Last Saturday’s opening for Unfollow Collective’s group show What We Do is Secret was inspiring. Not only was there some great work on the walls – the energy was electric.
Located in a pop-up space in the Old Bowery Station, the show featured nine artists who have come together organically through their desire to create and share ideas with each other and a greater audience. These are artists who don’t fit perfectly into the traditional art world; they are individuals who make art “behind closed doors,” after hours and without commercial motivations. Hailing from different parts of the globe and working in a variety of media, the artists in Unfollow Collective embody a particularly modern form of creative collaboration – one that was born online and has migrated from apartment shows and house parties to pop-up galleries and who knows where else. Having started in fall 2015, the collective’s growth is impressive. Its popularity is certainly due to the unfailing enthusiasm of its artists and their willingness to be open and vulnerable with one another and the audiences they engage.
Several artists shared the show’s central space. Joaquin Salim’s mixed-media pieces combine pin-ups and other imagery with pharmaceutical design elements like post-modern Rauschenberg collages, opposite BOSCAR’s large-scale photographs and painting. Xavier Lujan’s large “peelscans” were a particular highlight of this space, with mandarin peels suspended air against a saturated black background. Donna Stevens’ portraits brought a highly professional aesthetic to the space, and the two photographs of children watching TV, from her series Idiot Box, were particularly compelling.
On the other side of the room were the works of two photographers, Don Ungaro and Basil Faucher. Ungaro’s meditations on solitude taken in the Maine landscape next to Faucher’s lush nude portraits spoke to loneliness and intimacy. An inner room in this central space contains the illustrations of Paul Meates, whose coloring book was also on display and proved to be popular during the opening.
The exhibition space extended back along a wall with three of Salim’s large multi-media pieces, leading to a hallway of imagined landscapes. The photographer Valerie Name takes close-up pictures of subway columns that look like aerial photos of earthly and extraterrestrial places. Taking the prosaic decay of the city’s subterranean world as her starting point, Name asks us to take a closer look. Hung alongside these colorful images were the works of printmaker Enrique Alvarado. Alvarado uses unconventional materials to create prints that look like inscrutable maps of unknown locals. Using a process that recalls Jean Dubuffet’s chaotic experiments in lithography, these pieces are incredibly mysterious. Their limited color palette enhances the highly textural effect of their surface, despite their two-dimensionality.
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