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Posts Tagged ‘Coney Island Hysterical Society’

Coney Island Hysterical Society

Artists Richard Eagan and Philomena on empty Steeplechase Park site, circa 1982 Photo © Coney Island Hysterical Society

On Sunday, November 18th, artists Richard Eagan and Philomena Marano, who have been collaborating for over 30 years as the Coney Island Hysterical Society, will give a slide talk about their “Hysterical/Historical” work. The above photo from 1982 documents “Souvenir Views of Coney Island,” a “traveling show” that they brought to the then-empty Steeplechase Park site. The free event is at 4:40pm at 440 Gallery, 440 Sixth Avenue, in Park Slope. Eagan and Marano’s exhibit “Art of the Coney Island Hysterical Society,” is on view at the gallery through November 25.

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Coney Island Hysterical Society

FAST BUMPER by Richard Eagan and Philomena Marano, Coney Island Hysterical Society. Wood construction, paint, hand cut paper and printed paper, 2012

Coney Island currently has three bumper car rides–The Eldorado, the refurbished Astroland ride at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and one at 12th Street Amusements– and once had many more, but artist Richard Eagan says Fast Bumper is not a literal portrait of a particular ride. “It is intended to recall the way rides were retro-fit into buildings re-purposed from the turn of the 20th century,” says Eagan, who has a background in cabinetmaking and architectural sculpture, while his collaborator Philomena Marano brought her expertise in cut paper collage and printmaking to the mixed media piece.

Fast Bumper is among the individual and collaborative Coney Island-inspired works in the exhibition “Art of the Coney Island Hysterical Society” opening on October 18 at 440 Gallery in Park Slope. No, we don’t mean Historical Society. Brooklyn-born artists Eagan and Marano have been collaborating since 1981 when they founded the Coney Island Hysterical Society because they were “Hysterical” at the rate that Coney’s amusement rides and attractions were shutting down. Joined by friends and fellow artists, the group took on such projects as the restoration and operation of a dark ride on the Bowery, an homage to souvenir cut out photo boards, and a 2,500 foot mural celebrating the lost glory of Steeplechase Park.

“In Fast Bumper, Richard and I poured in the rowdy and the elegant of Coney Island,” says Philomena, who describes the piece as “a fast and fun colliding joy ride housed inside an elegant Victorian building from Coney’s former life. It reflects our shared sensibilities in so many ways- one in particular is a childhood memory we both recalled of peering into the windows or back door of a closed ride and observing it in quiet darkness, a razor sharp contrast to the ride in motion; like seeing it’s ‘other side,’ the ‘hidden nature of it’s soul. I think this piece also makes reference to a Coney Island truth, sometimes it gleams from the inside and other times from the outside.”

“Art of the Coney Island Hysterical Society” runs through November 25 and will also feature special events at 4:40pm on Sundays in November. On November 4, Richard Eagan, who worked as the manager and outside talker for a shark show as well as a game and ride operator, will perform “Alive in the Inside,” his one-man play about his surreal journey through Coney Island. On November 18, Eagan and Marano will present an illustrated talk about the history of their work as the Coney Island Hysterical Society.

“Art of the Coney Island Hysterical Society,” October 18 – November 25, 2012 at 440 Gallery, 440 Sixth Avenue, Park Slope, 11215. Gallery hours are Thursday and Friday, 4-7pm, Saturday and Sunday, 11am-7pm or by appointment. Phone 718-499-3844.

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August 21, 2012: Art of the Day: Out of Disorder (Coney Island) by Takahiro Iwasaki

July 6, 2012: Photo of the Day: Art on the Move in Coney Island

October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Philomena Marano of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Richard Eagan of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

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Philomena Marano with cut paper installation Giant Lolly

Philomena Marano with cut paper installation Giant Lolly, Homage to Philip's Candy. Photo © Tricia Vita

Earlier this month, we visited the Gowanus studio shared by Coney Island Hysterical Society co-founders Philomena Marano and Richard Eagan. In this two-part post, ATZ’s photos are interspersed with the artists’ own words about their Coney-inspired artwork.

Lately I’ve been considering one of the strains that run through both of our works- something I coined as a “Fool the Guesser” concept- Loosely defined: things seem like one thing, but may be another -perhaps bordering on “optical illusion” but not in the strictest sense- more like a form of visual play.

Eagan has a series of painted target constructions which take on a kinetic quality as one changes their point of view, and I have work in which it is really tough to decipher the medium it was created in- printed, paper or painted… thus summoning a sense of wonderment or an invitation to a guessing game.

We’re planning to group these selected works and hope to find a venue for an exhibition.

My new PLAY FASCINATION piece actually revisits an earlier set of works with the same name, but it’s more “unhinged.” In this piece I used a perception shifting ploy. What seems to be flat is actually sculptural. Is it caving in or blowing out? – there is no “one way” to view it.

To create it I made a cut paper composition which I then cut up into pieces. Next I reassembled them so that the pieces sit on different levels, some tilted inward, some outward and some level, thus adding dimension and delirium.

I originally borrowed the type face I use in my PLAY FASCINATION works from a decaying metal sign that hung on the side of the Faber’s Fascination building on Surf Avenue. In 1990 I recomposed the elements and created 5 similar works with the same title; one in cut paper and four hard edged paintings. I recall viewers engaged in examining the work as it hung side by side in an exhibit, wondering or “guessing,” is this paper, painted or printed?

This “fun house” or” magic show of illusion” concept appeals to me because it parallels my subject matter. I think it’s time to explore & embrace this unique Coney Island essence a bit further- to pay tribute to it.

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October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Richard Eagan of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

October 1, 2010: Oct 2: Coney Island Hysterical Art on Gowanus Artists Studio Tour

September 19, 2010: Art of the Day: Play Fascination by Philomena Marano

October 4, 2009: The Wonder of Artist Philomena Marano’s Wonder Wheel

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