When people get nostalgic for a time period, it’s usually for the era when they were kids or teens. Boomers have the Beatles, Gen X’ers have the Clash, Y’ers have Biggie, Millenials have …….. Guitar Hero? Anyway, who do you know that is nostalgic for Benny Goodman? Me either.
In his first solo gallery show, DAIN has fixated on figures and fashions and the formality of a time when Swing was King and he’s installing it throughout Brooklynite Gallery for this Saturday. In fact, there will be a 12-piece orchestra. So it’s Brooklyn Night at Brooklynite, 65 years ago.
“The work for the show manages to tell stories from 1940’s. Fun times, glamorous times, working class people, Brooklyn and specifically Coney Island,” says Rae McGrath, owner of Brooklynite Gallery with his wife Hope. Makes me think of Italian Ices, Devildogs, Drakes Cakes, Hot Dogs, Potato Knishes, Pickles.
The street artist DAIN has been spinning these 33 1/3 long-plays for a while on the street now too, with colorized glamour shots of movie queens like Betty Davis and Audry Hepburn. More recently he’s been breathing life into black and white portraits of “everyday” men and women with sensible getups and nifty haircuts and a year like “1943” painted on them in a shakey hand. It’s almost like Dain wants you to be nostalgic for a time very few of us knew.
Looking at the signposts of the era that followed a long depression in the country does cause comparisons and some longing. There was a certain feeling of connectedness in a homogenized society that had been engendered by common economic suffering during the Depression, utter distrust of the banks, and an all consuming world war. Post-Depression, Post-War government worked hard to establish stability and growth through investment in a solid middle class; education (the GI Bill), health care (the dawn of Social Security), employment (the Work Projects Administration; WPA), a booming economy, a chicken in every pot…. I’m nostalgic already. But before we clamour for glamour of our nostalgic view, we remember that African Americans were conspicuously annexed from large swaths of the booming new era, as were a host of others who weren’t white, heterosexual, and religious…
Looking at Dain’s new work, we’re reminded that people used to be modest in their appearance, and it looked kind of cute too. Modesty that is attractive in a reassuring sort of way, and if you let your mind wander, it smolders beneath. Unlike the rockers of the 50’s and hippies of the 60’s, there isn’t shock value for it’s own sake. Walking up Bedford Avenue in Wiliamsburg on a Saturday night you can see a newfound romance for this tamed form of expression, as long as we can still have our “D.I.Y.” take on the subject and equality across the board is in full effect. Dain is feelin’ it, and it’s making a certain sense.
The gallery opening and show bring home some of the Brooklyn 1940’s, and the space has never been so fully utilized to evoke a theme. Rae says, “the installation and redesign for this exhibition is the biggest undertaking the gallery has done to date. Working closely alongside DAIN we have managed to really bring out his vision for the look and feel of the 1940’s.”
COPASETIC – DAIN at Brooklynite September 12 – October 10, 2009