'Paper Reveries,' a New Show at BMCC's Fiterman Art Center

Untitled (Yellow Red Sun on Black Red), 2014, by Karen Arm

Jan. 02, 2015

“Because of the history and the location of this space, I want to bring energy and uplifting work here,” says curator Kathleen Kucka about the new gallery, the Shirley Fiterman Art Center, a block from the World Trade Center site, at Barclay and West Broadway.

And so she has.

“Paper Reveries,” which opened last month and continues through Feb. 7, is, for the most part, a joyful show of figurative, abstract and illustrated books whose 22 artists bring thoughtfulness, offbeat humor, and unexpected creativity to the inviting, spacious corner.

There is the fantastically intricate work of Japanese-born artist Hiromi Moneyhun, who uses an X-acto knife to create wonderfully delicate papercuts of moths, the mesmerizing panoply of dots in Untitled (Yellow Red Sun on Black Red) by Karen Arm that appears to give the viewer a front-row seat on the universe, and the audio-inspired work by Elena Berriolo, who sews onto paper to the music of Philip Glass. (She will have a performance and concert at the space on Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.)

Kucka, an artist herself, noted that the pleasures of working with paper, from its tactile qualities to the way that paint “sits” on its surface, outweigh the medium’s disadvantages—its fragility and impermanent nature.

“One of the reasons that artists are drawn to paper is that it is a faster way to get your ideas down,” Kucka said, during a recent tour of the show. “It’s a love of the surface. It is more spontaneous.”

The smoothness of paper also attracts these artists. “Without the weave and warp of canvas, the color blends into the fabric of the paper. It has a very different effect.”

She points to Nina Novasso’s enormous pieces, Loopy Blue Diptych and Blue Hue Floaters, made with ink, acrylic and watercolors.

“It’s such a pure joy the way the colors are blending and absorbing into the cotton paper. You can just feel it.”

Indeed, Kucka calls the paper used in these works the “co-creators.” Some of the artists, she notes, even dispense with paint all together. In his minimalist Untitled 3D Drawing, for example, Roland Gebhardt layers sheets of paper to  sculpt a piece that speaks without a trace of color. Drew Shiflett also uses the medium itself to communicate with the viewer, building a linear pattern with tiny rectangular pieces of paper. “It’s like a city grid,” Kucka says, “or an old piece of parchment!”

Miles and Shirley Fiterman, for whom the gallery was named, were generous supporters of Borough of Manhattan Community College, and donated the building that was once on this site to the school. Seriously damaged during the 9/11 attacks, it was eventually torn down and rebuilt. 

With Matisse’s popular show of cut-outs now at the MoMA, paper is on many an art-lover’s mind. This wide-ranging show, a body of work by intelligent artists who are exploring the same medium, is also not to be missed.

Shirley Fiterman Gallery, 81 Barclay St., is open Tuesday to Saturday, 12 to 6 p.m.