Artists Vie for Space in Bushwick

Bushwick Arts Poster

James Panero of the THE NEW CRITERION talks about the “wave of rising rents” in New York City that has forced artists to move to the “bleakest corners” of the city, by analyzing the urban renaissance of Bushwick Brooklyn.

The neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn is the art world’s recession special. In the last decade, this broken quadrangle, a one-time hellhole of riots, arson, and drug violence, has become an artist haven. The urban renaissance that lifted even the bleakest corners of New York City left this gray landscape of low tenements and light-industrial factory buildings with some room to grow. At the same time, a wave of rising rents pushed many of the city’s artists from west to east–from the East Village to Williamsburg and Greenpoint and finally to Bushwick. Inexpensive, just a subway ride from Manhattan, the neighborhood presented a gritty and expansive urban tableau.

Several of the city’s outlying neighborhoods, from the South Bronx to the Gowanus Canal, have seen an influx of artists in recent years. Still, Bushwick became a community unto itself, a latter-day commune of youthful energy in the shadow of an industrial wasteland, a world away from downtown. The trust-fund bohemians of the Bowery School and the Lower East Side may have landed shows at Deitch Projects and overdosed on their de Menil credit cards, but the Bushwick School seemed content to remain obscure. For those on the outside, Bushwick appeared impenetrable, even unappealing.

The neighborhood’s affordability and open spaces allowed its artists to develop largely independent of market forces. The factory-style production that defined the art of the last decade was disregarded in favor of a more intimate, material-based studio practice. Skim off the froth, and many members of the Bushwick School might be seen as the spiritual descendants of the process-based painters who first settled in Soho in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its slow maturation has left Bushwick vibrant but ephemeral. The question has been how to make its idealism sustainable. >> READ MORE

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