Bridging the Gap brings together the talent of many visual artists residing and working in Queens, and handsomely succeeds in portraying a large sample of the artistic life of the borough. It illustrates that there is life outside of Manhattan, well beyond the frontier of Long Island City, reminding us of Saul Steinberg’s classic cartoon of the map of the United States where NYC represents two-thirds of the space of the frame to imply that it is the symbolic center of the universe. But here we redraw the map and extend the boundaries beyond Manhattan Island, to celebrate the fact that on the other bank of the East River, a community of artists has regrouped and thrived.
Displaying 40 artists and 50 works, the exhibition reveals not only the remarkable ethnic diversity for which Queens is famed, but the rich stylistic practices available to contemporary artists; and shows that they are often related. Artworks representing both figurative and abstract traditions—painted, drawn, fabricated, constructed, photographed, conceptualized—with portraits, landscapes, narratives, and formal studies in all media—revisit and revise the foundations of modern and contemporary art practices with passion and sensitivity.
As I viewed the works I was struck not only by the highly developed technical facility of the artists, but the originality and distinctly personal quality of the art. Some pieces are directly related to the artist’s past or present reality—images of memory or observation, whether actual or metaphorical, that evoke home, family, friends or cultures deeply embedded in the artist’s consciousness and surfacing up from that mysterious amalgam of skill, feeling, and ideas that we call creativity. Other works are cerebral or analytical, starting with a concept or theme that is then executed in thoughtful variation, whether metaphysical or empirical, to express each individual’s unique vision.
What is undoubtedly true, as seen in this show, is that visual art, like music and poetry, is deeply connected to our identity and spirit, and that it is alive and well in Queens. Just as musicians, from Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and other jazz legends called Queens their home, there is today a society of visual artists in neighborhoods throughout the borough that share a special history and a vibrant present that we are proud to call our colleagues and friends, and to showcase at the center of Queens in Flushing Town Hall. The exhibit will move to La Guardia Community College, on the western edge of Queens, in LIC, a locus for art and education, and ends its run at Queensborough Community College Gallery in Bayside, on the eastern tip of Queens by the waterfront.
Amy H. Winter, Director and Curator
Queens College, City University of New York