No Rules: Presents ‘Noches de los Artistas!’

Set to be a weekly event throughout the month of July, ‘Noches’ will bring the public face-to-face with a variety of emerging New York artists to facilitate conversation among artists and their peers in an intimate space.

In Features by Amanda Scigaj 2010-06-21 print

Out of the gallery and off the computer screen, held its first installment of ‘Noches de los Artistas!’ Friday at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn. Set to be a weekly event throughout the month of July, ‘Noches’ will bring the public face-to-face with a variety of emerging New York artists to facilitate conversation among artists and their peers in an intimate space.

“I started ‘KnifeFight: Noches de los Artistas’ to give artists a comfortable environment to present and discuss their work,” said KnifeFight founder A.P. Smith. “Turn on the projector, turn off the lights, maybe have a beer, and listen and learn from some of NYC’s most innovative creatives… so many of us create things, make art, but it’s become increasingly difficult to showcase work in an atmosphere that is both relaxed and engaging.” Beginning the series were three of New York’s rising and well-known photographers; Rebecca Smeyne, Tod Seelie and Maxim Ryazansky.

Differing styles and subjects aside, throughout all their work and discussions are miles of road racked up covering bands, and the skill to recognize that a good photo, a good story is a matter of foisting yourself into a situation. Smeyne, co-owner of (and behind some of its entertaining sardonic descriptions) traveled with band Dark Meat, and covers events for Spin Magazine and the Village Voice. During her presentation, Smeyne joked that the common theme in her work is “Shit flying through the air with stuff all over the lens.” The result finds you in bizarre and interesting places, putting you face-to-face with the subject at hand; whether it be fetish parties, Voguing competitions, pet markets in China, Princeton parties, SXSW, or Brooklyn’s West Indian Day parade, the latter receiving some backlash when the photos were published in the Village Voice. Smeyne captures character-driven shots that distill the subject’s culture identity, as if by accident.

Along with Seelie and Smeyne, Ryazansky graduated from Pratt, where, through the advice of a friend, visited Keansburg, New Jersey and was enamored with what he referred to as “the Shelbyville of New Jersey”. Seeing boardwalk games where you could win cigarettes, and a “Spook House”, Ryazansky was drawn to the “little moments that seemed a little bit off, but normal anyway,” adding that “maybe I have a sick sense of humor.” From there he delved deeper into Americana by documenting a rural ‘KKKristmas’ in Indiana, and documenting bands, awkward teenagers, and absurd advertisements along the way. Ryazansky may be most well-known for his ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ series, where he followed and documented the family that is apart of the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas, who are notorious for picketing outside of soldiers’ funerals, (and more recently Synagogues) with outlandish signage. “I hate photographers who are mean towards their subject,” said Ryazansky, “people who maliciously shoot photos.” Although he is apart of the majority who see the ridiculousness of their ‘crusade’, Ryazansky shot photos of the family as they really are; a large, unremarkable Midwestern family who happen to be self-contradictory religious fanatics.

A documenter of bike culture, raft culture, and ubiquitous in the New York DIY scene, photographer Tod Seelie credits his work to “never saying no to an opportunity even if it’s ridiculous, and always staying close to your friends.” Seelie, who has been in New York for about ten years since moving from Ohio, explains his work as “two different monsters”; boiled down one side represents an explosive conflagration of music, sweat, sex, and cheap swill where the other side of his work explores gorgeous, silent landscapes. As a result, Seelie maintains several websites for each of his wants. For the past four summers, Seelie also participated in the junk raft flotilla led by artist Swoon, which has sailed down the Mississippi and Hudson, as well as the Adriatic Sea. That evening Seelie showed both sides of his work, while interspersing anecdotes and advice about making his excursions feasible. By working throughout the winter as an art handler and other odd jobs, cutting his bills to zero, and subletting his apartment, Seelie has been able photograph both the violent and serene.

Incredible as their work, some of the best moments throughout the early evening were the anecdotes from the photographers themselves. Photos projected onto the screen, facilitating conversation about the subject and circumstances surrounding it. ‘Noches de los Artistas’ will pick back up on Friday, July 8th with more art, talk, beer, and, with all KnifeFight events, no rules.

Amanda Scigaj

Amanda Scigaj. Amanda Scigaj grew up in Buffalo, New York certain that football ruined her childhood. Since moving to Brooklyn in 2007 she helped build DIY venue Bodega, ran art shows, and became music editor for libertine publication Chief Magazine. She currently splits her time between the production department of a publishing company, and as a freelance writer. In her free time she likes to record hunt, learn random factual information, and is really trying to finish that Robert Moses biography. » See other writings


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