Expanding Utopia

Austin Thomas in her studio at the Elizabeth Foundation.
This weekend over 300 artists are participating in Bushwick Open Studios. Click here for a listing of the 180+ painters who have registered. And speaking of Bushwick, in the June issue of The Brooklyn Rail, I wrote a profile of Austin Thomas, artist and founder of Pocket Utopia, one of the first artist-run spaces in Bushwick. What’s she been up to lately? On June 6, a companion show to the Rail article goes online at Add-Art, the organization that replaces browser ads with curated exhibitions. The exhibition will be like a studio visit that includes images of the studio, Thomas’s sketchbook drawings, work in progress, and some earlier work. Stay tuned for links to the show.
Here’s an excerpt from the article in the Rail, with plenty of links:
“In the recent spate of articles about Bushwick�s innovative DIY arts projects and spaces, artists almost invariably cite Austin Thomas as a key early influence. Thomas opened Pocket Utopia�her groundbreaking salon, international residency program, and exhibition space in the neighborhood�in 2007, while the art market was still safely and unadventurously ensconced in the airtight studio/gallery bubble. She conceived of Pocket Utopia not as a commercial gallery, but rather as an extension of her own social sculpture. She had spent several years building large-scale ‘perches,’ driving cross-country in a vintage 1973 El Camino and assembling portable social spaces of constructed tables, chairs, and sanctuaries as she went. Thomas wanted to push her projects beyond what had become increasingly comfortable terrain.
“She saw Pocket Utopia as a transitional, two-year experiment, and in one sense it was: Thomas closed the space in July 2009, as originally planned. But after reading about the artists� community Donald Judd developed in Marfa, Texas, Thomas realized that Bushwick was her Marfa. Like Judd, Thomas discovered synergy between community and personal engagement. With Pocket Utopia she helped unearth and cultivate what has become a burgeoning artists� community in Bushwick and beyond. Several Pocket Utopia alumni, who all share Thomas�s altruistic vision, have opened galleries, including Deborah Brown and Jason Andrew�s STOREFRONT and Kevin Regan and Ellen Letcher�s Famous Accountants in Bushwick itself, Kris Graves�s Kris Graves Project in Dumbo, and Molly Larkin�s Statler Waldorf 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles….” Read more.
Registration for Thomas’s latest project, Camp Pocket U, a summer camp for artists inspired by Black Mountain College, is currently underway.  Camp runs from July 21-28 and space is limited, so sign up now. Activities include: Drawing with Matthew Miller (using spit and stick) practice Sumie with Kay Thomas, master chess with Adam Simon, tennis with Deborah Brown, dance with Julia Gleich, knitting with Brece Honeycutt, hiking the Adirondacks with Norman Jabaut, ceramics with Jackie Sabourin, listen to lectures by Kevin Regan, Rico Gatson and Jen Dalton. Be blogged about by Sharon Butler (that’s me), speak Italian with Paul D’Agostino…and much more with Jason Andrew
Fundraising events for Camp Pocket U include 1 Image, 1 Minute on June 22, 7pm, @ Hyperallergic HQ. Various people from in and outside the art world will select and respond to images for one minute. The event is based on Micol Hebron�s column in X-TRA, an amazing quarterly journal published to promote and provoke critical discourse about contemporary visual art in Los Angeles, and is a recreation of a project produced by Belgian director Agn�s Varda. Varda invited various people in and outside the art world to respond to photographic images for one minute. She presented the results on French television in 1983. See you there!

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