In the Bronx, Art Fills an Abandoned Neighborhood Landmark – Camera Obscura – Curbed NY

 Bronx-born artist Abigail DeVille's massive sculpture in the basement of the Old Bronx Courthouse
Bronx-born artist Abigail DeVille’s massive sculpture in the basement of the Old Bronx Courthouse

Curbed wrote a great recap of what’s going on at the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse and No Longer Empty’s exhibition, ‘When You Cut Into The Past The Future Leaks Out’.

The article states:

For the first time in over 35 years, residents of the South Bronx have been invited to revisit the gutted ruins of a neighborhood landmark. This past weekend, the arts group No Longer Empty revealed its latest site-specific installation to the public, throwing open the doors to the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse, which has been boarded up since 1978. Saturday was family day, and the long-unused structure was filled with baby strollers, screaming children, teenagers with pitbulls, and curious locals. The curator of the exhibit was on hand to personally welcome visitors into the building’s lobby, while an artist conducted an intense purification ritual around her, pounding herbs into the floor and spraying spirits into the dark corners. Decades of dust, cobwebs, and rubble had been swept aside, and gusts of spring air carried a sense of rebirth through the space.

“It’s about bringing in the light and opening the windows,” said Lady K Fever, one of the participating artists. “It represents bringing light to a dark space. Because even in the daytime, this place has a dark energy.” As word of the exhibit spread through Morrisania and Melrose—the two Bronx neighborhoods that border the courthouse—residents began to trade stories of long-ago weddings, drunk driving arrests, and teenage run-ins that had taken place here. For a community that has only in recent years emerged from the fires, blight, and civic neglect that once scarred the South Bronx landscape, the courthouse’s reopening felt a bit like a homecoming. “It’s like they are seeing an old family member, long lost,” observed Regine Basha, who curated the exhibit for No Longer Empty. “This isn’t our building—it belongs to the community. We just set up the structures through which we could listen to the stories.”

Nathaniel Kensinger, the author of the article goes on further to say:

In contrast to these earlier, somewhat private explorations of the building, No Longer Empty’s exhibit offers up a much more community-based public art installation. Their group show, titled When You Cut into the Present the Future Leaks Out, features the work of 26 artists, many of them Bronx-based, and the participation of numerous neighborhood groups. The exhibit makes a staggering array of references to the area’s colorful cultural heritage, including the Bronx’s role in the birth of hip-hop and the popularization of graffiti, the local tradition of Puerto Rican-style casitas, and the renewal of the Bronx River. “This is a mingling of projects specific to the Bronx and more abstract elements,” said curator Regine Basha. “Some of it’s about storytelling and history, some of it’s about communing with the building, and some of it is just pure experiential sensorial immersion into the physicality of the space.” Walking through the courthouse today is a playful adventure, with sculpture, light, sound, and film scattered through every available corner of its first three levels.

The exhibit also delves into the troubled past of Melrose and Morrisania, with one piece based on Fort Apache, The Bronx—a controversial 1981 Paul Newman film about urban decay, police brutality and riots that was filmed at the nearby 42nd precinct—and a monumental new sculptural work by Bronx-born artist Abigail DeVille. Partially created from debris found in the building, the work presents a disturbing vision of dismembered body parts, dead Christmas trees, rubble and disorder, and was inspired by the artist’s childhood in the ruins that once surrounded the courthouse. “I remember when the Bronx was burning,” said one local resident, while considering the new buildings that now circle the courthouse. “It smelled like smoke everyday. There was nothing left around here. Now there are so many buildings we don’t even have a place to breathe. There’s nowhere left to build.”

Read the rest over at Curbed: In the Bronx, Art Fills an Abandoned Neighborhood Landmark – Camera Obscura – Curbed NY

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.