Upstairs at the International Studio & Curatorial Program, on the third floor, there’s a map tacked to a wall with a series of flags stuck on it. The flags document the different countries from which the ISCP has drawn its artist and curator residents, and while it’s easy to notice gaps — large swaths of Africa and South America, for instance — it’s also refreshing to note how many flags there are, and how widespread. With 58 countries and counting, it’s clear that the ISCP is committed to finding art in the far-flung corners of the world; the process just takes time.
Up on that third floor, down and across the hall from the map, is also where I saw some of the best artwork when I visited the program’s biannual open studios last Thursday night; the studios of four of my favorite artists from the night clustered around it like a hub.
Directly across the way, Puerto Rican artist Gamaliel Rodriguez was exhibiting very different pictures, although both artists use the real world as jumping-off point for figurative fancy. Rodriguez had on display black-and-white landscapes, many of them aerial views, made in acrylic and Sharpie. The overall effect of the works is more gray than black-and-white, and they have a haziness to them, which seems to combine the textural ethereality of classical landscapes and the fuzziness of surveillance photos. But probably the most amazing aspect of Rodriguez’s pictures is that they’re not referential — they look like the nondescript places we know or have seen, but they aren’t. These types of images have wormed their way into our imaginations, and we’ve even found ways to make them look beautiful.
The other two standouts residents on the floor were both working largely in video: Bundith Phunsombatlert, from Thailand, and Mircea Nicolae, from Romania. Phunsombatlert had a recent public work at Socrates Sculpture Park, for which he created small rectangular signs listing images and distances for 100 different public sculptures in New York, a riff on the usual crossroad signpost. He had drawings for that project hung up in his studio, but the piece I really enjoyed was another one partially on view, from 2008, titled “Sham Shui Po: Retelling the Stories from the Past.”