Brooklyn Gaze Edition 1: Erasure and Revelation

The projected text of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s "I Have a Dream" speech appears partially erased from the facade of Brooklyn Public Library, as seen from Grand Army Plaza.

By Andrew Andrews

The sandstone facade of BPL’s Central Library has been one of Brooklyn’s most easily-recognizable landmarks for more than 75 years. The towering smooth block surface, interrupted by pillars adorned with golden bas-reliefs, has presented a consistent appearance since its completion in 1940 and solidifies its regard as one of America’s greatest Art Deco buildings. And yet, that same very smooth surface is what makes this historic structure the perfect canvas for the decidedly contemporary large-scale animated projections of Brooklyn Gaze, a new art and performance series from BPL Presents.

Tonight’s inaugural event opened with an outdoor concert by Grammy-nominated (and Brooklyn-based) band Les Nubians, who rallied the crowd gathered in the library’s front plaza with songs of love, unity and justice, delivered in English and French over a harmonious blend of neo-soul, world beat, and, at times, downright funky instrumentation. It was a perfect soundtrack for a gorgeous evening, bringing together Brooklyn’s signature multicultural crowd in a call-and-response chorus.

After a brief intermission, the aforementioned facade was flooded with lights and colors by the headline attraction: the animated loop by visual artists Mark Read and Jeanne Angel in which quotations by famous Americans from Sojourner Truth to Dr. Martin Luther King (on everything from the state of the Union to the human condition) appeared and disappeared with whimsical (and at times dramatic) transitions, leaving behind words that rearranged into observations that delighted the crowd, as expressed by their applause and occasional outright cheers.

In addition to the official concession stand, nearby mobile vendors supplied the audience with an array of food, drinks and treats, providing even more reason to hang out and enjoy the show—as if the art and music weren’t a good enough reason to start with! If this first edition of Brooklyn Gaze is any indication, this is one outdoor cultural series that will be worth enjoying throughout the summer.

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Andrew Andrews attended Brooklyn Gaze Edition 1: Erasure and Revelation at Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn on Thursday, May 18, 2017 @ 8:00pm to write this review.

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