Last Friday a couple dozen people gathered in to a ground floor loft at 56 Bogart in Bushwick for an opening of a new exhibit at fuchs projects.
LandLords, as the exhibit is aptly named, is original work done by the gallery owner, Rafael Fuchs, and the pieces were inspired by the difficulties he has had renting both apartments and studio space in North Brooklyn. Fuchs started this project a few years ago, but decided he needed to finish it after the recent death and tabloid exposure of Hasidic landlord, Menachem Stark.
After being abducted in Williamsburg, Stark was killed, and the press couldn’t stop talking about his reputation as a notoriously bad landlord. When the scandal of the kidnap murder hit the 24 NYC news cycle, Fuchs felt the tension of this relationship between artists and renters had hit the threshold to explain his work.
The photography-based work is made up of pictures of Hasidic Jews superimposed with naked women, bright colors, cars, empty rooms and other themes. In effect, there is a collisions of worlds. The scantily clad women and Hasidic Jewish men in their traditional clothes make an obvious juxtaposition. The large empty rooms, skyline shots, and large windows make the images seem like aspects of that perfect North Brooklyn apartment that space hungry New Yorkers crave, and the superimposed Hasidic men are the poignant reminders of the steps necessary to attain that dream.
Fuchs was more than eager to share his story of his work. Controversial art is not a new format for him, nor has he ever shied away from it. In the back of his studio, Fuchs showed us some of his pieces made when he was in the Israeli Army. When drafted, he explained to his sergeant, “Look, as an artist I still need to take photographs, you see.” He then proceeded to take self portraits in his underwear holding M16 rifles. “So then they took me to the tribunal or whatever and they let me go.”
Gallery owner and artist Rafael Fuchs
After his stint in the Israeli army, Fuchs made his way to New York City, where he has been living ever since. Fuchs has become quite a fixture in the art scene in Bushwick, and enjoys taking portraits of celebrities and regulars alike. Years ago he collaborated with fellow creatives to start the Bushwick Year Book to start cataloging the diverse group of artists and people that make Bushwick their home.
When examining this exhibit, you can’t help but feel that this is controversial. Is this controversial because the main subject of the pieces is a religious group with a prior reputation? Does the fact that the artist is Jewish himself (from Israel no less) make this okay?
We don’t have an answer, but it certainly provided for interesting discussion between the attendees. Brushing those obvious feelings aside, what Fuchs really desires is establishing the conversation between renters and landlords, with the hope of coming together and understanding each other. “Morality is not bound to any person or religion,” Fuchs explained. “You either are immoral or you are not and it can happen to anyone.”
Cities and people have always made for great inspiration for art. People feel connections to places, and to each other. Warhol had his muses, Hopper enjoyed capturing streets and restaurants in a particular light. We imagine that both of them had landlords, as many people reading this article would. Conversations about terrible landlords have always been a unifying force in New York City that affects all people, but to have an exhibit directly inspired by this relationship says a lot about the issues that matter to New Yorkers right now.
LandLords will be on display until March 23rd. To check out Fuchs projects, explore them during open hours on Saturday and Sundays from 1-6 p.m. More information here.