Artists Revitalize Empty LIC Bank
By MEGAN MONTALVO
|A mix of local and international artists display their works in How Much Do I Owe You? at a former Manhattan Bank building in Long Island City.
Photo by Megan Montalvo.
For 25 years, the Bank of Manhattan building in Long Island City had been abandoned and closed to the public, but as of this week, a three-month art exhibition will make it “No Longer Empty.”
On Dec. 12, local arts organization No Longer Empty unveiled the revitalized bank, located at 29-27 41st Ave., for the opening night of How Much Do I Owe You?, a site-specific exhibition that asks the public to reflect on their relationship to contemporary systems of exchange.
“We chose the site of the bank because we really wanted to reinforce our mission of revitalization and transformation,” NLE President and Chief Curator Manon Slome said. “The backdrop of the building’s architecture, combined with the works designed around the theme of exchange, gives audiences an opportunity to really question the notion of money and its role in our society.”
Set within three levels inside the building, the exhibition features pieces from 26 artists whose origins range from 15 different countries.
Though it is the 14th exhibition to be created by NLE, How Much Do I Owe You? is the first the group has organized in Queens.
“After our last exhibition in the Bronx ended in the summer, we set our sights specifically on Queens,” Communications Manager Lucy Lydon said. “The diversity of the Borough inspired us to represent works from a diverse collection of artists.”
In addition to incorporating a mix of local and international artists, the exhibition also dedicates an entire room to pieces created by students from Queens high schools, including Newcomers High and the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
Similar to the larger portion of the exhibit, pieces in the room range from mixed media paintings and sculptures to films and immersive and participatory installations.
Highlights include casts of multicolored floating hands grabbing at a small treasure box and a large scale sculpture of a teen-themed ATM.
“Beyond money, the concept of exchange is showcased through works focused on social and cultural exchange,” Slome said. “How Much Do I Owe You? is a question that we often use to pay for items, but on a deeper level, it also refers to a philosophical and ethical question of how much do we owe each other?”
Reinforcing the deeper questions of worth, LIC artist Sol Aramendi created a multi-layered installation reflecting the plight of immigrants in America in “Dark Treasure.”
Within the bank’s vault area, Aramendi uses vinyl records to line the walls as miniature oxygen masks illuminate the ceiling and sprouts of corn and wheat grow in the background.
“So many people make the argument that immigrants take away from the American economy,” Aramendi said as the lights from the hanging masks illuminated her face. “By incorporating a symbol of asphyxiation with the growth of the crops as music plays, I wanted to embody the contributions and silent struggle they face striving for the American Dream.”
In conjunction with its calendar of events, NLE will offer an ongoing series of events and workshops tailored to families, adults and teens.
How Much Do I Owe You? will be on display every Thursday through Monday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Closing night is scheduled for March 13, 2013, and will feature a live performance from Korean artist Jongsun Jay Lee, who will give out bags of rice from her installation “Shifting Landscape.”
For more information about No Longer Empty, visit www.nolongerempty.org or call (646) 645-5506.
Reach Reporter Megan Montalvo at (718) 357-7400 Ext. 128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.