Nearly 200 New Haven- and Connecticut-based artists exhibited their work at the Goffe Street Armory this past Saturday and Sunday as part of Artspace’s “Alternative Space Weekend.”
The exhibition, which has been held annually as part of the larger “City-Wide Open Studios” event since CWOS’ founding in 1997, is an effort to highlight underused New Haven historic buildings and offer artists who might not otherwise have the means to exhibit their works publicly a chance to do so, according to Shelli Stevens, co-curator of the Alternative Space Weekend. The Goffe Street Armory has played host to the events site for the past three years, Artspace Director Helen Kauder noted. This year, the exhibition’s theme was “Dwellings,” inspired by an essay by German philosopher Martin Heidegger, entitled “Undwelling Thinking,” Stevens said, adding that the idea was to fill the otherwise unused space with art and “turn it into a dwelling.”
“Our mandate is to activate art spaces, by which we mean activate underutilized spaces and transform them into cultural space,” Kauder explained.
In order to fill the Armory with works of art, CWOS opened the space to local artists, in addition to specifically commissioning over a dozen large-scale pieces.
Among the commissioned pieces is an installation by Hong Hong, who lives and works in Hartford, Connecticut. Hong’s work, which stands 25 feet tall, is composed of multiple panels of plastic tubes that reflect light and oscillate with the gusts of air generated by several strategically positioned fans.
“I wanted a piece whose dimensions would reference both these large public spaces that people inhabit, but also an ephemeral fluctuation,” Hong said. “I wanted people to experience these temporary movements, and sort of to swim through them.”
A second commissioned piece — a teardrop-shaped trailer, whose creation was funded by the Yale University Art Gallery, the Berkeley College Richter Fellowship and the Chase Coggins Memorial Fund Fellowship — was created by Harper Keehn ’16.
Keehn said his work for the Alternative Space Weekend aims to be a social experiment.
“I wanted to make something that I wouldn’t have to say anything about,” he explained. “An object open enough, unprecious enough, that people could just look at and see how many thousands of hours and touches it took to make it the way it is.”
Artist Mohamad Hafez, whose miniature streetscapes of old and present-day Syria are on display in the exhibition, said he thinks the Alternative Space Weekend is a chance to raise awareness of important issues, as his work aims to do with the Syrian refugee crisis.
Keehn added that the event allows a diverse audience to come together to interact with local art. Joey Loos, a first-time participating artist, noted that she thinks the event adds vibrancy to the community.
“It’s kind of a big diffuse clearinghouse for a wide-ranging group of people who almost entirely seem happy to see one another” Keehn said. “That seems like a great way to build community.”
City-Wide Open Studios’ art events continue through November.