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Duty Free

  • Ground Floor Gallery 343 East 5th Street Brooklyn, NY, 11218 United States (map)




October 20th – November 26th, 2017

Opening Reception: Friday, October 20th, 6 – 8:30pm

“Sanctuary City” Gowanus Gallery Night: Thursday, November 2nd, 2017, 6 – 9pm

Duty-Free is Ground Floor Gallery’s 5th Annual Gowanus Open Studios Exhibition.  A tribute to the community of artists living and working in the shadow of this storied Canal, Duty-Free features five Gowanus-based artists whose current work is informed by memory, impressions and materials collected from myriad destinations real and imagined.  Although embedded in the rich, creative fabric of industrial Gowanus, artists Adrienne Tarver, Alexa Williams, Catherine Haggarty, Joanne McFarland and Spencer Merolla remain unrestricted in their far reaching travels and exchanges with myriad environments, histories and identities.  Nurtured by their homebase of Gowanus yet beholden to their own inventive visions, these artists are highly engaged with people and places near and far, recalling the fluid passage of goods, services and influences that defined the infamous Gowanus Canal in its heyday.  

Adrienne Tarver will create a site-specific, lush, tropical landscape harboring obscured figures whose histories are unknown.  Often times a faceless surrogate for the artist’s explorations, these figures allow Tarver to question authorship of a given narrative and imagine new identities / narratives informed – but not limited by – her purview as an African-American female examining possibilities beyond the “exotic” or expected. 

Alexa Williams, a born and bred New Yorker, repurposes raw, urban materials.  A pivotal trip to coastal Spain prompted Williams to work in deconstructed, abstract forms from cement, metal, construction chalk, spray paint and graphite: the stuff of the “Concrete Jungle” that she contends with daily. 

Catherine Haggarty is currently working on a suite of new paintings encompassing divergent motifs, abstracted architectural forms and faint figures observed from journeys ranging from her daily jog to a recent residency in Paris, France.  A keen observer, Haggarty translates the impressions made by these visual encounters with colored pencil, acrylic and airbrushing techniques. 

JoAnne McFarland’s current work draws from imagery found in an inherited Negro Almanac and our nation’s complicated history with race and gender bias to create custom decks of race and woman cards.  Each handmade, beaded, painted and embroidered card is a poignant and witty collage depicting stereotypical and actual personas and phrases that have plagued us since the inception of our democratic union to the fraught Presidential election last November. 

Spencer Merolla’s new body of work, “Coal Comforts,” was also conceived in the wake of the last presidential election and our nation’s perilous exit from the Paris Climate Accord.  A mobile cart of baked goods created by hand and memorialized in coal ash, these apocalyptic delicacies express nostalgic yearnings for less divisive times and portend the artist’s fear of a misguided, dismal future.  

Duty-Free was conceived under the “Sanctuary City” umbrella: a joint curatorial initiative spearheaded by Trestle Projects’ Curator-in-Residence, Jesse Firestone, which will unite four Gowanus-based art galleries during their fall 2017 season.

Featured image: PORTAL, our Gowanus Open Studios 2016 Exhibition. Credit: Jordan Rathkopf.