STREAMING at Stand 4

In Dialogue with Melissa Staiger

Keisha Prioleau Martin, Head Over Handlebars, 2020, acrylic on paper, 10 x 13.5 inches, photo courtesy of the artist

In March 2020 the New York art world shut down and soon went online for exhibition opportunities. Like many artists, Mike Childs was furloughed from his job, and stayed at home, drawing as well as supporting his 6th grade son. To foster a sense of community, he reached out to fellow artist and curator Melissa Staiger to see if she was interested in combining their skills. They came up with the idea to create an online group of artists who worked on paper. The collective identity of this group was envisioned as eight individuals who reflect the creative New York community and exhibit a compulsive nature towards the making of images. Childs referred to these image makers as “producing work via a stream of consciousness in the modernist literary tradition”. In referencing this type of creative approach, Staiger immediately seized on the word to title their project Streaming, referring both to a creative thought process and the online reality of contemporary artistic existence. This led to the creation of the website, which was the foundation for the current exhibition at Stand 4 Gallery. The group exhibition at Stand4 Gallery, brings together work by Mike ChildsDeanna Lee, Keisha Prioleau-MartinRafael MelendezBenjamin PritchardSharmistha Ray, Melissa Staiger, and Julie Torres. The show runs through July 10th.

You say that color in this show “stems from a historically emotive reference.” Can you refer to some works in this context?

Color in this group show is either polychromatic or monochromatic. Many of the works are referring to expressionism, with an emphasis to unlock the contemporary expressive possibilities of color. Keisha Prioleau Martin’s Head Over Handlebars depicts the body in movement. It shows a figure kicking their body off the bike in midair, colored with a yellow glow and an orange outline. The motion seems weightless but also falling. The green emphasizes a tilted sky instead of grass, letting the viewer experience what “joyously defying gravity” feels like.

Deanna Lee and I, Melissa Staiger, share a room presenting our two series “Dawn, River, Sea” and “Wave” respectively. Our abstract lens of the natural world and use of line and color highlights each other’s work, hanging together. Deanna’s work on paper encompasses the nocturnal atmosphere, sonic environments and the micro color shifts in a dawn sky. This feeling is echoed with her use of radiating thin and thick lines. This series layers central dark areas made with an ink wash on top of subtle atmospheric color fields, reflecting the growth and transformation of nature as water and air hit the horizon line. We see this brilliantly in Dawn, River, Sea 4. Vibrating thick layers of paint that resemble a flexible spine and rib cage is seen in my Wave Series, particularly Wave No.18. The bold, prismatic thick layers are stacked following a deep curve and spilling over the edge of the panel. Layers of interference paint an organic hard-edge shape remind me of the bursting openness of plant forms and wavelengths of color.

Mike Childs works include ink he makes on his own from a walnut tree in the North Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park. He uses his homemade mixture, black India ink, and watercolor for his series “The Traps”. Mike taps into older parts of his own history and psyche by using these mediums. He loves observing and drawing architectural growth and demolition in an urban environment. We can see these forms in Traps #16.

Julie Torres and Benjamin Pritchard serial works share a wall at Stand 4 Gallery. Their works show multiple layers of paint, the use of solid color on texture and not discarding anything but continuously working towards its resolve. Torres’ Hole in my life was mixed directly on the surface from many colors straight out of the tube, creating a crater form with a convex center. She gravitates towards crude outcomes that tell a story. Julie describes it as “what has happened… and failed attempts are forever fused within the work. No failure is discarded. Big messes resolve themselves years later.” Ben Pritchard says that he has “been working with paper over the past few months, with a simple principle: exploring it until the barrier between myself and the world disappears”. We can see this in the serial works below with texture from oil stick marks and bold color.

