Art

Sew Your Soul: Lucy Sparrow Opens Sparrow Mart in Los Angeles

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I first caught wind of British artist Lucy Sparrow a little over a year ago, in an email from a colleague fangirling over 8 Till Late, Sparrow’s felted Manhattan bodega at The Standard, High Line. Yes, you read that right: Sparrow stocked an entire store, cat and everything, with felted versions of everyday bodega items.

Thankfully, as seems to be the fate of most buzzed-about New York hits nowadays, Sparrow’s creations have finally landed in Los Angeles. Sparrow Mart is four times bigger than its east coast counterpart and features over 31,000 felted pieces, from California rolls at a sushi counter to a selection of hot sauces—Tapatío included.

The Cornershop, Sparrow’s first go-around with a fully felted, entirely shoppable installation, restocked an abandoned storefront in London’s Bethnal Green neighborhood back in 2014 and was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign. After Cornershop’s success, two installations followed shortly after: The Warmongery, a felted weapons shop, and Madame Roxy’s Erotic Emporium, which recreated sex shop items in—you guessed it—glorious technicolor felt. The latter was inspired by Sparrow’s years working as a stripper in various London nightclubs and featured such eyebrow-raising offerings as scratch n’ sniff Hustler mags and STIs in candy jars.

On her West Coast debut, Sparrow comments: “As a child, I was obsessed with the exotic, turbo-charged technicolour glow emanating from across the Atlantic. The source of this neon rainbow was Los Angeles—a seemingly mythical place to a child growing up in grey, post-recession Britain—and one that has hugely influenced my artistic practice. Thanks to the amazing team at The Standard, Downtown, the felt is finally coming home to the city of endless possibilities and colour.”

According to Standard Culture, 8 Till Late “was supposed to run the entire month [in June 2017], but it had to close a week early because we couldn’t stop her products from flying off the shelves.” Judging from the queues forming every weekend outside the Los Angeles edition, don’t expect Sparrow Mart to last long either.

Lucy Sparrow’s Sparrow Mart runs from August 1st through 31st (or while the felt lasts!) at The Standard, Downtown Los Angeles. The exhibit is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Ladies We Love

Ladies We Love: Brett Day Windham

With a portfolio as varied and expansive as the collection of items she uses for her installations, artist Brett Day Windham never ceases to amaze me with her creations. You may be familiar with her work with the Bergdorf Goodman windows—or the corresponding documentary, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’sbut this lady’s got so much more to her than sparkly crocodiles or glittering, mosaiced sea life (Not that I’m trying to discredit either of these stunning projects. In fact, her window displays helped lead me to the rest of her work.) Most recently, Windham spent the month of April as the artist-in-residence for the Select Fair at Industry City. Windham was kind enough to speak with us about her day job, her more mobile and experimental personal work, and her plans to incorporate the lesser-known female Dada poets into her projects.

Growing up, did you always dream of becoming an artist? Yes. It’s a bit frightening.

How did you get to where you are today? Oh gosh, well, where I am today is my living room in Greenpoint, but I guess that in general I tend towards really hard work, letting myself get excited, and never being satisfied with anything.

Describe your studio space. Since my last residency ended, it lives in my head. Due to the combination of my habit of walking/looking for found objects, and unreasonable rates for studio space in New York, I am increasingly interested in a mobile practice. When I do have a studio, it tends to be an extension of my living space—inviting, warm, weird. They tend to be slightly domestic spaces that can be stripped down in an hour for a big project.

For several years now, you’ve worked on various window displays for Bergdorf Goodman. What is that experience like, and how does it differ from doing other kinds of installations? Working in display is a rush—it is fast and loose, and it is all about surface and illusion. It holds a special place in my heart, and the people who run the visual department (especially David Hoey, the director) are utterly brilliant. David taught me so much about taking risks, working long hours with amazing materials, working collaboratively, and not being too precious about anything. Someone once told me that the Bergdorf windows are a “beauty service to the city of New York,” and I’ve always loved that idea. It has been a wonderful day job for me as an artist living in New York.

On my own, I try to be slow, intuitive and responsive, and projects often take weeks to years to complete (which would not go over well with a commercial art director). I often have to live with something for a long time before I can see what it needs, and I feel a spiritual connection to them by the time they are finished. Of course, every once in a while something will emerge fully formed on an instant, but when that happens I’m usually deep in a groove. I am drawn to working with worthless, odd and sometimes dirty objects (old dime bags, hair extensions, remnant fabrics, rusty nails) perhaps partly in response to all those years of display glitz.

