Supple Beat

The Arts

 

The “Raw/Cooked” series, now in its second year at the Brooklyn Museum, showcases emerging Brooklyn artists. The current and seventh exhibition in the series features Gowanus-based Marela Zacarias.

 

Inspired by the Williamsburg Murals (which are on display nearby), Zacarias's “Supple Beat” features four large sculptures hanging from walls, tucked into a brick window ledge, and even one wrapped around a television.

 

According to the museum, “the Williamsburg Murals were created by American abstractionists Ilya Bolotowsky, Balcomb Green, Paul Kelpe, and Albert Swinden and were commissioned in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration/ Federal Art Project for the basement community rooms of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Houses.”

 

Avant garde in design, the murals were an innovative addition to public housing spaces. The four paintings are abstract but vary in composition and color. The over-sized works of Swinden and Greene, for example, are mostly formal presentations of shapes (rectangles, circles, triangles) flatly painted to erase any depth. Bolotowsky’s work plays with perspective and includes rounded, amoeba-like blobs that break up the severe right angles and straight lines. Kelpe’s murals use the darkest shades, with shapes arranged to suggest a stringed instrument—a guitar or lyre, perhaps. 

 

Zacarias’s riff on the murals combines painting and sculpture. Her site-specific installations are made from window screens and joint compound and painted with a flat acrylic paint. The tones—bright reds, blues, and yellows—draw directly from the murals, while the choice of acrylic paint echoes the flatness of the painted canvas. The effect is tactile, almost tangible, as if we could pull and twist the artwork into our own sculptures.

 

In “Supple Beat,” Zacarias appears to grab the murals in the middle, as if pulling the paint off the canvas. Indeed, the Brooklyn artist calls her work “three-dimensional painting.” The colors and shapes mirror the same hues, lines, and rectangles found in the Williamsburg Murals. The sculptures, two of which hang on a wall, are pinched and crumpled, the billowing folds heaving like ocean waves. A vertically hung piece resembles a ship’s sail collapsing in a dying wind.

 

Another wadded sculpture sits in a windowsill as if it's monitoring the comings and goings of the main entrance; its bold primary colors recall Bolotowsky’s and Swinden’s bright palettes.

 

In a separate room, Zacarias’s fourth and smallest sculpture resembles a caught fish mounted over a mantel. Instead of a plaque, however, a television (tuned to the “Jeopardy”game show on my visit) is mounted. The sculpture wraps around the TV, obscuring most of the screen, so that we're left to contemplate the work while listening to contemporary television programming.

 

Overall, Zacarias’s undulant sculptures breathe life into the two-dimensional Williamsburg Murals, continuing the conversation between Brooklyn artists past and present.

 

Follow Shaun on Twitter @shaunrandol

 

 

Brooklyn, New York City