West Farms is refuse. West Farms is comic strip jokes, twig scaffolding, rainbow fabric and droopy clay bowls.
At least, that’s how 20 NYC artists interpreted the neighborhood this month. They splashed ideas around the Bronx River Art Center, a 60,000-square foot warehouse studio in West Farms. ‘Metro Poles,’ their collaborative exhibition, opened Friday, November 21.
“Right now the studio is a sculpture you walk into,” Jose Ruiz, the center’s curator, said. “It’s loose, it’s fresh. The artists incorporated a lot– the neighborhood, the economy, the city’s waste disposal problem.”
Bronx River’s is one of four Metro Poles citywide. For money’s sake and for fun, the arts center teamed up with showrooms in Chinatown, Tribeca and Jamaica Queens. Non-traditional artists were recruited. Their task: to collectively transform four rooms.
After one week, each artist working at Bronx River picked his or her replacement. Another week passed and a third wave of artists rolled in. Eventually, four groups contributed to the exhibition – a mish-mash of paint, video and tactile media.
“It was really cool,” Paul Clay, a Bronx River Metro Poles artist from Manhattan’s Lower Eastside said. “Because the process was so open, it was also really challenging.”
According to Ruiz, creative teams are the future of contemporary art. Artists are pooling resources – space, funds, ideas – and cooperating.
“There are economic obstacles for artists in their twenties and thirties,” Ruiz said. “More are operating together, like a [rock or jazz] band might.”
Bronx River scheduled Clay for Metro Pole’s first working week. A stomach flu sidelined the former anthropology major; yet Clay returned to install a number of unusual art fixtures.
He strolled through West Farms, chatting with a deli patron here, a grandmother there. Clay took photos and translated his shots into a non-fiction comic strip, then pasted the strip to Bronx River’s wall. He also printed out West Farms facts, culled from an Internet search.
Another artist, Corey D’Augustine, hauled trash from rural Virginia to the exhibition floor – New Yorkers’ trash. NYC dumps waste generated in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx far, far away.
“I brought the trash back for a ‘found’ sculpture,” D’Augustine said.
On no two days did Metro Poles appear the same.
“We had artists going wild in the space,” Ruiz said. “Others trying to make sense of the chaos. We allowed the artists to add and take away. It was a sort of performance.”
Bronx River Art Center, founded in 1987, is located at 1087 E. Tremont Avenue. It doubles as an gallery and an after-school club – offering art courses to children and young adults aged nine to 21.
“For twenty years, we’ve been engaged the community to take ownership of the Bronx River through visual art,” Ruiz said. “The center is a safe place for kids to be.”
Between 100 and 200 artists and art appreciators attended the Metro Poles opening Friday.