Left, Ben Pritchard, 1. Untitled (three circles), 2. Untitled (teal and yellow), 3. To find meaning, Let go of meaning, 4. Sun 5. Untitled (diamond), 6. Book of Shapes, they are all 2004-2021, oil stick on found paper. Right, Julie Torres, 1. Sucker Punch, 2013, acrylic on panel, 6.5 x 8 inches; 2. Hole in my life, 2013, acrylic on panel, 6 x 6 inches; 3. TV on the radio, 2013, acrylic on panel, 8 x 8 inches; 4. Beer o’clock, 2013, acrylic on panel, 9 x 9 inches; 5. Bee Stung, 2013, acrylic on panel, 9 x 9 inches, photo courtesy of Melissa Staiger

Deanna Lee, Dawn, River, Sea 4, 2017 – 2020, watercolor and ink on paper, 7 x 10 inches, photo courtesy of the artist

Melissa Staiger, Wave No. 18, 2021, acrylic on panel, 12 x 9 inches, photo courtesy of the artist

The artists in the show pay attention to the paint application on paper, sometimes via collage. Can you elaborate on that?

As we unpacked Rafael Melendez’s work, a clipping of an article slipped out with his painting. It was a striking black-and-white photograph of Felix Gonzales Torres from Art in America, November 1992. The article explains how the photograph shows sex and death from the public impact of AIDS. The impressions of two heads in the pillows and the sheets furled around show a tender connection and horror at the same time. He was also thinking about Judith Butler’s book: “Gender Trouble” as he was creating the piece Arena for the study of Reality: The Unity of Opposites. Butler’s criticism of culture for wanting to simplify language went along with his beliefs in his own painting practice. He wants to make something beautiful, but in a complicated visual language that questions the commercialization of culture. I am drawn to the white marble torso. It makes me think of art history in all capital letters, but then see it perched on a plastic lid and swimming in the patterning behind it. The rich and muted colors of purples, blues, greens and yellows take the edge of “all caps”. A collaged group of deer show off their shiny coats in the bottom left. They are stapled to the collage, which makes the new and old feel joined.

Looking at the sequin and textured colors of Sharmistha Ray’s (মা) (Ma), 2021, you see layers of intense automatic writing creating schematic geometries. Ray calls their practice “performative South Asian queer-feminist emotional-intellectual labor”. They use forms reflecting Hindu and Buddhist yantras and mandalas as ‘spirit maps’ influenced by queer visualities. In this work they were thinking about the symbolic Mother Goddess in all the forms she comes in pre-modern and non-western cultures – specifically Tantra as well as the art historical Venus of Willendorf. Ray states “(মা) (Ma) is body of nourishment, the axes of healing nurture, Mother Earth herself. Motherhood, and all the forms of care and nurture it symbolizes, is sacred. To all mothers, symbolic and real.”

Rafael Melendez, Arena for the study of Reality: The Unity of Opposites, 2021, acrylic paint, gesso, sharpie marker, ink jet copy, staples, plastic lid collaged onto canvas, collaged to a stretched linen, collage elements with artists stamps and vintage photocopied art exhibition review in artist frame, 12.75 x 9.25 x 1.75 inches, photo courtesy of the artist

(মা) (Ma), 2021, automatic writing with colored pens and sequins on archival bristol vellum paper, 12 x 9 inches, framed 17 ¾, x 14 ¾ x ¾ inches, photo courtesy of the artist

What are your thoughts on the transition from online presence to exhibiting in a physical space?

It was wonderful to work with Mike Childs on our online project, but it is even better to do so in real life! It feels more connected, alive and joyful to have physical space. Jeannine Bardo, the owner of Stand 4 Gallery + Community Center and an artist herself, is a pillar for artist-run alternative art spaces in her neighborhood of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. She gave us the opportunity to be part of the community by offering her space for this summer exhibition. I can’t praise her enough, it was such a rewarding experience to work with her. Please visit the gallery, learn about the community programs Stand 4 offers, purchase artwork or pass this interview along.

Mike Childs, 2020, The Traps #16, watercolor, walnut and india ink on paper, 11 x 14 inches, photo courtesy of the artist

STREAMING at Stand 4 Gallery + Community Center through July 10th Organized by Melissa Staiger & Mike Childs. Participating Artists: Julie Torres, Melissa Staiger, Sharmistha Ray, Ben Pritchard, Rafael Melendez, Keisha Prioleau-Martin, Deanna Lee, Mike Childs

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: