Mapping Mespeatches, an exhibition of site-specific work by artist Sto Len, highlights the relationship between aesthetic beauty and ugly truth by investigating urban sprawl and the illegal dumping of toxic waste in natural habitats through a series of prints pulled from the surface of Newtown Creek and Corona Park in Queens. Working en plein air from a rowboat, Len uses an original process he calls Tsunaminagashi — a mix of traditional suminagashi and his own techniques — to print directly off of the water. These works are arresting, psychedelic experiments in marbleized texture and design that reveal a dark, tactile truth of urban pollution in our city’s water.
The Mespeatches, one of thirteen Native tribes of Long Island, took their name from mespeatches, “at the bad water place,” referencing the swamps which populated what is now Maspeth, Queens. Today, Greenpoint’s Newtown Creek is one of the most polluted bodies of water in the U.S., a dumping ground for illegally disposed toxic materials. Abused for decades, the region is currently a hotbed for real estate speculation with luxury buildings further contributing to conditions harmful to life. It is within this context that Sto Len exposes the physical consequences of this commodified urban landscape through land art, performance and printmaking as a site of discourse on environmentalism and gentrification.
Sto Len is Brooklyn-based with familial roots in Vietnam and was the inaugural artist invited to participate in Ace Hotel New York’s Artists in Residence program.
A reception for Mapping Mespeatches will be held on Thurs July 6 from 6-8pm. RSVP is encouraged, though not required.