You recently served as the artist in residence for the Select Fair at Industry City. Could you talk about your site-specific installation for your residency? Absolutely. It was terrific. I was in a great position for that residency to come along. I had been looking for a venue for this project for a while, one where I took daily walks through a community and collected objects as sort of an anthropological study, or a survey of what a community abandoned. I have been collecting objects this way for my work for years—and turning the findings into a rosary or a series of tassels—but never in such a time sensitive and site-specific way.

The focus excited me. Walking has always been a solitary process for me, and with good reason (I think better, notice more, and constantly stop to examine things), but once I got to Sunset Park I was so intrigued by the neighborhood that I wanted to include friends, colleagues, and artists I had been wanting to spend time talking with. The work really took off from there, and the dialogue intensified. Keeping a blog for the residency became a way to document both the character of the time spent with each guest walker, and a presentation of what we found. Inviting other creative people really strengthened my own sense of the project, and many two-dimensional pieces—photographs and collages—were spawned in the process.

The resulting work, the Cypher, was even more site-specific than I expected. The objects we found on our walks were brought into the studio, documented and organized solely by color. The colors dictated their own ad-hoc color wheel. The studio, on the top floor of the Industry City studios building, became implicated in the work as well. The cost of the studios there has become incredibly high, which is amazing considering how far south in Brooklyn it is, and how removed the surrounding neighborhoods feel from that kind of wild, high priced real estate development speculation. Bringing a collection of garbage from the streets below, and arranging them carefully in that overpriced room felt powerful and a bit spiritual.

What’s next on the horizon for you? I am pursuing more walking projects, many inspired by the Select residency. I’d like to push the social structure of my practice, inviting many more creative people to walk with me in different neighborhoods. The walks are a really special, focused time that take the place of a traditional studio visit: They are more collaborative, less awkward. I’d also love to make a series of zines for each neighborhood or city. One specific project that I am really excited about involves making whimsical, oversized found-object based sculptural clothes for one of the lesser-known female Dada poets (who like me, walked the streets of New York collecting found objects and assembling them). Keeping my fingers crossed on that one.

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Art

In Case of Tent Collapse, Find My Body Next to the Spotted Pumpkin: Dinner Party Does Frieze NY

Saturday, 10 May 2014. 5:04 p.m. The big, bright white tent that housed Frieze New York shook violently in the afternoon rainstorm. The choppy waves of the East River crashed onto the shore only a few feet away. Surely someone prepared the tent for Mother Nature’s attempts to party crash, I thought. I was, after all, at one of the world’s top art fairs. Surely someone accounted for such potential disasters, right?

The wind grew stronger, causing the tent’s ceiling to move up and down like that of an inflatable bouncy castle. Attendees nervously giggled as the rain slapped hard against the tent walls. Gallery reps fought back nervous breakdowns and launched into frenzied action as water began to drip onto thousands of dollars worth of artwork. Hmm…maybe not, I decided as I thought about which artwork I would want my body found beside in case the tent frames came crashing down.

Suffice to say, Dinner Party’s first trip to Frieze New York was—pardon the pun—a whirlwind of a time. Despite this year’s trend of solo presentations and lack of extravagant pieces, the fair was still fairly overwhelming given the sheer number of galleries present—not to mention the people-watching to be done. Overall, the artists that caught my eye were ones that dealt with perception and the various ways it can be manipulated.

Su-Mei Tse

Su-Mei Tse

Su-Mei Tse (Peter Blum). Tse’s Gewisse Rahmenbedingungen (A Certain Framework) did exactly what the artist meant for a viewer to do: to “slow down and reorient their position toward the seemingly obvious.” The hanging set of wooden frames at the center of the booth plays with geometric rhythms and negative space, a theme which is nicely echoed with the wooden triangles that hang on a single nail towards the back of the booth.

Los Carpinteros

Los Carpinteros (Sean Kelly).The soft watercolor of Edificio de números uno stands in tension with the harsh, brutalist architecture of its subject matter. The painting feels both retro and futuristic as well as realistic and fantastical, like a Soviet building from the 60’s cross-bred with something from the set of The Hunger Games.

