Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Feature in Whitewall Magazine

This is the last week to see Katie Bells “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” at Smack Mellon in DUMBO, Brooklyn. The Brooklyn-based artist has created a site-specific installation, on view through April 21, within the industrial space featuring 24-foot ceilings and prominent steel columns.
Bell creates assemblages, sculptural paintings, and immersive landscapes from discarded building and design material—old cabinets, hot tub shells, scavenged flooring, and more. Choosing material for color and shape, she plays between the natural and man-made world. Pastels, faux-finishes, and marbled surfaces come together to create new narratives based on location.
At Smack Mellon, the artist found inspiration in the neighborhood of DUMBO—the scale of the buildings, streets, and bridges; as well as the East River and the flotsam that washes ashore. A few weeks before the opening, we spoke with Bell about the show.
Katie Bell
Katie Bell’s “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” 
Photo by Etienne Frossard
Courtesy of Smack Mellon

WHITEWALL: Since your shows are normally site-specific in nature, where did you begin for “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place”?
KATIE BELL: I’m often flying somewhere, finding all the material in that location, and building a work on site. I haven’t’ had a big solo show in New York in a long time. The original proposal was one large, site-specific work in Smack Mellon’s main space. It used to be an old power plant and has all of this architectural visual language that is almost a sculpture in itself. There are something like 20 steel columns. So the building became the armature for the piece.
Katie Bell
Katie Bell’s “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” 
Photo by Etienne Frossard
Courtesy of Smack Mellon
It unfolded from there from the material I’ve been gathering. I’ve been using things like sections of hot tubs as these abstracted, knowable but unknowable organic but so manmade forms. I was also thinking about the East River and the flotsam and junk that floats up there—these foreign objects that have this warn, other worldly quality; like they’ve been through something. It was about, how do I create a landscape-like sculpture that also feels like it’s part of the building?
Katie Bell
Courtesy of Anna Bauer.
WW: You often use man-made material that is posing as something natural—like a marbled hot tub shell, for instance. There exists this contrast between color, design, and source. How does color draw you to a material?
KB: A lot of the things I’m working with come from some sort of interior—old countertops or flooring—these pleasing, nice to be around environments. I’m interested in the duality of a soft palette mixed with the large-scale and harsh nature of the material itself; something that is heavy and big and falling apart.
Katie Bell
Katie Bell’s “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” 
Photo by Etienne Frossard
Courtesy of Smack Mellon
My mom picks paint colors for people’s homes in Rockford, Illinois where I grew up, for places like Nissan dealerships and dentist offices. So she has paint charts around the house. I come from a painting background, and when I started working with sculptural material, I didn’t know where to start with color. So I asked her for her paint charts for different clients, which were house paint colors. It’s unfolded from there, where I’m pretty drawn to a pleasing interior design aesthetic, which gets questioned by how things are then put together.
WW: You said that usually you find materials in the location of the exhibition. Is that your preference or is it done out of necessity?  
KB: It started as a necessity. I wanted to work large and the easiest way to do that was to fly and make it rather than ship something. But then I was pleasantly surprised by how many possibilities it opened up, not knowing what you would find in a place and seeing how materials and palette changed from Miami to Chicago. And I would get to know a place by looking for materials, going to salvage yards, calling people from Craigslist, going to their homes…
Katie Bell
Courtesy of the artist.
WW: How does the narrative then reveal itself as you source material and put it together on site?
KB: For this show I’m making some objects—painting built panels of different materials. I was recently at the Lord & Taylor that closed and got all these really weird plastic fake boulders. There’s going to be large scale columns in addition to the columns in the space. Overall I want it to be a strange abstracted landscape that the viewer encounters, something unknowable that unfolds the longer you look at it.
Katie Bell
Katie Bell’s “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place” 
Photo by Etienne Frossard
Courtesy of Smack Mellon


Monday, February 25, 2019


Poster will be available at my show at Smack Mellon opening March 9th

Upcoming Solo Show, Smack Mellon Brooklyn NY

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sprechgesang Institute

Working on a collaborative project with some amazing makers/inventors/artists/scientists/musicians/etc:

