Channeling a very witchy energy in the heart of Fulton Market, “Boil, Toil + Trouble” gathers around fifty artists across mediums and generations to uncover the mystique within their practice and the world. Amid otherworldly creatures—both imagined and real—and mermaids with scalloped tails, are black cats, awe-inspiring figurines and totem-like sculptures. Several large-scale works occupy the space—its vastness adds to the experience. In an exhibition that is all about magic, ritual, the alchemy of water and the role of the witch or medium in contemporary art, the mystical, the mythological and the spiritual intertwine.
Julian Charrière explores the connections between human activity, ecology, the environment and its demise, nodding to the climate crisis in “And Beneath It All Flows Liquid Fire” (2019)—a haunting, apocalyptic video illustrating a tiered fountain set ablaze. Loni Johnson’s “Requiem of a Black Girl” brings to mind an altar of sorts in a site-specific installation where gold and pink dominate. Edgar Arceneaux’s “Untitled” (2007) features a shark descending into the frame from above—the canvas is covered in blood-red splatter, giving the work an ominous quality. Right in the middle of the first-floor gallery stands a rock surrounded by carefully carved black sand. In “Imagining Aeonian Light,” a site-specific installation by Lita Albuquerque, rock and natural pigments collide, providing insight into our role in the universe. Elsewhere, Ariana Papademetropoulos presents “Baby Alone in Babylon,” a video of herself floating in a bed in a Greek sea—a surreal and meditative sight.
Neon light—mostly greens and pinks—is aplenty. So are mirrors and reflective surfaces. Chelsea Culprit’s “Tru Bruja Too” (2019) presents a flying broomstick—instead of bristles, there’s a disembodied neon hand. Erol Scott Harris has covered the gallery windows in his signature mixed media on linoleum and plastics work in “Aqueous” (2023). Elsewhere, artist and poet Nereida Patricia brings color to life in “Venus Construct,” a blue-hued work that features glitter with glass beads adorned with skeletal angels about to take flight and is supported by two concrete blocks; and in “Primordial Waters,” a bright green mixed-media fountain made out of foam, cement and glass beads. Gabriel Chaile’s “A veces me olvido de mi” (2019) is a giant pinkish vase made of adobe clay. It sits on a wooden base covered with earth. An onion and a cigarette complete the ensemble.
Appropriately weaved into the theme are historic works on loan from private collections by legendary names: Marina Abramovic, poses almost like a Christ figure—her arms spread out—standing under a waterfall in “Places of Power, Waterfall” (2013); Radcliffe Bailey’s “Monument to the Known” (2021), featuring mixed-media including a black sand plaster head with glasses and a Civil War Union cap, and his work “Windward Coast—West Coast Slave Trade” (2009-2018) fills a gallery corner with piano keys, a plaster bust and glitter. Adding to the history lesson: Bruce Nauman’s “Study for Holograms A & E” (1970) screenprints, Ana Mendieta’s video works “Creek” (1974) and “Untitled: Silueta Series” (1978), and Niki de Saint Phalle’s colorful “La fontaine aux quatre nanas” (1988-1990) and “Sphinx” (1990).
In a thoughtfully curated space, intimate galleries and open-concept layout coexist, providing alternate pathways throughout the works. The experience becomes intuitive. The lines between terror and hope, sanctity and profanity, the world of spirits and the living, blur. Curator Zoe Lukov calls the traveling exhibition “a bubbling cauldron overflowing with gods and monsters, spirit and transcendence.” Bringing it to life with cultural producer Abby Pucker under the umbrella of the nonprofit creative enterprise Art in Common, which they co-founded, “Boil, Toil + Trouble” serves its purpose: it leaves you curious, challenged and a little changed. The experience might be best illustrated in Lukov’s own words: “This show is a stew with the power to burn and poison, but also to heal and alchemize.”
“Boil, Toil + Trouble,” 400 North Peoria, on view through April 23.