Fine Grit: Art & Ideas In Wood

13 Apr 2024 – 12 May 2024

Regular hours

13:00 – 18:00
13:00 – 18:00

Free admission

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Travel Information

  • B61 to Van Brunt St.
  • F or G train to Smith/9th St. station, then bus
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"Fine Grit" features contemporary artists who use wood as a primary material in their work, from hand-carved sculpture to pyrography; to found and reclaimed assemblages; to fine furniture.


BWAC Focuses On Wood in "Fine Grit"
by Jon Hammer

"Fine Grit: Art and Ideas in Wood: is a national juried exhibition of artwork which uses wood as its principal material, newly opened at the BWAC Gallery in Red Hook. On entering, one first encounters a small glade of tall obelisks, slim, smooth ellipsoid figures. The legend on the wall invites viewers to “please touch,” announcing this will be a show entry that will not only engage the gallery goer with the visual. Introducing the tactile warmth of the material immediately is a reminder that wood is a living material, one that can encourage a deeper connection than other media, natural or man-made. The unique patterns we find in the grain of wood are the product of a tree’s growth, a visible record of the accumulation of time. We sense this intuitively and it will color the artwork we experience here. The gallery space itself, in the historic 1870 Beard and Robinson Stores warehouse, framed by its huge yellow pine columns, provides a setting that resonates with this temporal theme. How these selected artists respond to, and articulate the life in the medium, has led to a dynamic and varied show.

The works displayed portray the plastic quality of wood; its capacity for great variety in form. Indeed, formal limits may simply depend on the skill of the woodworker. The artists present images from rigorous abstraction to humanistic and figurative. Some pieces remind us of marine invertebrates, imaginary sea cucumbers or prehistoric gastropods. Others obliquely mimic humanity in witty parody: an object titled Bonnet assembles a section of log, a circle of plywood, and jute twine to suggest the grace and pomp of a silent movie comedian. There are carved nude figures which allude to classical Rome, and assemblages which recall the dadaists of Hausmann and Schwitters vintage, but also their Pop descendants, Rauschenberg and Marisol. A few wall pieces take a painterly turn, flattening to two dimensions and relying on woodgrain or weathered color for their image.

Wood offers a wide range of expression for the artist, but of course it is also a superlative medium for craft, and there are a selection of functional pieces here. If there is still a line to be drawn between fine art and craft, it has been blurred to the point of irrelevance. One cabinet, faced with a gigantic slab of polished walnut, seemed to act as a magnet on gallery patrons, drawing viewers with its evident virtuoso craftsmanship, but also its imposing sculptural presence. Another artist intriguingly draws on Maori craft traditions for their imagery.

One issue the show raises indirectly is the sourcing of wood. Was a tree cut down specifically for this work? In some cases this is clearly the first use of the material, in others it has had many lives. Much of the raw materials used in the show have been recycled or scavenged and repurposed in the case of collage and assemblage.

Fine Grit: Art and Ideas in Wood presents a group of artists working at the highest technical level of craft to offer an exceptionally broad range of expression. The show is currently on view at the BWAC Gallery, 481 Van Brunt St., Door #7, in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Open Saturdays and Sundays 1-6 pm, through May 12, 2024. The gallery is operated by the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, an artist-run nonprofit 501(c)(3) in the State of New York. Visit bwac.org for membership information.

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Alicia Degener


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