Text and photos by Clare Gemima
NYNY2020 by Melissa Brown
Derek Eller Gallery, 300 Broome St.
Melissa Brown's work is an equally refreshing and dystopian take on the year of severe global chaos.
The upheaval of all normalcy has forced us to take a step back — can we even remember how we lived before the pandemic wiped out our rituals and routines? What has COVID-19 made us bereft of or even worse, adapt to?
NYNY2020 highlights the beauty in the banal and takes viewers into atmospheres that seem so out of reach in 2020.
Zoom, New York’s subway system and famous art museums are subjects shown glorified throughout Derek Eller Gallery’s latest show. It was the first space I had visited that had more than two people in it. All wearing masks of course, but the irony of the work's commentary rang true during my physical encounter at the gallery.
How do we safely look at art anymore? Especially when these seemingly cheerful paintings take a while to figure out.
Brown’s distortional collages are created with layers of oil paint, stencil, airbrush and screen printed digital photography that undulate with reflective mark makings and contrasting textures. Brown’s use of light is also unique as it ranges from natural to digital, illustrating how ubiquitous the glare of a screen has become for us as our world turns increasingly virtual.
NYNY2020 is somewhat of an optical illusion in that it turns ordinary objects into surreal terrains. The intimacy of portraying commuting, being in an office or heading to a virtual work meeting displays the new set of demands our society faces, particularly in what was once the world’s epicenter.
Another interesting feature of the work is that it occasionally involves a human hand, suggesting that this work is in fact about us. Our consumption, our surveillance, our addiction to our cellular devices. The world is still in our hands during this pandemic, but the way in which we see and control it will be altered tremendously ... and forever.
This show is so uncomfortably relevant that it is almost scary to think how else 2020 in New York City will be depicted in the future. Melissa Brown’s work forces you to slow down, to stop and think about this year and to understand our home with an entirely different appreciation.
NYNY2020 by Melissa Brown is showing at Derek Eller Gallery until Dec. 19
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Clare Gemima is a visual artist from New Zealand. New-ish to the East Village, she spends her time as an artist assistant and gallery go-er, hungry to explore what's happening in her local art world. You can find her work here: claregemima.com