A month after Norte Maar’s hugely successful Brooklyn Performance Combine at the Brooklyn Museum, the event is being recognized for its celebration of Brooklyn based artists and performers. Critic, James Panero in his monthly column in The New Criterion, juxtaposed the inclusive nature of the event with the seemingly exclusive even divisive omission of artists in the Brooklyn Museum’s current exhibition Crossing Brooklyn.
In his article titled “How Brooklyn missed Brooklyn,” Panero explains “for years the Brooklyn Museum has overlooked the art happening in its own backyard.”
The museum brought in the Combine to promote Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond, its self-described “major survey” of thirty-five borough artists currently on view. Yet for many observers, this exhibition, which opened in October, continues through January, and had been touted as “reflecting the rich creative diversity of Brooklyn,” turned out to be anything but.
“An exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum billed as a ‘major survey’ of Brooklyn-based artists should be exciting and revelatory,” wrote Ken Johnson in The New York Times. “Disappointingly, it’s not.”
“For Crossing Brooklyn, the museum claimed the curators Eugenie Tsai and Rujeko Hockley “drew upon their extensive knowledge of the borough, as well as a wide-ranging network of unofficial advisors composed of artists, colleagues, and other creative professionals.”
Yet [Jason] Andrew, who has curated a decade of local exhibitions and programs through Norte Maar, says that no one from the museum came to observe what he does, despite talking to Tsai. “I don’t think those curators have enough pride in what is happening in Brooklyn. That is reflected in their curation. They can’t keep up with the pace, the spontaneity. But in order to keep the historical relevance, you have to keep up with the art.”
Through its durational program, The Brooklyn Performance Combine became a vehicle to present the current and diverse thriving Brooklyn art scene. Panero describes the Brooklyn Performance Combine as such:
[Jason] Andrew stretched the invitation into a “mashup of Brooklyn-based poets, painters, and performers.” Mixed in with his performance equipment, that afternoon he brought the canvases and sculptures of artists that he saw as indicative of Brooklyn’s artistic energy but which had been ignored by the museum.
[…] For two hours that evening, in an electrifying synergy that was part celebration, part exorcism, all of these canvases and sculptures became the props for the musicians, dancers, and poets of the Combine.
Underlying its mind-bending juxtaposition of different art forms, the Combine’s subtext addressed the museum’s tendency to neglect many of Brooklyn’s artists–those who work in studios, creating paintings, sculptures and other forms of visual art. This sentiment was epitomized by Sarah [Schmerler]’s improvised reading of the brochure from the museum’s recent “Crossing Brooklyn” exhibit. After reading it word for word, she went on a tangent to list a plethora of artists whose works the exhibition “does not include.” This same list of names was paraded around on Loren Munk’s painting, “Recrossing Brooklyn.”
Panero goes on to say that “many of [the Combine’s] local artists saw the performance as an opportunity to demonstrate the burgeoning energy of Brooklyn that the museum had long ignored,” and this was indeed the goal of the event.
Panero uses the Combine event as an entree for a larger discussion about the role a museum should play in our contemporary society. In closing, Panero references a quote from the early founding of the Brooklyn Museum: “The time has come for a Brooklyn Museum that is truly ‘worthy of her wealth, her position, her culture and her people’—and her artists.”
Judging by this article, our Trojan horse has brought some awareness to the lack of representation of Brooklyn artists in their borough’s eponymous museum.