Brooklyn Rail: Ethan Pttit, June 1 – August 30, 2012

Ethan Pettit isn’t trying to do anything too complex. The debut exhibition at his quaint suite in the Brooklyn Fire Proof building, Inaugural Show, is simply conceived as an introduction. There is no theme and the press release is as bare bones as I’ve seen—just a list of artists (11 total) and the gallery’s hours of operation. His agenda is straightforward: these are the artists Pettit plans to represent.

They’re a diverse group, and if it weren’t for the modest scale of their work, the exhibition would be crammed cheek by jowl. As it is, the small works beg for close-up observation; many don’t divulge the details that make them wonderful until one is within twelve inches of the object. At this range Eva Schicker’s delicate arabesque ink drawings reveal tiny figures and bits of poetic text. Her lines never connect; they bunch together like commuters on a train always preserving a smidgen of personal space. The same seems true of Richard Humann’s saltshaker, “Salt of the Earth” (2011). Here we have a standard glass shaker filled with minuscule squares of paper, each printed with a single letter. The whole alphabet might be bunched in there two or three times, but without any discernible order.

Robert Egert’s soft blue conté crayon drawings come off microcosmic in this company—his compositions, one per page, are like Ellsworth Kelly forms with circulatory systems. Delicately drawn arterial lines branch into capillaries without breaks or congestion; these are healthy shapes indeed. What’s more is that there is a soundtrack to the gallery experience, that of jet engines passing overhead. In Henry G. Sanchez’s video piece, cleverly installed near the ceiling, a number of small monitors display the underbellies of airplanes in flight. Each plane has its own space, and as one after the next flies across the screen, it seems the iteration could be endless.

Inaugural Show is based on an exhibition Pettit put together last year called 3-Day Stand, which was organized simply as an occasion for a group of friends to “han[g] out and loo[k] at each other’s work,” as Pettit wrote in an accompanying text. The spirit of that effort has not been lost. Everyone who stopped into the gallery on the day I visited was either a friend, one of the exhibiting artists, or both. It felt a little like being in a clubhouse where the goal was to make you feel welcome.

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