Ben Schumacher at Bortolami Lets You Imagine New York as a Futuristic Metropolis
What if you lived, worked, and died in a single apartment building?
It seems like Ben Schumacher took a while to find what he really wanted. The 29-year-old Canadian-born artist studied architecture and art at the University of Waterloo but after what he calls “boring” stints at multinational corporate architecture firms he decided he wanted to get his MFA at New York University. He liked being an artist, and being in New York, so he stayed.
His second solo show at Bortolami suggests the artist is still settling in, trying out new ideas, looking for creative openings.
How’s this for starters: The show combines architecture, sculpture, a radio, organic matter, steel, drawing, photography, and 3-D printed objects. To an outsider who isn’t familiar with Schumacher’s work, the exhibition as a whole seems like a real enigma; for one, why does the exhibition title have so many names attached to it? Here’s the title, so you know what I’m talking about: “New York City Farm Tower: Peter Friel, Rochelle Goldberg, Jason Matthew Lee, Michael Pollard, Jared Madere, Andy Schumacher, Lillian Paige Walton, Jonathan Gean, Eric Schmid, Jonas Asher, Rachelle Rahme, Lauren Burns-Coady, Elaine Cameron Weir, Jenny Cheng, and Heinrike Klinger”. (It turns out the names are of friends that contributed in some form to the show).
More importantly, how are you supposed to understand these vitrines, stoves, and steel door-like objects? But that’s the way the artist likes it—conceptually rigorous, that is. He doesn’t place himself in the same category as, for example, an artist whose paintings are incredibly easy to identify, buy, sell, and install. Instead, Schumacher creates an opaque multilingual, multimedia, and multidisciplinary sort of art. Put it all together and it’s an exhibition.
“New York Farm Tower” can be understood as a continuation of his past show at an apartment gallery in Brooklyn, Bed Stuy Love Affair. It also leads on naturally, sort of, from his first solo show at Bortolami, titled “D S + R and the bar at the Orangerie,” for which he collaborated with the New York–based architecture firm that designed the High Line. Architecture lies at the heart of his current show, specifically a desire to enter an architecture competition after seeing an advertisement in the parking garage just down the street from Bortolami. The advertisement called for entrants to design an edifice or “farm tower” that would be erected at 19th street and 10th Avenue, one block away from the High Line.
The artist told me he thought it would be fun to imagine what a city farm tower would look like; traditional farm crops on top of the building, a living space underneath it, and then a boutique restaurant on the ground floor. The diverse art pieces in the show, some of which were also exhibited at a show at Bed Stuy Love Affair, give an idea of what his farm tower would look like, not only physically but on a functional level.
Together they provide an image of a futuristic New York in which all aspects of daily living and working are contained in a single building. The concept is efficient, even obvious as private condominiums currently strive to provide full service to tenants, for those who can afford it. But it is one that also seems sort of isolating and alienating. Anyway, such is the detail of his vision for the “farm tower” concept as laid out in this show which borders on the obsessive: Schumacher has even created metal door-like sheaths as potential facades for the proposed tower, embedded with old canvas sketches and film. Here again we see another reference back to his earlier work.
Going forward, for Schumacher, feels a lot like a process of also going back.
“New York City Farm Tower: Peter Friel, Rochelle Goldberg, Jason Matthew Lee, Michael Pollard, Jared Madere, Andy Schumacher, Lillian Paige Walton, Jonathan Gean, Eric Schmid, Jonas Asher, Rachelle Rahme, Lauren Burns-Coady, Elaine Cameron Weir, Jenny Cheng, and Heinrike Klinger” will be on view at Bortolami Gallery until February 21.
See more gallery exhibitions in New York here.
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