Tag Archives: Orestes Gonzalez

5Pointz artists share their ‘whitewash’ experience through work in LIC exhibit


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Orestes Gonzalez

A group of 5Pointz artists have put their emotions and experiences on canvas, reflecting the day they found their graffiti mecca hidden behind white paint.

The artists, including 5Pointz curator and CEO Jonathan “Meres One” Cohen, have come together for an exhibition called “Whitewash” at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery, located at 21-37 45th Rd., just one block away from where 5Pointz once existed.

The show, which begins Saturday, features eight 5Pointz artists, who had major pieces on the building before it was covered in white paint, and two photographers, for a total of 58 pieces.

Each artwork dives deep into the emotions and experiences each individual faced on November 19, when the owners of the property on Jackson Avenue and Davis Street, the Wolkoff family, ordered the building to be painted white overnight.

Gallery owner and 10 year Long Island City resident Jeffrey Leder said that although many people question why he decided to showcase an exhibit featuring aerosol art, he said he wanted the artists to be recognized and to show visitors that their works are considered art.

“It was a sad end to an era here in Long Island City and I think the story needed to be told and the best way to tell the story is to create artwork,” Leder said.

Along with Cohen, the other artists included are Auks, Cortes, Jerms, Just One, Shiro, See TF, Topaz, Zimad and photographers Orestes Gonzalez and Hans Van Rittern.

Marie-Cecile Flageul, curator of the exhibit and 5Pointz spokeswoman, said they had wanted to do a “whitewash” show and keeping it Long Island City was important.

“I think it is extremely impacting for people exiting or coming to the gallery to…see a building that is still standing after four months, so you’re putting it in context,” Flageul said.

The show served as a method of healing and letting go of pain and looking ahead to the future, she said.

Cohen, who dealt with the loss of 5Pointz and his mother all within one month from each other, said although some of his pieces express the anger and frustration he felt when he woke up November 19, the process of creating the pieces for the show was also therapeutic.

“The exhibit to me was a good closure and way to vent, so I found it helped me to relate my feelings to the people that knew of 5Pointz and are devastated by its whitewash,” Cohen said.

He took his signature light bulbs, which normally are yellow and known to be funny, and made them white for the show to depict the “ghoulish” tone of the whitewash.

One of the last pieces he finished for the exhibit was a colorful collaboration between him and artist Shiro, which shows one of the female artist’s iconic characters blowing light bulb bubbles expressing hope and a happy look into the future.

“This is how we communicate best. This is what brings us all together and it did again,” he said. “Over there the walls were what helped tie us together and here are the canvases that are tying us together.”

Each piece in the show is on sale, including wine bottles, donated by Gianna Cerbone-Teoli of Manducatis Rustica, featuring labels designed by Cohen. “Whitewash” will run through June 8.

 

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LIC plumber uses tools of the trade to create unique art pieces


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Orestes Gonzalez

When Long Island City resident Cristian Torres is on the job as a plumber, he sees more than just pipes and pressure gauges.

The 41-year-old Argentinian native has been a plumber since he was 17 years old. He made his way to the United States for the first time in 2001. Since then he has been creating pieces of art from material he knows and uses on the job.

“When I was young enough I was doing little things: I always had the [desire] to build little stuff,” said Torres, who remembers first building small pieces for his nieces and nephews. “Every time I see something I think, ‘with that thing, I can make this, I can make that.’”

When he isn’t plumbing, Torres, who has been living in Long Island City for the past four years, is an artist/sculptor specializing in pipe design. He used to work out of the Davis Street building shared with 5Pointz.

The father of two uses materials such as pipes, aluminum shields, copper coils and gauges to create lamps, light fixtures, sculptures and other art pieces.

Yet Torres creates these pieces with more on his mind than just adding to his collection. The artist said he uses the struggles he personally faces or sees happen in life to influence his various pieces.

“I create things always with the concept of not just using the plumbing material, but having the concept of anxiety,” he said. “I’m trying to express what I’ve seen in my life. It’s more than what they look like.”

One series Torres has been working on for the past seven years follows the theme of expressing anxiety, and was influenced by Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” The artwork in the series is set on copper shields, with pressure gauges and other metal pieces welded on to form the screaming face.

Torres also creates light fixtures and sculptures with sewing machines from the 1900s and temperature/pressure gauges, which he uses to symbolize time.

“I felt like I was liberating myself from a lot of stuff,” he said. “One of the major traumas [of] the [human] being I think is time because we think we are never going to die or get old. That’s why I’m trying to use gauges all over.”

