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Turkish Artists Add Color to NY Art Scene

Spring in New York is all about visual art… The city fairly explodes with the influx of contemporary art from visiting international galleries and thousands of artists and their works. Collectors and art lovers from all over the world are willing to traipse through the late winter snow and slush to see it all, and perhaps even tote a new canvas back home with them.

The recent 17th edition of blue-chip The Armory Show, staged on the west edge of Manhattan’s midtown, is the central magnet for what has developed into a crowded orbit of smaller, simultaneous satellite art fairs in Manhattan.

The Armory Show itself, held from March 5-8 this year, kicked off its own “Armory Arts Week,” a citywide program of cultural events and exhibitions in all of New York’s five boroughs. Turkish artists occupied some prominent real estate within several showcases. Two of the 10 satellite fairs, VoltaNY and Moving Image, featured works by Turkish artists Burçak Bingöl and Selçuk Artut respectively, and four Turkish galleries (Galeri NON, Pi Artworks, Galerist, and Dirimart) participated in The Armory Show.

Burçak Bingöl at VoltaNY

VoltaNY is the American incarnation of the original Basel Volta (Switzerland) and 2015 is its eighth edition. Held on a pier on the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan, VoltaNY this year offered 90 international galleries, each showing a single artist’s work. İstanbul’s Galleri Zilberman, showing Bingöl’s work, was making its VoltaNY debut.

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With related floral motifs running throughout, Bingöl’s 12 colorful and decorative objects “skirt the line between practicality and art,” as she described them to Today’s Zaman. Her “constructed museum” diorama carried a strong theme and variations, integrating notions of belonging, identity and culture, with Turkish historical references.

The energetic center was a linen dress whose floral print was transposed onto a variety of Ottoman-style ceramic vases, a trunk suitcase, a table and chair, three framed line drawings and a video. While it all seems like eye candy, it actually fools the eye; each elegantly beautiful object is imbued with its own personality and allusion.

The psychological center of the series was Bingöl’s sense of discomfort as she tried to adapt herself to different cultures during years of travel between Turkey, the US and Argentina for a series of residencies. She wallpapered her room with the bright floral template to help her “find integration and get rid of my alienation.”

Her video “Self-Conscious” sees her sitting (wearing the same floral-print dress) at a similarly decorated table with a ceramic vase atop. She suddenly knocks it to the floor where it shatters. Two partially reconstructed broken vases are in glass display cases, each showing the floral pattern only on the inside of the cracked edges rather than on the outside.

One of the framed works, “Broken II,” is a jumble of shiny multi-colored enamel shards clumped together as if clinging to one another for dear life. “Its beauty depends on the eye of the beholder,” the artist says. Aside from aesthetics, it also challenges our perception of the point at which objects become themselves, and the nature of their functionality.

This show is the third and final chapter of Bingöl’s concentration on this particular project thread, which aims to blur the boundaries between the past and present as well as between museum display style and real-life tangibility. Her series of three ceramic pots, each lovingly held by two forearms and hands, each wearing delicately embroidered gloves and attached to the wall, suggests how these “handicrafts” have imagined another way to offer themselves to us.

Suzan Batu at Phatory

In the East Village section of Manhattan, nestled among the rows of boutiques and cafés on East 9th Street, is Phatory. It’s a charismatic one-room gallery owned by artist Sally Lelang, who opened a solo show by İstanbul-based painter Suzan Batu on March 7. Lelang obviously likes what Batu creates, since this is her third exhibit there.

Batu’s new “Jewels of Your Soul” uses candy-colored swirls of acrylic paint in centrifugal patterns with added jewel-like shapes along for the ride.

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This show, however, was a miniaturized version of her well-known wall-sized kaleidoscopic color riots, and with special new added elements, a departure from her previously unadorned canvases.

Represented by Dirimart at The Armory Show two years ago and having shown several times at various galleries in İstanbul, Batu’s work was outsized and they engulfed the very walls they occupied. With this new show, Batu telescoped her 14 canvases down to human size and added bordello kitsch: feather boas and jeweled fringe on the tops and bottoms, respectively.

“Kitsch is the last frontier,” Batu declared to Today’s Zaman at the gallery’s congenial opening.

Scores of viewers familiar with her previous work crowded in to check out how exactly she was going to incorporate the burlesque elements into her comparatively more reserved — but not at all shy — style of stenciled and labor-intensive (“It takes forever!”) airbrushed designs displayed there in the past.

Batu has simply found herself. “It’s me. I’ve always loved these kinds of things,” she exclaimed, referring to the baubles, bangles and beads. “It’s who I am. Next show, we’re going to have a dress-up opening, I promise!”

Amid the frivolity and demimonde ethos, a soulful little poem by Rumi was printed in her show’s booklet — clues to the many puffy tufts of fine feathers glued atop the canvases: “My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there. … I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.”

Lelang’s view of Batu’s whimsicality is at the very least “bon vivant,” but much more: “Her work is the affirmation of the stance against oppressive voices,” she explained. “I’m committed to what Suzan does. It confronts the domination of the old guard. Their rules are gone. We don’t play by them anymore.”


Source: Article on Today’s Zaman

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February 2018
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