Kara Walker/Erin Shirreff

Kara Walker

Kara Walker (Sikkema Jenkins & Co.). For those unfamiliar with Walker’s cut-paper silhouettes, the pieces usually register first as whimsical, storybook-like images. Upon closer inspection, however, one realizes the more complicated matters of race and slavery conveyed through this simplified format. Walker says, “I’m reducing things down a lot, but I’m also characterizing everything and everyone as a black thing, and it comes from a way of viewing the world, looking for blackness, in its good and nefarious forms.”

Vanessa Safavi

Vanessa Safavi (The Breeder). “Are those…?” “Is that what I think…?” These were the sorts of questions fluttering about while viewers observe Safavi’s installation. Certainly, the silicone breasts pouring out of soft white fabric evoke an intimate sexuality, but its juxtaposition with shells and the piece’s title, The Journey (Clam), also recall a vast seascape of a surrealist dreamland.

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama (David Zwirner). Ah, Kusama. Here at the blog, we just can’t get enough of those polka dots. The simple geometry and bright colors of Kusama’s works belie the piece’s darker underpinnings of obsession and hallucinations. And yet, there’s always a certain joy in each of her pieces, for as the artist herself says, “If it were not for art, I would have killed myself a long time ago.”

More images from the fair:

Doug Aitken

Doug Aitken (303 Gallery)

Eddie Peake

Eddie Peake (Lorcan O’Neill Roma)

Charles Avery

Charles Avery

Charles Avery (Pilar Corrias)

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Paul McCarthy (Hauser & Wirth)

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Danh Vo (Marian Goodman Gallery)

Rirkrit Tiravanija

Rirkrit Tiravanija (Gavin Brown’s enterprise)

Kehinde Wiley

Kehinde Wiley (Stephen Friedman Gallery)

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Liu Wei (Lehmann Maupin)

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Ladies We Love

Ladies We Love: Nane Press

Nane Press

There’s just something so uniquely elegant about a letterpress-printed item. And Jennie Putvin from Nane Press certainly puts her distinctive stamp on this subtle but oh-so-satisfying art. Dinner Party had the chance to speak with the Brooklyn-based artist about her stunning creations.

Nah-neh? Nayn? How do you pronounce Nane Press, and where does the name come from? Nane Press is named after my mom, Elaine. ‘Nane’ (rhymes with rain) is her nickname. I always thought the pronunciation was super straightforward, but each person seems to pronounce it a different way. I do like when people say ‘Nah-neh’ though—it sounds very French and sophisticated!

How did you get your start in letterpress printing? I’m trained as a graphic designer but took some printmaking classes in college, so it was always something at the back of my mind. About 6 years ago, I took an Intro to Letterpress Printing class at the Center for Book Arts here in New York City, and never looked back.

I love letterpress printing because it links the design and craft worlds; being able to actually have the skills to bring to life something you’ve designed is an amazing thing.

Where do you get inspiration for your designs? Since my life is so crazy and busy, I really romanticize and champion the small, quiet moments at home. Making the perfect cup of coffee, baking cookies, stargazing. I also like to incorporate hand-lettering and line illustration; there’s something beautiful in marrying a hand-drawn design with a hand-printed piece.

Could you explain a bit how the letterpress process works? In short, letterpress printing is a type of relief printing. Moveable type or a digital plate is locked in place, ink is rolled onto the type, then paper is pressed onto the type, creating that lovely impression everyone is enamored with.

But just as simple as it sounds, the process has all sorts of limitations. For example, big floods of color are very challenging to print, or a light ink on a dark paper. The challenge for the printer is to plan the job well, or have the patience to work around these limitations to get the best final result. Sometimes jobs need to be run through twice to get a good ink density, and often times setting up the job takes longer than to actually print it.

Everyone loves a good letterpress item—as my boss says, you could letterpress a picture of dog poo, and it would still look pretty. Why do you think this medium has such an appeal? Most ways we communicate today have what I like to call ‘raccoon syndrome’: everything is shiny! iPhones, computers, and TVs are backlit; magazines arrive on coated, glossy paper.

For the most part, letterpress printing is decidedly NOT that. The first thing someone does with a letterpress printed piece is run their hands over it; it’s tactile, made with purpose, and you can literally feel the mark of the maker.

Check out more of Jennie’s work on the Nane Press website and purchase some lovely prints and card from her Etsy store.

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