Shades of Gray Present Life, in Color
The doors to the Tribeca studio space, in a converted building tucked away on a side street right off of Broadway, are deceiving. Space on White is bustling with energy on the inside, teeming with art and artists at work. On the wall right past the entrance hangs a remixed image of Ray Charles on piano, among others created by a young German street artist. Downstairs, the hallway is filled with canvases covered in graffiti, the work of a Hamburg artist who goes by the pseudonym L.I.E.S. Like entering another world, or at least another world paying a visit.
Enlarge image Jonas Gerberding (Life Is Extremly Strange), Marcius Tan (Life Is Nuts), Heidi Mueller Smith (The Shades Of Gray), Miriam Ibrahim (Life Is Overrated/The Shades Of Gray), Rayka Kobiella (Life Is Overrated) (from front to back) (© The Shades Of Gray) Both exhibits and the artists are in New York as part of a project developed by the multi-arts organization Shades of Gray. First entering the scene in New York with the movement-theater piece "Sterntaler," Shades of Gray is the product of its hard-working founders, Miriam Ibrahim and Heidi Mueller Smith, who have tapped into their extensive American and German artistic networks to put together a fascinating offering for the first-ever Artist Exchange. As if excusing itself for disrupting the inconspicuous White Street facade, "Sorry for the Color" features the exhibitions "Life is extremely strange" by Jonas Gerberding aka L.I.E.S., "Life is nuts" by Marcius Tan, and the theater project "Life is overrated" by Rayka Kobiella.
The creation of the Artist Exchange doesn't get much more organic than this: camping out in Ibrahim's Queens home with stencils brought from Hamburg and purchased at random in New York art supply stores, Gerberding sprayed his way to a series of pieces he saw fit for exhibition. He arrived with his girlfriend Kobiella, whose piece "Life is overrated" features her friend Ibrahim- also an actress- with whom she worked previously in a Hamburg bar. They are joined by friend and fellow Hamburger artist Tan. What began as an idea between Ibrahim and Kobiella, then, is now a full-fledged program, carried out by the trio, who paid their own airfare to New York to prepare and see through the project over two and a half months.
"Sorry for the Color" is a snapshot of sorts of the three Hamburg artists, each of whom is active in his or her own scene. Gerberding, who began spraying graffiti with friends when he was 14 in the city's Altona district, became an established artist and under the street name L.I.E.S. (a play on the German command "read" and the English word, and now an acronym for his exhibition) before getting caught in 1999 for painting illegally. Two thousand Deutschmark and three years later, he began spraying in the studio at the Hamburg School of Art. Kobiella regularly writes and directs in the city, and Tan channels the street art scene in his work that uses mixed materials such as stencils, brushes, and spray paints.
"Life is overrated" featured local actors working together with Ibrahim and Kobiella, as well as actress Zoe Hutmacher. The Berlin-based Hutmacher, a former permanent company member of Theaterhaus Jena, also received her theatrical training in Hamburg. Hutmacher flew to New York for the four performances at Space on White over the weekend before returning to the stage at Deutsches Theater in Berlin- on Monday.
"Life is overrated" by Rayka Kobiella premiered on May 30 and ran through Saturday, June 2 at Space on White. "Life is extremely strange" by Jonas Gerberding is on view through June 13. "Life is nuts" by Marcius Tan is on view through June 20. The exhibitions are free of charge, and all pieces are for sale.