Realism, Surrealism and Community Converge at BronxArtSpace


BronxArtSpace integrates reality and imagination in their latest exhibit. (Courtesy of Sara Tsugranis/ The Fordham Ram)

Sara Tsugranis, Staff Writer

The latest exhibit at BronxArtSpace, “Realism, Reality and Surreality,” integrates reality and imagination through the works of five artists who each display their unique versions of reality. I had the opportunity to speak with the curator, Sabine Schumacher, who walked me through how the exhibit interacts as a whole.

The exhibit begins with Bronx-based artist John Ahearn’s sculptures. Ahearn picks neighbors who stand out to him to portray in his art. One woman, Rose, caught his eye while she was holding a sculpture of Popeye that she made.

“He was fascinated this woman built her own Popeye,” Schumacher said. “She is an artist too.”

The sculpture Ahearn made of Rose holds the Popeye that she created. Next to Rose is a sculpture of Devon Rodriguez by John Ahearn. Rodriguez has benefited from BronxArtSpace, which acts as a non-profit “advancing local arts education and opportunities,” as its website explains. “Devon was an intern here at 17, and when he was sitting here, he was drawing and already showed great potential as an artist” Schumacher said.

Now at age 23, Rodriguez’s incredibly realistic oil paintings are displayed at BronxArtSpace. Rodriguez and Ahearn became collaborators, and Schumacher wanted to present this in the presentation of the sculpture of Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s paintings, one depicting Ahearn, are parallel to Ahearn’s sculptures. The intention of juxtaposing the artwork of those two artists is to let the visitor experience the strong collaboration between Ahearn and Rodriguez.

Besides the heartwarming connection between the two artists depicted, Rodriguez’s paintings hold great emotional depth.

“I see how young fellows react, especially to ‘Jonathan.’ They don’t see themselves portrayed like that very often,” Schumacher said. “It is important we see young men of color in paintings.” These paintings may inspire the next Devon Rodriguez.

Schumacher describes Sarah Sagarin as the “real surrealist” in the room. She closed her eyes when beginning to paint  “Strange Relations” and “Lost and Found” to see what comes up. Sagarin presents her reality and lets viewers see what they think.

Carla Rae Johnson presents recognizable images of reality altered to explore alternate realities. Her work needs a historical background to envision the different dimensions.

For example, “Frida Kahlo meets Franz Kafka” prompts the viewer to imagine how a meeting between the famed artist and novelist would go. Johnson kickstarts the imagination by seamlessly connecting different prominent figures in the sculpture “Georgia O’Keefe meets Galileo Galilei.”

Jun Cheng Liu’s work equally presents reality and imagination. “Moonlight Monologue” looks like disconnected floating structures. It is a presentation of Mandarin Chinese characters in the third dimension. While the structures present an alternate reality, Liu’s paintings confuse your present reality. Schumacher had to tell me multiple times that the painted envelope in “Durer’s Hands” was a painted envelope, because it looks so lifelike.

BronxArtSpace is an independent art gallery not associated with any college or institution. It is a part of the community surrounding it, aiming to serve and uphold it. An art gallery is not usually thought of as a community staple, but through this exhibit and its ongoing work, BronxArtSpace makes a somewhat surreal idea into reality.

Be sure to see “Realism, Reality and Surreality” before it closes Feb. 29, 2020.