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Ethan Spigland, associate professor, Humanities and Media Studies, and Pratt alumnus Serban Ionescu (B. Arch. ’07) were among the four co-curators of To the Stars on the Wings of an Eel, a group show held at the Gowanus Ballroom this past summer to explore the urban revival of the Gowanus and the surrounding industrial areas. The show featured the work of nearly 50 artists, among them such art world achievers with Pratt connections as Leonidas Chalepas (M.F.A. ’12), Gerri Davis (Arch.’97–’99), Narek Gevorgian (A.O.S. ’05), Miru Kim (M.F.A. ’06), Rachel Levitsky, associate professor, Humanities and Media Studies, Matthew Pisacano (M.F.A.’12), Duke Riley (M.F.A.’08), Swoon (B.F.A. ’02), Anthony Titus, former faculty, School of Architecture, and Danielle Willems and Ezio Blasetti, visiting instructors, Undergraduate Architecture.  Famed artist Kiki Smith and renowned sculptor Tom Otterness also participated.

Professor Ethan Spigland with To the Stars on the Wings of an Eel, 2012, single channel digital video.The show’s poetic title, Spigland explained, “conveys that something beautiful can emerge, perhaps mutated, from the slimy waters of the Gowanus Canal, in which eels and other creatures thrive despite pollution, much as creative people have come to proliferate in the area.”    

The exhibition’s intention, added Spigland, was “to celebrate and breathe new life into a once stagnant and decaying neighborhood—the Gowanus—by transforming the Gowanus Ballroom, a former steel mill dating to the nineteenth century now used as an alternative art space, into a venue highlighting the work of neighborhood artists, who are reimagining the past and envisioning possible futures for the area.”

(L: Before; R: After) Jonah Emerson-Bell and Rainger Pinney, The Piano is the Champagne, 2012, piano, champagne glasses, mirror, wood, concrete, rope, and chain. Photo © Tod Seelie (B.F.A. Photography ’02).Co-curators Ionescu and Spigland both contributed art pieces to the show. Swoon displayed a print on plastic on a back wall, and Duke Riley showed a Battle of Brooklyn submarine. A highlight of the event was the dropping of a baby grand piano, suspended from a single metal hook, onto a pyramid of 385 champagne glasses. 

Text: Adrienne Gyongy
Courtesy of the artists, unless otherwise indicated

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