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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

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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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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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Artist Richard Eagan's alter ego

Artist Richard Eagan's lovely alter ego Kay Sera with Oceanic Baths. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

In 1985, the artists of the Coney Island Hysterical Society created and operated a Spookhouse behind Nathan’s, exhibited artwork at Sideshows by the Seashore and had a group show at LaMama. Society co-founders Richard Eagan and Philomena Marano continue to collaborate on Coney-themed art. A recent visit to the Gowanus studio shared by Eagan and Marano inspired this two-part post…

I began my career as a visual artist with a series of dreams about Coney island. Ten in one year (1978) – Steeplechase, The Thunderbolt, many locales, and I realized I had hand skills to evoke those places. Eventually I understood that’s what artists did. It snuck up on me. Generally speaking, I launched into a series of realist-based portraits of many of the places I had known in Coney Island. I needed to bring these places to life. Although my work has developed and changed through the years, I still return to the architectural portraiture of my early work.

Oddly, though, one of my very first pieces was an installation for “Tricks and Treats at the World in Wax Musee” curated by Dick Zigun back in… 1980? I filled a display case with a piece evoking the demolition of the Steeplechase Pavilion of Fun, titled “I Must Have Been Dreaming”- the curving space of the Panama Slide was filled with jagged, broken shards of wood.

During the Spookhouse Project of 1984-85, I began a series of paintings with bulls-eye imagery, and I imagined a few of them might want to have those shards bursting through the picture plane into real space, as if a wall had exploded out. Though they were not executed then, I returned to the idea in a series of small 12″ square canvasses in the 1990’s. They were an immediate hit, and I sold quite a few of those.

The short hop to combining the Coney work with the exploding architecture was a no-brainer once I accepted that the Coney Island of my childhood was imploding, burning, and would never return. I didn’t foresee the Thor paradigm, of course, but I needed to create pieces expressing my anguish over the ruins of my beloved playground. Hence the work with exploding shards, broken glass, and faded, ghostly signage. “Oceanic Baths” (not an actual Coney place name) was the first in this series, and the piece that helped me combine constructed sculptural work with abstract expressionist-style paintwork and pop culture imagery.

I expect I will be working the various styles in different combinations for some time to come as the future of the place of my inspiration and dreams unfolds.

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

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

October 31, 2009: Traveler: Carnival Rides as Public Art at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

June 13, 2009: June 13: Coney Island Hysterical Society Artists in Conversation at A.M. Richard Fine Art in Williamsburg

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Logo from Coney Island Hysterical Society Newsletter, 1987

Logo from Coney Island Hysterical Society Newsletter, 1987. Image © Richard Eagan & Philomena Marano.

In 1981, Brooklyn artists Richard Eagan and Philomena Marano co-founded the Coney Island Hysterical Society because they were “Hysterical” at the rate that the amusement rides and attractions were shutting down. ATZ found the whimsical sketch pictured above in one of the CIHS newsletters which Richard sent us this summer. The Society’s very first newsletter, in 1983, explained the design’s origin: “Oh Boy! Oh Joy! Where do we go from here? The Coney Island Hysterical slogan (or ‘motto’) accompanies the dancing figures on our letterhead, and will appear in the 1983 Coney Island Mural. We chose this logo for its optimistic statement and varied assortment of characters united in celebration.”

Richard Eagan and Philomena Marano, 25 Shoot, 39 x 52 x 8, Mixed media, 2009

Richard Eagan and Philomena Marano, 25 Shoot, 39 x 52 x 8, Mixed media, constructed collage, silkscreen print, enamel on wood. 2009

Nearly three decades later, Eagan and Marano continue to create Coney-themed art in the studio that they share in Gowanus. This invite arrived today:

To All our Coney Island Fans, “Savers”, friends and beyond

On as short a notice as possible, please accept our invitation to tomorrow’s open studio event as part of this year’s Gowanus Artists’ Open Studio Tour. As most of you know, Philomena Marano and I are the core of the Coney Island Hysterical Society (still crazy after all these years); we have been sharing a studio and exploring collaborations based on Coney Island themes. We are also planning a joint exhibition of Coney works, and are seeking a venue to that end. We’d love to see you tomorrow some time between noon and six!

Best wishes on a rainy day,

Richard Eagan
Philomena Marano

Annual Gowanus Artists Studio Tour (AGAST), Richard Eagan & Philomena Marano Open Studio, Saturday, October 2, 12 – 6pm. 267 Douglass Street, 3rd Floor, between Nevins St. and Third Avenue, Brooklyn. Subway: R Train to Union Street, one block to Third Avenue, three blocks to Douglass Street

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

October 31, 2009: Traveler: Carnival Rides as Public Art at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

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

June 13, 2009: June 13: Coney Island Hysterical Society Artists in Conversation at A.M. Richard Fine Art in Williamsburg

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Play Fascination by Philomena Marano

PLAY FASCINATION by Philomena Marano. Cut paper collage, 1990s

In 2007, artist Philomena Marano’s signature art piece, “The World’s Largest Paper Lollypop,” paid tribute to Coney Island’s much-missed Philip’s Candy, which moved to Staten Island when Stillwell Terminal was rebuilt. Her latest tribute to a vanished Coney icon is this cut paper piece done in the early 90s and dedicated to Faber’s Fascination.

When Marano recently learned that Faber’s sign had gone dark, she posted the image on Facebook along with a note: “Do you remember the ‘FABERS FASCINATION’ sign made up of a million light bulbs? Visible as you got off the train station on Surf Ave- well, the sign was taken down recently. Tears.”

The piece is from Marano’s Coney Island series “American Dreamland,” which spans over 20 years (1979-present). “I think Faber’s Fascination, all lit up, was symbolic in the fact that it was the introduction to ‘Fascination’ in general…. as you left the train station & stepped into the Coney Island world,” says Marano.

In 1981, the Brooklyn native co-founded the Coney Island Hysterical Society with fellow artist Richard Eagan because they were “Hysterical” at the rate that the amusement rides and attractions were shutting down. Her work is currently on view in “Urbanessence,” a group exhibition at New York Institute of Technology’s Gallery 61 through October 7th. One of the pieces, “Vision for the Parachute Jump Pavilion,” is a composite of design ideas in collaboration with architect Philip Tusa for the Van Alen Institute competition in 2005.

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

September 9, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Faber’s Fascination Goes Dark After 50 Years

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

June 13, 2009: June 13: Coney Island Hysterical Society Artists in Conversation at A.M. Richard Fine Art in Williamsburg

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