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Jen Bekman Artist to Watch: Sarah McKenzie


Jen Bekman is a gallery in New York City that exhibits the work of emerging and established artists; Bekman is also the force behind 20×200, a cool project that seeks to make affordable art available to everyone. Below, the gallery’s Sara Distin offers up her pick for an exciting artist young collectors should keep their eyes on.

While talking about some paintings by Sarah McKenzie, I’m going to try and make you feel not so bad about the economy. It stinks, really, I know, but times like these are also the best to learn from our mistakes, change, and move onward and upward (and what better day to hit the refresh button). Even our most glaring errors contain insights to learn from and that is just one of the things Sarah McKenzie is good at showing.

Her new work consists of close-in, flattened paintings of commercial buildings and residential sites under construction. Prior to these, she focused on aerial views of partially realized and unfinished suburban developments. One of these paintings, Aerial #65 recently illustrated Allison Arieff’s New York Times Opinion column, What Will Save the Suburbs?. In the article and in McKenzie’s work, it’s clear: we’ve built too many, too fast, too big. And there’s nothing we can do, it’s stifling, it’s too late, it’s all over. But look closer and that’s not true, there’s room in these paintings, parts are unfinished. As AFC‘s Paddy Johnson writes, [she’s] “using paint as a metaphor for built space… the very nature of unfinished buildings suggests a positive opportunity for change.” So, yes, I too am suggesting that in all the growth we’ve experienced, in the economy, in our urban and suburban environments, there’s been too much too fast but, as Sarah is giving us the opportunity to see, it’s not over yet.

Nor have we seen the last of Sarah; her work can be found in Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes, which opened at the Walker Art Center and will next be showing at the Yale School of Architecture in February of 2009. She’ll also be participating in de/construction with the artist Wendy Heldmann, opening at Jen Bekman Gallery on February 20th, 2009, through March 28th. Sarah’s last edition on 20×200, Site, (above) sold out quickly; there’s actually just one (!) print left. With the show opening up next month, there’s a good chance that we may release another edition soon. Sign up for our mailing list here just to be sure you don’t miss out.