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Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond

Brooklyn has always been somewhat provincially intent on what Sinclair Lewis’s character George Babbitt called “boosterism,” belting out the song of itself to whomever will listen. “Crossing Brooklyn,” an exhibition of thirty-five artists who work in the borough is a prime example of that song. What strikes one most, walking through the exhibition, under the glass dome of the Brooklyn Museum’s generously spacious top floor, is the prevailing sense of ecological concern, community solidarity, street life, optimism and general good feeling.

Miguel Luciano, a forty-two-year-old Puerto Rican, displays the gleaming orange bicycle cart that he rides around New York selling shaved-ice desserts, known as piraguas. Wonderfully designed, the cart is replete with richly-colored bottles of flavored syrups in their holders.

Drew Hamilton, who is thirty, has recreated a hyper-real miniature of a street corner in Bushwick, with loving attention paid to graffiti, soot, garbage, a traffic light, a taco cart and a discarded copy of the New York Post.

The Japanese artist Nobutaka Aozaki likes to plant himself on the street and ask passersby to draw a map to nearby New York landmarks. The little throwaway drawings he collects are reminiscent of Tokyo, where streets are not named and people often make an impromptu drawing on a scrap of paper to give directions.

Yuji Agematsu, another Japanese artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, has found tiny pieces of sidewalk debris – clumps of hair, an acrylic fingernail, aquarium pebbles, and other less recognizable objects – and put them under a glass display case where they take on the aura of cultural relics, like ancient Egyptian scarabs at the Metropolitan Museum.

Kambui Olujimi projects enormous images of the sky to a soundtrack of the Motown hit, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” And Pablo Helguera plays tribute to 115-year-old Susannah Mushatt Jones, the daughter of an Alabama sharecropper, who has been living in Brooklyn since 1923. Ms. Jones is the oldest resident in New York state and one of the last six people in the world known to be born in the nineteenth century.

One of the most memorable installations is Mary Mattingly’s giant, string-tied ball of personal detritus: books on aesthetics and art, glossy magazines, postcards, letters – a potpourri of glamorous garbage.

For more information and opening times, visit brooklynmuseum.org

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Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway,
Brooklyn, NY