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Pop-Up Stories: “Mugello Gallery” is Creating More Than Just a “Toy Box”

Mugello Gallery features Brent Estabrook in a playful, live art installment.

Behind a vibrant blue storefront situated in the charming neighborhood of Nolita, you will find a strange population of large colorful teddy bears steadily growing upon its interior walls. Beginning on the first day of May, Los Angeles based painter Brent Estabrook has entered the doors of 171 Elizabeth St. between Kenmare and Spring and began painting while only breaking for lunch and concluding in the late hours of the night.

Parasol Projects at 171 Elizabeth, May 2018
Artist Brent Estabrook at Mugello Gallery ‘Toy Box” Pop-Up.

“People come by at night, walk in and talk to me while they’re drunk,” says Estabrook with a smile. While most would mind, it’s quite the contrary for Eastabrook, “I keep painting while we talk, it’s nice to have company.” The live exhibition will culminate with a well-deserved closing reception at the end of the month organized by Mugello Gallery, who has commissioned the works.

When visiting Brent after only five days, six substantial paintings were hung with a seventh in progress. The prolific painter isn’t worried about subject matter: the entire body of work consists of representing stuffed animals, especially teddy bears, demonstrating his undeniable skill level with oil paint. Whether piled together or standing on their own as if they were posing, the multitude of bears is immense though not startling.

Stuffed animals have a solid presence in contemporary art history although they are often used in more frightening ways. French artist Annette Messager dissects them by pinning them on walls like frogs on display in a natural science museum. Notable artists like Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy have shown these figures as dirty, dusty, eviscerated and sewn together, while Urs Fisher’s giant yellow teddy bear lamp on Park Avenue is multiplied in scale making the viewer feel like the size of a stuffed animal themselves.

Mugello Gallery ‘Toy Box’ Pop-Up at Parasol Projects, 171 Elizabeth, May 2018

Estabrook has been painting them for almost two years now and for him, they are nothing more than a fluffy, colorful and soothing thing that speaks to the child inside us all. “Kids are still growing up with stuffed animals” he adds, underlining the importance of physical contact as opposed to the intangibility of digital toys.

Using the pop-up space on Elizabeth has been a great experience so far: “It’s nice to not be locked up in a studio” and he adds his appreciation for each interaction with people in the neighborhood and the experience of sharing his art every day with someone new.

As he intends to produce seven paintings per week, the closing reception on Thursday, May 24th from 5 to 8 pm should be quite an experience. 

Read more on Artnet

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