July 2, 2009 by Sarojini Seupersad
The Brooklynite Gallery, known for their modern take on old-fashioned artistic enterprise, showcasing new artists and street-inspired art, is now celebrating it’s first year in business. The world-renowned artist Ben Frost (of Ben Frost is Dead fame) is showcasing his latest series “Plague Landscapes,” at the Brooklynite Gallery until July 18, 2009. Street artist SPECTER, now showing his work at the The Royal Ontario Museum and also at The Brooklynite NYC, had this to say about the organizers of the gallery:
They are gracious enough to support me and my work. Putting themselves out there because they believe in what I do. It’s rare to find a Gallery that cares so deeply. I meet with curators and the like often. They love the work but can’t see how it can translate indoors; they don’t see a product. Brooklynite on the other hand believes the work speaks to people on both levels; outdoors and in a gallery setting.
The Brooklynite has also just opened a new, albeit temporary, LES branch aptly named, ‘The Summer Pop-Up Shop.’ At the Gallery’s opening bash party last week, owner and founder Rae McGrath spoke to me for a moment, while I rubbed elbows with Ben Frost, Specter and some other very cool people, drinking wine out of plastic cups and listening to tunes spun by DJ Obeycity. Nothing wrong with that.
On The Pavement: The Brooklynite Gallery is a relatively new gallery. How did it come to exist? Why did you pick Bed-Stuy as a home?
Rae McGrath: Brooklynite Gallery has been existence for a little over a year but has been in the construction phase as far back as three years ago. I am a Brooklynite so I wanted to stay in Brooklyn but needed to find a place I could afford. This place fit the bill so we went for it. I rebuilt this place from the ground up with one other person who hails from St. Vincent Island and built houses there. Rasta man! Yo!
OTP: What’s the philosophy behind The Brooklynite Gallery? What audience(s) are you trying to reach?
RM: The goal of Brooklynite Gallery is to showcase artists who think outside the box – challenge the establishment and are willing to think big. We are about creating the most exposure possible for the artist and to create opening parties that people remember. Artists spend so much time in their studios leading up to their exhibition, we feel it is our duty to draw as many patrons to view their hard work as possible. We believe music and art go hand in hand. I have not met one artist so far that doesn’t make work without listening to music. We work with the artists showing here to find just the right music to create the experience they have in mind. We also believe it’s important to not just send out a flyer that announces an upcoming exhibition and hope people show up. We produce videos, work with the artists to make hand-made invitations, and secure exterior locations to allow them to create work on the streets. In short – we don’t see ourselves as a “gallery” more than we do a venue to allow artists to flourish. We are inspired by CNN’s “Breaking News” and the international community. Our parties draw fans from all over the world; our on-line TV channel (which airs our Opening Parties LIVE with chat) does the same. Think the vibe of the Warhol Factory parties mixed with the 1980’s breakdance culture – that’s what BROOKLYNITE’s goal is.
OTP: How do you choose which artists to represent? Or is it more of a creative preference? Can you tell me a little about your partnership with artists Ben Frost and Specter?
RM: We choose artists that are hungry and eager to get their work out to the people. Not necessarily in quantity – but in quality. In the past an artist would have to present a set of slides to a gallery owner in hopes they would be selected to have a show. Nowadays with the internet age, artists can make their own buzz, especially street artists and have galleries chase them. Hell – I just bought new pair of cross trainers to catch a few myself! We look for artists that are bold, daring and present. It’s not just the art but the high we see them get from getting new work out there. That’s what drives us to work with them.
OTP: The Brooklynite Gallery in Brooklyn has a very modern, almost futuristic look and feel to it. Do you think the type of art you showcase is the future of art?
RM: Yes and no. The artists we show are smart enough to know that the ones that came before them have paved the way – allowed them to be who they are now and who they strive to be. Yet at the same time they are now pushing new boundaries and creating new storylines of their own.
OTP: Do you think ‘street art’ gets it’s fair amount of exposure in the serious art world? Or is less exposure the point?
RM: I think it gets less exposure, but just like anything that’s trying to challenge the establishment there is opposition. We love opposition. Haring, Warhol, Basquiat, all started out anti-establishment until they created a new one. I don’t think street artists particularly care about the “serious art world.” In fact it’s hard for a lot of them to take their work into a gallery and clean up the environment so much. We are always careful to make sure they have a lot of range in terms of still staying in touch with ‘street edge’ they thrive off of.
OTP: How did the LES branch come to be? And, if it proves to be a popular destination, would you consider giving it full-time status into the Fall?
RM: I’m always reminded of a friend of mine who was dating a girl that was a bit over weight during the summer months one year. He kept assuring me and himself that is was just a ‘summer thang’. They had fun in the sun but soon after it ended – I think that will be the case for BROOKLYNITE NYC as well.
OTP: Considering the recession, is a $1,100 piece feasible for most people? Does art suffer in a recession, too?
RM: Art definitely suffers in a recession. We’ve all felt it. I think buyers are being more particular about what they buy these days. At the same time if you have work that is solid, buyers will find you and want it – like drugs.The Brooklynite Gallery 334 Malcolm X Blvd Brooklyn NY 11233
The Brooklynite NYC Summer Pop-Up Shop 632 East 11th Street NYC New York, NY 10009