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On Storm's Anniversary, a NY Art Show for Remembrance

  • Carolyn Weaver

A huge art show in Brooklyn is commemorating the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated many artists’ studios in low-lying parts of New York.

“Come Together: Surviving Sandy, Year 1,” is taking place in Industry City, a commercial center in Brooklyn along the New York harbor. That complex also suffered damage during Superstorm Sandy, but offered some of its higher floors afterward for New York artists to dry out their works, said Industry City CEO Andrew Kimball.

“That’s why this show was so appealing to us, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Sandy, highlight the art community at Industry City and throughout New York, and how hard both of us were hit by Storm Sandy,” Kimball said, standing in front of an enormous, glittering, aquarium-like diorama.

The work, by Dustin Yellin, imagines in miniature the drowned, legendary city of Atlantis. It’s one of a number of works in the show evocative of ocean storms and natural disasters, although most were done long before Sandy, according to organizer and curator Phong Bui.

Another signature piece is a work by Benjamin Keating, of ghostly, silvery, ruined furniture, mirrors, clocks and doors: cast aluminum sculptures of Keating’s own grandmother’s furniture, wrecked by Sandy, Bui said.

“It’s a very moving and personal piece, and I thought to have both of their work, along with Alex Katz’s three monumental, menacing sea paintings, as a way to evoke Sandy without being literal about it,” he said.

The flat yellows and blues of Katz’s paintings are in contrast to the darker, chaotic textures of many other pieces. With works by 300 artists spread out along four vast floors, the show is larger than most museums, Bui noted. He conceived the idea and produced it, in partnership with the Dedalus Foundation, in only a few months.

“Walls had to be built very fast, lights had to be put in, and selection made of works. I was on the run in the last two months or so. I visited 182 artist studios,” he said.

Bui, an artist and writer who publishes The Brooklyn Rail, a literary magazine, noted that the show is divided between artists affected by Sandy and those who were not.

“The two came together as a way to enhance the spirit of solidarity. Solidarity is the key word of the exhibit,” he said. “And also, it’s comprised of works by older and younger artists, very well-known and not known.”

Watch related video on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy

In addition to Alex Katz, some of the well-known artists with works in the show include Chuck Close, Shirin Neshat, Richard Serra, Rita Ackermann, Nari Ward and Lisa Yuskavage.

Bui’s own studio was flooded by Sandy, he said, destroying 25 years of his work. He said he hopes the show provokes New Yorkers and visitors to learn about environmental conservation, and how future storm disasters might be prevented.

“We tend to forget our tragedies very fast," he said. "The show is a way to remind people that it happened and how to prepare, while celebrating the resilient spirit of artists who survived the tragedy and go on to make their work.”

Painter Sari Mizrahi was among the visitors on a recent afternoon.“I think it’s amazing, the scope of the work is absolutely incredible,” she said. “I think it brings awareness to what happened and it keeps people from forgetting.”

"Come Together” also will offer Sandy-related panel discussions, poetry readings, film screenings, and dance and music performances, and will remain open through December 15.