Sprechgesang Institute (S.I.) is a research-based platform for artists1 working in an in-between language of two or more disciplines. We believe in the ability of the gap2 between genres to produce fresh and innovative perspectives, offering room to breathe without boundaries, space to improvise and to question3 conventions. We host regular lectures, workshops, and dinners to draw connections and facilitate discussion of in-between languages4.
What is Sprechgesang?: 
Sprechgesang refers to a vocal technique halfway between song and spoken word. Sprechgesang is what occurs when actions are too grand to merely talk about but too fragile to sing; when the heart moves faster than the mouth and pitched syllables are more descriptive than words.  Expanding the definition beyond the voice, sprechgesang more generally describes a search for a new mode of hybrid-communication in the space between two disciplines or techniques.  This concept makes up the root system of S.I.
1. artist: someone who makes things5
2. gap: transitional space, a breath, a pause, a blink of silence that registers as substance, a striking resemblance to something familiar but not-yet named, an uncanny overlap
3. to question: why? why not? what if? how? if not now, when? how come? what happens when...? is it possible to...? why can't we...?
4. in-between languages: mash-ups of two or more modes of making things. The result could be, for instance: an omelette with its contents organized as an archaeological site OR a song cycle composed in the key of common household appliances OR a late-night radio program approached from the perspective of rare or endangered plant species.
5. things: objects, writings, sounds, philosophies, concepts, gestures, spaces, materials, solutions, equations, designs, collections, strategies, sculptures, instruments, plays, dinners, diners, films, insults, poems, socks, jokes, houses, parking lots, pies, discoveries, decisions, episodes, molds, casts, perfumes, shapes, architecture, frameworks, formats, examinations, directions, examinations, inquires, diagnosis, investigations, murals, pictures, photographs, portraits, crafts, entertainment, maps, apps, games, ads, pamphlets, dictionaries, atlases, manuals, directories, almanacs, gardens, reservations, appointments, boats, deals, arguments, rafts, snacks, excuses, exercise routines, sonnets, apologies, mistakes, announcements, cocktails, appetizers, candles, albums, office supplies, jingles, one-acts, birthday cakes, lampshades, alternative measuring devices, counter tops, periodicals, proclamations, arrangements, etc. etc. etc.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Set design collab with Grace Hartnett for Moon Choi SS 18' lookbook

Art Direction/Production: Ania et Lucie
Photography: Joss McKinley
Set: Grace Hartnett
Objects: Katie Bell
Jewelry: Sara Robertsson
Hair: Ledora
Makeup: Akiko Owada
Models: Next Models

Moon Choi lookbook on

Moon Choi, 27, is a Seoul-born, New York–based designer with a mind of her own. Through a dreamy lineup of boxy suit coats and sheer piped tunics, the recent Parsons graduate intends to affect change. “I always look at gender boundaries and want to break them,” she says. “There are no rules to making clothing or to wearing them.” It is a powerful movement in the States, but still nascent in Korea, where Choi is from. But more surprising than her personal revelations regarding gender is the lack of heavy-handed messaging to accompany it—Choi’s clothes are simply lovely and plainly presented to people without labels.
In a sunlit showroom space in Soho, not far from where she currently works, she pages through her Spring 2018 sophomore offering (her first, Fall 2017, was her graduation collection). Scenes inspire her: Here, she imagined a single figure, waking up in bed at dawn. “Woman, man, it doesn’t matter, but looking at that person’s shape, their back,” she says, “the linen blanket, the sunbeams coming through the window, those soft textures.” The feeling comes through clearly in the poetic clothes, largely woven in silk, cotton, and other natural fibers.
There are shrug-sleeve coats and wrap skirts the color of turmeric, constructed largely from Japanese fabrics: a soft pink velvet, slightly wrinkled as though it was slept on. Then there’s a sheer dyed organza that she developed and plans to make her signature. “This see-through nature, it’s like the sun coming through the curtains,” she says, lifting the sleeve of a pale blue shirtdress with thick white dimensional stripes that nod to window blinds. “They create those lines and shadows.” Similarly, cargo pouch pockets are shaped like the window’s frame.