Torres currently works on his pieces in a building shared with numerous other artists, as part of the nonprofit Long Island City arts group known as Local Project, located at 11-27 44th Road. He plans on showing his pieces at upcoming art shows, but dates are still to be determined.

“I hope people just appreciate it [my art],” he said. “It’s not just something functional, because when you buy something like this, handmade or created by someone, it’s always a little bit more than that.”

Even though he has created various pieces of artwork with meaning behind each piece, Torres said he calls himself a plumber before an artist. 

“I enjoy what I do,” he said.

To see some of Torres’ pieces visit his website and if you are interested in purchasing an item, contact the artist at plumbingart1@gmail.com.

 

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Honoring Latin American artists in LIC


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

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One of Long Island City’s newest art spaces, the Diego Salazar Gallery, is honoring local Latin American artists in its second exhibit, Vision & Emotion: Latin American Art Salon.

Gallery owner Diego Salazar, who is from Colombia, is showcasing both emerging and established artists from New York City.

To emphasize the ethnic background of the artists, Salazar chose to open the month-long show on September 20 to tie it into National Hispanic Heritage month, which runs from September 15 to October 15.

Among Salazar’s many favorites, he cited Colombian sculptor Adolfo Caldas.“The composition of color in his sculptures is really gorgeous,” he said.

Other artists in the exhibit include German Baron, Orestes Gonzalez, Rafael O. Gonzalez, Christian Brandner, Shaun El C. Leonardo, Ragner Lagerblad, Sandra Llano-Mejia, Oscar Maxera, Luis Monje, Dulcy Molina, Pietrapiana, Jorge Posada and Carlos Yanguas.

In addition to having a shared heritage, about half the artists in the exhibit work in Long Island City.

A few of those artists rent space in the same building that houses the Diego Salazar Gallery.

After selling antique frames for 47 years, Salazar decided to open the 44th Avenue gallery this May. He moved the frame business to another building he owns, and put the gallery in its place.

Its opening exhibit was comprised of 30 artists who rent studios in Salazar’s gallery.
The Latin American show features 14 artists who live throughout the city, but hail from countries such as Colombia, Cuba, Argentina, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.

Along with the gallery’s owner and the artists, the show’s curator also comes from Latin America.

The Colombian Edelmira Ruiz has spent the last 30 years working as an art dealer, and also owned a gallery for a few years in the 1980s.

Though she hasn’t curated a show in about a decade, it isn’t the first one that she’s done.

“I chose the quality of the pieces, not of the artist,” said Ruiz, explaining how she went about putting together the exhibit.

“I was amazed by the art techniques,” she continued.

Ruiz, who lives in Woodside, said that she hopes the show brings more exposure to the artists and helps the local art scene evolve at a faster pace.

 

LIC Arts Open puts Queens artists on the map


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

The creative colony of Long Island City blazed with inspirational energy during the second annual LIC Arts Open – a 10-day extravaganza in which local artists welcome the public into their studios. Festival-goers experienced the cutting edge in painting, sculpture, photography, theatre and ceramics, crafted by many of the city’s most forefront and promising artistic talents. Hundreds participated in more than 200 exhibitions and performances – demonstrating the masterful skill and breadth of mediums Long Island City artists bring to the creative world.

“I’m delighted with how the festival went,” said Richard Mazda, LIC Arts Open director and artistic director at The Secret Theatre. “It’s definitely a higher quality festival than last year.”

The event began several years ago as a two-day, open-studio event, mainly showcasing visual artists. Mazda sought to transform LIC Arts Open into a multi-studio event, larger and more widely encompassing than ever before.

“The event mushroomed in size,” said Mazda. “It was kind of like a hit record. I knew it would be successful.”

This year’s festival brought art unseen at previous gatherings to the foreground, marking the debut of performance pieces at the LIC Arts Open. Mazda also revealed that sculpture, a medium he believed was underrepresented at previous festivals, was more abundant during this year’s celebration.

“It’s hard to present more sculpture, especially the larger pieces,” said Mazda. “It’s hard to transport them and display them. Painting generally gets shown more in galleries. Sculpture is a less accessible form of art.”

Ten years ago, Gotham Center at Queens Plaza was a desolate industrial hall. During the festival, hundreds of one-of-a-kind, 10 X 10 pictures lined the walls of the now-revitalized hub. The works, donated by both well-known and underground artists, were available to be purchased by browsing patrons. Half of the proceeds went to future LIC Arts Open events and the other half helped continue a program run by the Queens Council for the Arts.

