In Dialogue with Eric Fallen, Founder and Executive Director
Amy Butowicz solo show Boudoir Theatre at Peninsula Art Space features a collection of domestically scaled sculptures staged as a group of characters which are readily associated with notions of sensuality, ornamentation, and haute couture. Bulging cushion-like forms, meticulously hand-stitched over wooden structures, display intricate patterns and rich material suggestive of bedding, vanities, corsets and human anatomy. Bold and tender simultaneously, these anthropomorphic forms defy the disdain and fear that are frequently imposed upon feminine artforms, spaces, and bodies. Eric Fallen, founder and executive director of the Red Hook based Peninsula Art Space elaborates on Amy Butowicz’s exhibition and on his art venue.
Tell me about your vision for Peninsula Art Space and some background for its founding.
I opened Peninsula in the spring of 2013 without any formal art world training. I’m a playwright, and at the time I wanted to launch a flexible project space that would engage with the community and showcase local emerging artists. Soon after opening, I began working with a bright curator, Rachel Valinsky. She brought great ideas to the table and guided much of our programming. During our first few years, Rachel pushed the gallery in a highly conceptual direction and curated a series of brilliant shows.
In the summer of 2018, I invited Johnny Mullen – a painter and former director of Edward Thorp gallery – to curate a group show. That went very well and spawned a partnership that has lasted to this day. Johnny is the current gallery director, and he and I work together on what has become a more expansive vision for the space. We share an appreciation for materiality and process, and I think that comes through in our programming. We have also broadened our community to include more mid-career artists and several artists from Germany and Canada.
Amy Butowicz’s show features a collection of domestically scaled sculptures grouped as characters inhabiting a Boudoir, the first domestic space designated for women. Can you elaborate on that premise?
I’ll begin by saying that much of the work I show at Peninsula contains a level of playfulness and mystery that grabs my attention. The first conversation I have with an artist is often the result of a simple reaction – an immediacy – that the work provokes. That is what drew me to Amy’s work. Her intention lives powerfully in the materiality of the work. You feel it immediately. You feel the sensuality, the audacity, the defiance. On a more philosophical level, I believe there is an aspect of this show that appeals to the playwright side of my brain. My interest in writing plays grew partly out of my exposure to Henrik Ibsen and his play Hedda Gabler. I don’t know how Amy will feel about me drawing a parallel between her work and a play from 1891, but this is where my head goes. Many regard Hedda as a destructive and unpleasant character, but I’ve always found her and the play to be a powerful repudiation of the oppressive forces that society imposes on women and on sexuality.
Let’s take a closer look at a two sculptures in the show – Muff House and Bedroom Trimmings.
For me, these two pieces exemplify what I see as a kind of struggle between humor and defiance. This tension is palpable, and it is expressed in the audacious way the works are constructed. Muff House, standing on ornate striped legs, has obvious anthropomorphic qualities, and the hollow canvas body of the piece contains myriad suggestions, from the more literal reference to a 17th century hand worming accessory to the more anatomical/metaphorical “muff.”
As the concept for this show evolved, it became important to Amy, Johnny and I to include wall pieces. The floor sculptures are arguably the focus of the show, but the wall pieces add a powerful dimension. Bedroom Trimmings is wonderful. It engages with the viewer on so many levels. Its somewhat lopsided imperfection demands that one looks closely at the surface and considers the act of its creation. It’s tufted construction and bleeding shift of color from deep green to pale pink captures the dueling references to stuffed opulence and sexuality.
Both pieces, beyond their ability to express these compelling concepts and themes, also, of course, reveal Amy’s great mastery of her craft. They are a joy to behold.
How do you see Amy Butowicz’s show in context of your exhibition program?
Amy’s work aligns with the emphasis on process and materiality that Johnny and I are drawn to. Her work, along with the work of the other artists we show, demands that we think just as deeply about its making as we do about the ideas it is expressing.
How has your art venue adapted to the pandemic and what would you like to share about your plans for the near future?
Having a smaller operation has allowed us to survive more easily than the bigger spaces, but we’ve been rolling with the punches like everybody else. I also have a day job as a creative in the ad world. It helps me keep the lights on.
As for the future, we intend to announce an official roster in the fall 2021 (or sooner). We also just launched BQE (Brooklyn Queens Exhibitions), an online initiative that brings together a community of other Brooklyn/Queens galleries. We’re planning on producing some interesting collaborations once the dust settles. Folks can find us on Instagram @bqenyc. We are also considering..maybe..possibly…opening a location in LA. We’ll see. It all depends on whether or not the world will emerge from this dark and delirious tunnel.
All images photo courtesy @ Peninsula Gallery
Amy Butowicz: Boudoir Theatre runs through January 10th, 2021 Private Viewing Sessions Peninsula Art Space 352 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
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: email@example.com
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