EyeLevel BQE in Focus


Lisa Iglesias’ first solo exhibition at EyeLevel BQE is comprised of rodeo horses, cardboard gold chains, a dance marathon video, and paper maché assault guns. At first glance these elements have little apparent associations, but upon closer look a seamless correlation occurs that is at once charming and powerful.

The show is the first at EyeLevel curated by a guest curator, Erin Sickler, who is the Director of Curatorial Programs at 601Artspace. The premise is centered around the 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? in which a group of desperately money-hungry characters participate in a Depression-era dance marathon (which at one point leads to literally running around a derby track like rodeo horses) for a chance to win $1500.

La Sonnambula, an animated 6-minute looped video comprised of hundreds of roughly sketched drawings, depicts a short scene from the movie where in which the characters are dancing toward the brink of death. Figures are drawn with thin and wispy marks, their bodies contorted in choppy and repeated movements in front of a stark, blank background. Their pathetic and ghastly state is accompanied by an acoustic arrangement based on the opera of the same name, its sound manipulated and crossed-over, layered and slowed down to create a creepy drone full of static and fuzz.

A series of drawings depicts horses suspended mid-air, their pristinely drafted bodies contorted and tense in a state of perpetual movement, functioning as a literal translation of the characters in the film as demented derby horses.

Atomic Teeth, a sculptural installation comprised of 21 blackened paper maché AK-47 assault rifles, is displayed in the window front, each gun pointing at a center to create a circular iconic image of worship and sacrifice. The title refers to the profusion of this model gun used in war all over the world, acquiring a status both to salute and to kill, and a decry of US Imperialism from Mao Zedong as a paper tiger with atomic teeth, harmless but not without weapons.

Situated on one corner of the gallery space is a pile of larger-than-life chains, fabricated by hand using cardboard to cut and link oversized ovals to make up a faux gold necklace with a statement pendant spelling out “Always Forever” that is opulently hung on the wall. It’s ominous and burdensome, a warning of how marriage and relationships as a human condition can deceive and falsify.

The literal translations and reinterpretations of mass culture, the process of re-historicizing and re-purposing materials is transparent in Iglesias’s works. The efforts can be a bit tedious, but the sincerity and witticism is welcome.

Located on a cozy non-descript storefront alongside the BQE, EyeLevel BQE was started by Gabriela Alva Cal y Mayor. It is shared as a showroom with her fiancé Tyler Clemens, the co-founder of Outlier, a clothing line producing comfortable bike wear for the professionals and commuters.

A result of happenstance, Eyelevel BQE started almost two years ago when Gabriela was in search of a hat designer for an art installation. She met with and began collaborating with esteemed designer Victor Osborne in his showroom and atelier, where Gabriela curated projects to be installed in the window. When Osborne left for the Lower East Side, EyeLevel BQE was born with the intention of bringing a community of artists and non-artists together for collaborative projects.

Stepping away from the traditional function of an art gallery to represent artists and sell their work, Gabriela was more interested in finding ways to promote their works and create necessary visuals and events to bring as many people together to share and experience art with an open and non-discriminatory agenda. Free of scenes and trends, the space functions as active grounds for experiments and exploration, and showcases works that invite audience participation and production.

Gabriela moved to New York five years ago from Mexico City and is an emerging artist exploring everyday materials and their cultural significance through multiple mediums including printmaking, sculpture and photography. Here interest in how everyday materials and language are used and reused have resulted in works such as her Band Aid series, in which the ubiquitous and often insincere phrase “Are you OK?” was translated to the temporary and superficial covering of Band Aids.

Running a space like EyeLevel BQE is not the most lucrative endeavor and Gabriela compensates by driving her creative efforts into various channels. She is one of many graphic designers freelancing and floating about Brooklyn, and these gigs often lead to multi-media collaborative projects. In providing marketing and development consulting for the restaurant Viva La Crepe in Nolita, the space is also utilized as a breeding ground for performances and gatherings organized and promoted by collectives like You Are Here.

She’s also expanded Eyelevel online. About a year ago she launched an online gallery called Eyelevel Focus, where, as the name implies, each show focuses on one artist, and their limited edition works. This Thursday, they’re launching a new show for designer Dan Funderburgh and having the opening reception at homeware design store Voos. “We like to do shows at different places,” said Gabriella, “because we like to partner with other people.”

“They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” runs through November 14 at Eyelevel BQE, 364 Leonard St., Williamsburg, Saturday-Sunday, 12-6pm. The opening reception for Dan Funderburgh is this Thursday, 6-9 p.m. at Voos, 105 North 3rd Street, Suite:105C, Williamsburg.

Text by Joann Kim. Images from top: Lisa Iglesias, “Horse I”, 2010; Lisa Iglesias, “Always and Forever,” 2010; and Gabriela Alva Cal y Mayor, “Topography of a Disaster” from Are you OK? series, 2008.

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