Mazda remarked that many of the Gotham Center affair attendees had never seen an art exhibit before. He believed the event’s locale brought commuters passing through Queens Plaza station into the building, drawn by the crowd and the excitement.

“[This kind of event] makes art accessible to ordinary human beings,” said Mazda.

Photographer Orestes Gonzalez displayed his photo essay, “Portraits of Artists 2010-2012,”depicting LIC creatives in their studios.

“I think [the festival] went really well,” said Gonzalez. “We had twice as many participants this year. There was a lot more traffic as far as the public was concerned. There were a lot more interesting exhibits. It’s gaining force in other parts of the city as well.”

Gonzalez believes the LIC Arts Open publicizes a group of artists formerly flying under the radar.

“The festival is about making a statement about the artists of LIC,” said Gonzalez. “It puts the artists of Queens on the map. Everyone’s always looking at Manhattan and Brooklyn, but we have a huge amount of artistic activity here.”

Bertille De Baudiniere, a local artist whose works were on display during the LIC Arts Open, curated a contest where 780 kids from across the borough, ages five to 18, created postcards in line with the theme of De Baudiniere’s latest collection, “Green Earth.”

“It was perfect to do [the contest] with children because they will be the next generation to deal with Earth and these problems,” said De Baudiniere. “They can speak freely. The kids are very imaginative and full of ideas. They express themselves differently. It was very unique.”

 

Time to Create: Artist Violet Baxter paints L.I.C.


| smosco@queenscourier.com

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Art is comprised mainly of two elements: time and raw materials. While the art itself is physically constructed with materials – paint, clay, trash, whatever – it is time that decides whether or not the art lives on. Prehistoric people decided to paint on cave walls, and time decided to preserve that work for modern eyes.

Contrary to the process in which art becomes art, an artist becomes an artist through a mix of sheer will and talent. If the artist relies on time, they’ll be left with a blank canvas and a pile of unpaid bills.

Artist Violet Baxter grew up as a shy, yet promising youngster in the Bronx. Her grade school teachers noticed her talents and saw fit to recommend she take art classes on Saturdays. A fourth grade teacher, Evelyn Licht, befriended the young Baxter and helped her score her first “art job” – designing cake boxes on weekends when she was 13 years old.

“We stayed close until her death,” said Baxter, whose studio resides in the Wills Building on 21st Street. “She was responsible for my first job and my first gallery exhibitions.”

An educated and trained artist, Baxter graduated from high school and went on to Hunter College for two years of night classes. She graduated with honors from the Cooper Union Art School after five years of night classes and continued her schooling at Columbia University studying under renowned American artist Ralph Mayer.

In 1983, she took a studio in Union Square, where she stayed until skyrocketing rents drove her to L.I.C.

“Here my windows face a new school called Mason Tenders Training, highways that lead to the Queensboro Bridge, the El train, Silvercup Studios with its sign and a wide sky,” she said. “This is my subject matter. I have made closely observed drawings of this view, that sets it somewhat in memory. From the drawings I made watercolors and oils.”

Baxter said that she doesn’t know what the finished work will look like when she begins a piece. Again, time decides the finished project.

“It can take a long time to resolve a painting, sometimes years,” she said. “It is put aside until I can see if there is something else for it. There are always paintings around my studio in this state.”

The state of Baxter’s ideal painting studio lends to the reflective quality of her work. She seeks a quiet place with a view to achieve the quiet, contemplative narrative revealed in her paintings.

“I keep in touch with myself in my work. Like music, the themes are within the work,” she said. “I need a block of time to get into the work. It starts with problems to solve and at some point time dissolves. I often work at night – night light and self reflections, outside and inside, are what interests me.”

Among LIC artists, Baxter is most interested in Elinore Schnurr, Juvenal Reiss, Karen Fitzgerald and her new friend, Orestes Gonzalez. She feels one of the most important galleries in L.I.C. is the Jeffrey Leder Gallery. Her paintings were shown there through last season, and much of her work will be on exhibit in the upper gallery beginning Sunday, February 19, with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. continuing through Sunday, March 11.

Baxter will continue to share her view and present images in the hopes her work will resonate with viewers. Her hard work – and the hard work of her influences – continues to payoff tenfold. Now she works with time to see her vision through.

“I have hundreds of influences, mostly artists from prehistoric time to the present, from nonobjective to representation,” she said. “My interests are with painting, as a personal touch of the hand. A drawing on a mammoth tusk seen at the Museum of Natural History still resonates, and reaches out through millennia.”