BROOKLYN, NY.- This June, curator Madeleine Mermall brings her latest group exhibition to Brooklyns oldest brewery. On view from June 15th through July 6th, SPF 32 features thirty two emerging and mid-career artists, on view at the William Ulmer Brewery, 81 Beaver Street, Brooklyn, New York. Featuring primarily female painters, the works presented explore themes of summer through imagery that evoke the seasons experiential lexicon.
Summers visit is both amiable and oppressive: its sweet sap that envelops us in its hazy warmth is at first a welcome delight that, as the heat and humidity take their most formidable positions, turns cloying. Golden afternoons sweat away into slick, metallic evenings: city lights set against luminescent skies that fade fast into an inky black mimic the flicker of the lighting bugs that meander about the darkening fields and forests.
Summer is a time of repose and reflection, exploration and adventure, simultaneously melancholic and blissful; there is nostalgia in the quietude and freedom in the frivolity. It is a double scoop soft serve, offering relief and release. School is out, summer camp is in session, work has slowed, vacation is scheduled, days are long, the sun drags itself through the sky.
This underlying sadness to summer, heightened by the humid, suffocating heat, the smell of deet and campfire that cling to your clothes, the feel of aloe on burnt skin, wet bathing suits and sand in all the wrong places. The memories of summers past creep back to us, reminders that, under the stifling weight of it all, this time has a scheduled end date. Reflection and nostalgia bear memories of innocence, discovery, desire, eroticism and shame; a time when sand between the toes and mosquito bite-pocked skin meant more than just another nuisance in an overly-scheduled life.
The artists featured in SPF 32 expand on themes of summer through distilled moments, depicting more than just the fleeting fantasia of hot sun on skin. Adrienne Tarvers watercolor studies of a female form amidst a blue-green backdrop evoke a bather in a cool forest stream, while Alex Hammonds crisply idealized details of American architecture and roadside rest stops recall memories of suburban life and road trips. Elizabeth Tillemans paintings of the sea, lighthouses, gently swaying beach grass on dunes transport the viewer quite literally to the beach, a place of rest and reflection. Intricate interior scenes by Gail Spaien reminisce on summers in the kitchen with windows and doors open--one can almost feel the sweet breeze lapping at the skin, rustling the flowers on the table.
These scenes are familiar not because of the exact moments that they depict, but because of the emotions they evoke. The works embrace the magic of the steaming cement and glistening particles in the air after a thunderstorm, flip flops coated with the sweet smell of stale beer and the lingering musk of bonfire hair. We remember the hot humid nights and cool, quiet mornings. This is summer.