Honeyspace is an oasis of fresh thinking about art and its presentation — it is closer to the process of making it than to the process of selling it — despite its location in the midst of Chelsea’s booming commercial galleries.
This is largely because the space is run not by a dealer, but by an artist: the sculptor Thomas Beale. The gallery is unmarked, no one is guarding the space, it has no sleek white walls and no commercial purpose. The building owner donated studio space to Beale and supported his radical idea to open an unmonitored gallery. Since it first opened in February of this year, Honeyspace has gained a lot of attention for its provocative ideas and shows.
Honeyspace’s fourth show is called Portrait of Silvia Elena, a memorial to 17-year-old Silvia Elena Rivera Morales who was killed in 1995 — one of the first victims of the unsolved femicides taking place in Juarez, Mexico over the past 10 years.
The installation is a collaborative project by Swoon, a New York artist, famous for placing her wheatpaste cutouts on the streets of New York as well as showing them at MoMA, Brooklyn Museum and Deitch Projects, and Tennessee Jane Watson, a documentarian and social activist.
Most visitors stumble upon the unmarked gallery, where a small framed note on the wall invites them into the raw basement to see the piece. Shabby stairs lead viewers underground and one cannot help but be submerged in the somber mood of the installation. Such a departure from a safe guarded gallery in the rest of Chelsea drastically changes the usual gallery experience. The installation includes sound recordings by Watson, shrine elements and an intricate cut out portrait of Silvia Elena by Swoon.
The only explanation of the piece is in the corner of Honeyspace’s street level. The shrine on the table is made out of flowers, candles lighting the posters of the disappeared women, photographs of the commemorative pink crosses spread along the roads of Juarez and snapshots of the girls among their friends and family before their tragic disappearances.
To date, over 500 women and girls have been confirmed killed in Juarez, and more an 1000 have disappeared. Most of the victims are young, poor, and have been sexually assaulted prior to their deaths. The local police has been extremely ineffective in solving the 10 year old terror.
Earlier this year, during the trip to Juarez, Swoon and Watson met Silvia Elena’s mother Ramona Morales. They recorded Ramona’s recount of Silvia’s disappearance, traveled together to Silvia’s grave and brought back photographs of Silvia.
By inviting us to mourn together with them, Swoon and Watson bring emotion into the cold news stories we read and hear everyday of events taking place in Mexico, a place so far away, yet so close.