installed not only in the living room and bathroom, but in the bedroom, the closet, the hallway, and the balcony as well.
Of these, my favorite work was the understated sculpture by Barb Smith, lovingly placed at the foot of the bed. Titled “Memory of a Tip Toe,” it traces foot prints in a folded piece of foam, which rather than reverting to its “natural” form, has instead been frozen in time through a chemical treatment devised by the artist. The sculpture appears porcelain at first glance, highlighting the poignant tensions between its soft appearance and its hard surface, or its hefty weight and its tender, yielding plinth.
The presentation of the Barb Smith sculpture stands out, in that all of the other works in the show occupy the space of the apartment in a very natural way; an ephemeral painting on glass by the artist Nadia Haji Omar is inocuously installed on the bedroom mirror, and the Leah Dixon sculpture in the hallway looks so good in its spot that I almost wish it were a permanent installation.
Such is the beauty of 184 Project Space, as well as other, equally exciting unconventional galleries across New York (such as Sophies Tree, an apartment gallery in midtown; Paradice Palace, which occupies a Bushwick basement; or Hotel Art, a freestanding shed converted into a micro-gallery in a Brooklyn backyard): they provide us with an chance to experience art in an intimate setting, enabling to us to put ourselves in the shoes of the collector.
What’s more, the viewing experience is necessarily humanized by the setting, since viewings are by appointment only, making for a refreshing change from the often alienating experience of going to a large and impersonal art gallery.
MIS runs through November 9th, 2017, and appointments can be made through the 184 Project Space facebook page.
Go check it out; this is not a show to be MISsed 😉
Leah Dixon, Pik Shuen Fung, Graciela Cassel, Miryana Todorova, Alison Kuo, Nadia Haji Omar, Barb Smith, Julia Oldham, and Jung Hee Mun