One recent Friday in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Tomato House opened “Future Floor,” an immersive installation made specifically for the space by Far Rockaway–based artist Ian Gerson. For the piece, Gerson transformed the main room of the gallery into an underwater/space exploration vehicle of sorts, inviting visitors to enter into a ship filled with large paintings, found objects, and machinery fabricated using cardboard.
“Usually I make a space that people walk up into or can walk around—and this one you can’t walk around because it’s so big—but, yeah I usually build a contained structure and then there’s stuff inside of it,” Gerson told ARTnews on the night of the opening.
In the past, these structures have included a very small museum with dioramas built into the walls and an unoccupied Italian ice storefront in Williamsburg. “I usually like to sleep in my projects at some point, because I’ll make a room or something. I slept in the park ranger booth I made,” Gerson said, referring to an installation he made at Long Island City’s Socrates Sculpture Park.
The installation at Tomato House recalls a haunted house or carnival attraction; the whole piece is well crafted while retaining a lovingly rickety edge. There are a lot of charming details at play, too, including a water-filled hole in the middle of the vessel, complete with floating debris. Colorful gradients line the walls in a way that recalls the control panels on Star Trek.
“There’s something I really love about that… Something that’s well made or could shift a perception or trick you for a moment, but then you can see how it is made and see that it’s not that complicated, and that there’s a hand in it. It feels special to me,” Gerson said. “It’s not really disguising what it’s made out of, it’s cardboard and it’s wood.”
“Future Floor” came about from the desire of Tomato House’s proprietors to step outside of their immediate artistic community. “I was looking for artists that we would be interested in working with,” said the artist Rebecca Bird, who runs the space alongside artist and musician Matthew Thurber.
“We were mostly organizing things for friends of ours, and I was looking on the internet for things that intrigued me, and really it’s hard to find stuff you like on the internet, but I saw a project Ian did where [Gerson] built a fruit cart and rode it on the boardwalk in the Rockaways and sold fruit and just engaged with people and I just loved it.” After two years of correspondence and some planning, “Future Floor” was born.
“I think of Ian’s practice as being related to the fact that [Gerson] lives in Far Rockaway and was there during the Hurricane Sandy, and right afterwards turned [the artist’s] house into a food kitchen distribution place,” Thurber said.
“It’s something that goes a little bit past social practice,” Bird added, “like it’s not always even framed as art.”
Gerson’s exhibition comes in the wake of another installation at Tomato House, “Belly Of The Beast” by Laura Perez-Harris. For Perez-Harris’s show, the artist constructed a maze inside of the gallery using a variety of materials. “This year has been our total immersive year, two big shows that were both walkthroughs and now we’re totally burnt out and exhausted,” Thurber joked.
In the aftermath of those large-scale immersive works, the Tomato House organizers have considered a full directional shift in scale. “We’ve been talking about—I used to know a bunch of stamp artists in Seattle a long, long time ago and we were like, ‘We should do stamp art,’” Bird said.
“We’re going microscopic,” Thurber said.