Bronx, NEW YORK—A sky blue and yellow flag flies in front of the sprawling Andrew Freedman Home, a once privately funded retirement home built in 1924 for former capitalists who had lost their fortunes. “The Free Flag” by Nicky Enright references the founder’s name while also signaling the new creative energy inside the old Grand Concourse mansion. More than 30 artists have spent the past few weeks installing site-specific works in bedrooms and bathrooms and using ball rooms as exhibition space. The project, “This Side of Paradise,” opened over the weekend.
The grand palazzo cum gallery space has a storied history. Freedman owned the New York Giants and helped fund the city’s first subway lines and when he died in 1915 the home was created per instructions left in his will. The building began to decline in the 1980s and access to many sections of the structure remain closed to the public. But over the years, the home has had several uses—hosting activities for seniors, and housing day care and Head Start programs. Now it also serves as a public art space.
Sponsored by No Longer Empty, the exhibit features works by Justen Ladda, Crash, Scherezade Garcia, Cheryl Pope, and The Point, a collective of mural artists, among others. The artists used the architecture of the building and some of its dilapidated features as inspiration and they were also able to salvage objects from the mansion to use as materials in their work.
On the second floor, Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermína have created an installation with a board of abandoned keys that hangs in the hallway, evidence of the retirees who once populated the halls and lived in rooms now functioning as inspiring spaces for artists. There are dozens of names. Labels for Mr. Mezey and Mr. Herz are near those for the Kovacs and the Taylors. Keys for Mrs. Basky and Mrs. Cole with handwritten labels hang adjacent a key for the “cabinet office closet.”
Across the hall, Daze has brightened up one of the small rooms where the elderly residents would have slept. His psychedelic swirls of color serve as a backdrop to his centerpiece: a painted salon-style hair dryer chair featuring a framed portrait of the Virgin Mary. Several doors down, peeling walls that appear to be water-damaged have been juxtaposed with an installation of gold leaf peeling from the ceiling.
On the main floor two ball rooms host several installations. “Persian Carpet,” a mixed-media work by Frederico Uribe is composed of thousands of found objects the artist chose to evoke the narrative of the people who lived at Freedman Home. It’s an odd assortment of old keys and flatware, arranged with broken plates, spent bullet casings and contemporary taper candles and No. 2 pencils and rulers, that together create intricate tapestry patterns, reimagining the elegant rugs that once graced the home.
The exhibit is on view from April 4 to June 5, 2012.
All photos by Arts Observer
Above, “The Free Flag,” 2012 by Nicky Enright. In addition to referencing the name of the home’s patron, Andrew Freedman, and a space open to creativity, the flag is “a symbol for global citizens who wish to feel free—to travel and live wherever they choose.” Top of page, “Further,” 2012 (spray paint, acrylic and salvaged objects) by Daze. The hair dryer was retrieved from the salon on the third floor of the building. As described on the exhibit copy: “This immersive, technicolor installation is like being submerged in a fairy tale.”
According to the exhibit copy, Garcia was inspired by the history of the building and imagined the spirit of the people who inhabited” it. The drawings (portraying Freedman perhaps) are installed like wallpaper and “the composition of the room is reversed, suggesting the reversal of fortune of the original inhabitants.”
“Paradise Lost/Regained? Utopia to Survival,” 2012 (canvas, sheet rock, photo laser transfers, collaged remnants from the Andrew Freeman Home, salvaged windows, acrylic, ink, graphite) by Linda Cunningham.