November-December, 2001
Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art
Adrian Dannatt

This exhibition cleverly brings together nearly eighty artists who live and work in that borough but who decidedly do not only exhibit there. Senior figures such as Vito Acconci and Martha Rosler are included along with a roster of other excellent artists from different generations and practices, most of whom show all over the world. Interestingly, one could almost detect a distinct Brooklyn aesthetic - based around grids, diagrams, and flow charts - which graphically deploys information and reveals inter-connections.
As the co-curator Dominique Nahas writes in his authoritative essay, a key work in this genre was Ward Shelley's penciled time line genealogy chart of the Williamsburg scene...


The ur-map of the beginnings and development of a social milieu that we know now as the Brooklyn phenomenon from the late '
70's to 2000 is artist Ward Shelley's 7-by-3- foot penciled time line/genealogy chart of Williamsburg. Made last year for a show at eyewash, it consists of a visual torrent of hundreds of names of artists, bars, galleries, exhibition spaces, nightclubs, restaurants, art happenings and underground parties, birth and death dates as well as notations on the media's steady interest in the area, as witnessed by New York Magazine's "New Bohemia" story in 1992. Snaking and arching visual arrows weaving from one piece of information or another and lively graphic forms suggest extended narratives of associations and ruptures as well as collisions of events, stratification and consolidation of careers and demarcated waves of artists coming into the area.
Shelley's chart gives a sense of an aggregate of people and their activities moving through time and across geography. People, events and locales are visually connected with others in a tangled web of interrelations. Names of events are bold faced. "The Salon of the Mating Spiders" at Test Site in 1992 with 600 artists is only one of the prominent features in the chart. The timeline doesn't claim utmost fidelity, as the artist is quick to point out. Its accuracy, as he states, is far outweighed by its value as a "persuasive discussion, a highly rhetorical one" of the liveliness and the development of the community before what Shelley terms in his map the "Golden Age of Williamsburg" (roughly 1991 t0 1994), the "Second Wave" (1995 - 1996), and the Consolidation and Professionalism" years (1996 - 2000).


BELOW: photo and details from the Williamsburg Time Line Drawing. Original is 84" X 32"