Photography by Paul WR Perez.
A large, yellow school bus lumbers past the fire escapes of Brooklyn tenement buildings.
Hebrew letters sprawl across its side, seemingly strange in the urban corner of Williamsburg where, two blocks ago, Bedford Avenue buzzed with art-minded twenty some things in bright cafes, vintage clothing stores and art galleries. Despite the flood of hip youths invading family neighborhoods in New York’s desperation for more space, the outreaches of Brooklyn remain predominantly Jewish and 103 Broadway borders the outreaches.
The Capricious Space – an art studio/gallery born as an extension of the Capricious photography publication – is a long, white cave of flat walls and bright light with art pieces dangling like kaleidoscopes against the void of pure white. The artist on exhibition is Amber Ibarreche and her pieces are flushed with determination and ache of the soul, or, as the manager of the Capricious Space puts it, biting her lip into a smile and turning in a circle to survey the work – “she has really intense feelings about life.“ Strewn out along the table behind the shy-eyed merchandise girl with the sign saying $35 are small piles of matte white books adorned with snapshots and miniature sub captions beneath the banner of black typeface reading: Melanie Bonajo I Have A Room With Everything. The bricks of each small white tower are treasures of two years compiling and a lifetime of shooting for Netherlands born photographer, Melanie Bonajo after founder of the five year old Capricious publication, Sophie Morner, suggested publishing a collection of the artist’s prints.
The two first met in Amsterdam though neither Bonajo nor Morner offer further specification about how and why and that’s a quality which permeates the entirety of thin Spring air inside the Capricious Space with its door open and its sidewalk clumped with tight circles of both young artistic types and thirty year old artists. In truth, age is lost on the intimate space of the studio, which promotes genuine interest in the work at hand rather than trendy surroundings and expansive cheese and wine combos attracting scenester shadows.
In fact it’s at the moment I spot the humble refreshment table of breakfast cookies, champagne and white wine that a plastic measuring cup swings by my right side, bitter in my nearby nostrils, and alerts myself to the presence of Melanie Bonajo herself waiting to speak with me. Karen Codd, the aforementioned manager, introduces her and Bonajo flashes her eyes – adorned with vertical lines of blood orange liner atop her lids and a smother of deep pink under the bottom lashes – and smiles meekly.
Like Morner, she’s had a hectic time of doling out attention to people eager to speak with them of how moved and intrigued they feel pacing the open room of the Capricious Space, which unfolds into a separate room in the back as well. Bonajo speaks sparingly but smiles adoringly at the world and tells me she’s from the Netherlands but doesn’t really live anywhere particularly because now she lives in her van and travels around. She says it with a tremendous self-confidence and belief, as she does everything. She is genuine to the core and, as all artists who glory in the making of art and not the discussion of it, seems unenthusiastic about questions. It’s not that she or Morner display any arrogant or guarded disposition opposed to share, but rather the opposite – they so sincerely invest themselves in the task of creating and publishing art simply for the love of doing so that they experience a loss of words in the afterthought of explanation. They share by doing, not by speaking.
I grab a brick of white, matte book and ask Bonajo to sign it. She says she signs every inseam with a different symbol. I open the book to a photograph of a voluptuous woman in a sequined red number striking an arabesque and reaching for a giant tennis ball. “That’s my mother,” she says. The entirety of Bonajo’s collection expresses the same audacity and intensely intimate ideas -two naked young bodies tastefully entangled on stacked, lone mattresses in the woods, a nude woman covered in classroom chairs tied to her hunched over figure, a self portrait of her in underclothes entitled, “My First Bra,” a topless photo of her mother wearing a fur headdress entitled, “My Mum’s a Fox (I love my Parents).”
Love them she does. In the book’s last pages are personal transcripts of taped interviews with her mother and father, conducted by Bonajo herself, about herself as a human being, as an artist, and as the publisher of a first collection.
She tells me that she’s too busy to talk today but that on Thursday she will be performing with her friend -a miniature Asian girl with small hips and a lot of hair, kneeling behind the Mac book pro, humming and choosing music for the gallery goers meandering. She explains the music is of the experimental genre with its performers dressed in wild masks and again she says it self confidently and plainly, the same way she explained living in a Van and photographing her mother half naked; or rather, shares instead of explains, because she does not feel the need to explain anything to anyone and that is the particular quality shared by the infectious crowd of Capricious Space.
The gallery’s art is deeply real for the artists and for the viewers. And Sophie Morner, that entrancing, androgynous woman with the look of a lean farm girl, walking with an unlit cigarette which marks the temporariness of her presence inside, puts it plainly that this is the intention of the Capricious publication – to sponsor, promote and benefit from artists who genuinely feel the need to express what, to them, is the essence of their unspoken, private reality through the channels of art. Morner says she’s had artists from all over the world guest edit each issue of Capricious (as Bonajo did before graduating to her own book) and the result varies in content but never in quality – that quality of “an artist who always goes a step beyond the trend.”
The Capricious Space lingers on Williamsburg’s Broadway Avenue as a home to the kooky but nonetheless fascinating individuals of the contemporary Brooklyn art scene. There are Pacifico beer bottles abandoned in the button bowl on the merchandise table. Plastic measuring cups of straight forward wine. A blank wooden sign imprinted with the silhouette of a horse with its head bowed swings in the wind above the doorway. It is cluttered with art that will poke your soul. An effervescent energy. And pure hearts to boot.
Capricious Publishing/GALLERY; 103 Broadway, Brooklyn NY 11211. (b/w Bedford and Berry).