November 1, 2012
An exhibition of four site-specific sculptures created by Brooklyn artist Marela Zacarias, inspired by the Williamsburg Murals on long-term loan to the Brooklyn Museum for more than twenty years, will be on view February 1 through April 28, 2013. Zacarias is the seventh artist in the continuing Raw/Cooked series of work by under-the-radar-Brooklyn artists, presented with support from Bloomberg.
The artists in the series’ second season were recommended by an advisory panel of leading Brooklyn artists that includes Michael Joo, Paul Ramírez Jonas, Amy Sillman, and Mickalene Thomas, who each proposed three artists for consideration. The final selections were made by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum. The Museum offers each of the participating artists a variety of unconventional spaces in which they may make art interventions, creating projects that draw inspiration from the architecture of the building and/or works from the Museum’s collection.
Zacarias, recommended by Ramírez Jonas, lives and works in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn. Her work combines painting and sculpture and is characterized by an interest in site specificity, the history contained in objects, and current events. Her Raw/Cooked exhibition, titled Supple Beat, draws on the concept of resilience in the Williamsburg Murals and explores the idea of bouncing back from adversity, relating to the history of the public housing project for which the Murals were commissioned. Zacarias’s large-scale wall sculptures are constructed from window screens and joint compound and painted with original patterns that the artist will design based on the unique color palettes and geometric abstract forms of the Murals. Positioned on the walls of the first-floor lobby and the Great Hall, the works in Supple Beat suggest movement and appear to be unfurling—climbing walls and interacting with objects as if they were murals that have come to life, escaping their confinement.
A longtime resident of Brooklyn, Zacarias was born in Mexico City. In 2012 she was the first artist-in-residence at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Connecticut. She is a graduate of Kenyon College and received an MFA in painting from Hunter College. She has taught mural art in Washington, D.C., and Mexico City and is the cofounder of the Connecticut-based Latinos Contra La Guerra and the Regional Coalition for Immigrants Rights.
The Williamsburg Murals, which were recently reinstalled in the Museum’s newly renovated Café, near the Zacarias installation, were executed by the pioneering American abstractionists Ilya Bolotowsky, Balcomb Greene, Paul Kelpe, and Albert Swinden. Commissioned in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration/Federal Art Project for the basement community rooms of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Houses, these murals were the first nonobjective public murals in the United States, containing no recognizable figures, symbols, or objects. Over the years they suffered significant neglect, all but forgotten until they were rediscovered in the 1980s under layers of paint that were painstakingly removed. They have been on long-term loan to the Brooklyn Museum from the New York City Housing Authority since 1990.
Each of the four Zacarias sculptures will relate to the location of one of the Williamsburg Houses: 163–213 Manhattan, 122–192 Bushwick, 202–254 Graham, and 215–274 Humboldt.
Two additional exhibitions in the Raw/Cooked series will take place later in 2013. Williamsburg artist Michael Ballou will be the eighth Raw/Cooked artist, with an exhibition opening on April 12th, and another artist will be selected to exhibit in June 2013. Raw/Cooked continues the Brooklyn Museum’s long tradition of collecting and presenting work by both emerging and established Brooklyn artists. Over the past decade the Museum has presented several exhibitions focused on the borough’s artists, among them Open House, featuring the work of 200 artists, as well as solo exhibitions of work by Fred Tomaselli, Lorna Simpson, and Mickalene Thomas, and GO: a community-curated open studio project, on view December 1 through February 24, 2013.