Moon Choi revolves around tailoring—the typically masculine realm of suits first caught her eye as a kid, watching her father, a businessman, dress for the office. “Every time he left the house, he would come out in a clean suit,” she says. “I started to look at how the clothes formed his identity and attitude.” Working within that limited framework, Choi tries to upend expectations and “blur the boundaries between masculine and feminine”: silk blazers with dramatically padded shoulders and suit coats worn backwards as a cool subversion.
This rule-breaking stance is particularly revolutionary for a native Korean, as the country maintains fairly rigid gender norms to this day (“In Korea, women have a specific kind of role,” she says with some frustration). Choi is still informed by her childhood in Seoul, particularlyby the inflexible school system. Girls wear stereotypically feminine, deliberately modest skirts and collared tops; there is little room for expression, and she hated that then. “But when I started studying fashion, I became fascinated by that slight tension in the clothes,” she says. “Uniforms and suits, mixing those elements and finding freedom within them gave me a sense of purpose. To find freedom inside daily life.”
Choi puts it simply: “When it comes to gender, these days, women’s and men’s doesn’t matter,” she says. “You might be a man, but want to wear a skirt. I just design it, and then put it out there to let the customers decide.” Now, with the launch of her e-commerce platform today and a full-scale presentation to follow next year, more people than ever will be free to do just that—in New York, Seoul, and all points in between.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Upcoming Show

“Builders” brings together artists Katie Bell, Matt Kleberg, Keith Allyn Spencer, Benjamin Terry, Marilyn Jolly and Brad Tucker.
Through traditional and expanded modes of painting, these artists consider building a crucial element of their process. Paintings peel and bulge off the wall, or recede into illusionistic spaces of the surface. Their works focus on the formal, but they often allude to moments of narrative, wit, and humor. Each artist acknowledges tropes of abstractionists throughout history, while forging their own visual language within the contemporary dialogue of painting.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer group show

LVL3 presents Fantastic Facade, a three-person group show featuring Katie Bell, Hannah Carr and Jenn Smith. Bell scavenges detritus and castoffs in search of new materials to build and influence her sculptural paintings. Carr explores how physical objects can be transformed to reference a digital age. Smith’s paintings offer commentary on evangelical Christian beliefs with a light-hearted and sometimes sly humor. Fantastic Facade looks at the ways we create windows of exploration that uncover the past and ground our thinking.
Opening reception
Saturday 29 July 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Garmentory Feature

With so much talent out there, it is truly exciting when you discover an artist whose work makes your jaw drop and your mind race. Well, that was our exact reaction when we came across the two artists featured below: Katie Bell and Andrea Bergart. With each a distinct aesthetic of their own, these artists are creating captivating art that goes way beyond your typical understanding of art. Their manipulation of everyday materials and objects is straight up beautiful. One of these talented women can takes garbage scraps and turns them into a 9 ft tall sculptural painting and the other transforms working cement trucks into moving public murals. So, without further ado, let your artist crushes begin.

The moment we caught sight of Katie Bell’s large-scale paintings we couldn’t look away. Her art goes above and beyond, outwards and upwards, literally. Katie creates her pieces with found materials that she herself went digging for. From ceiling tiles to hot tub fragments, she turns so-called garbage into unreal art. Her color composition, structural thought and innate attention to placement detail will blow your mind. Not to mention, this bad-ass woman can haul bounds of material and somehow get them all on a wall.

My name is Katie Bell and I am originally from Rockford, Illinois. I have been living and working in Brooklyn, NY for the past six years. I make large sculptural paintings out of found material.

I have a twin brother who is also an artist, and I think growing up we fostered that creative interest in each other.  We were always making drawings, games, costumes, piƱatas, plays, forts, obstacle courses, etc.  We were collaborators on all kinds of things and our parents were always encouraging us to make things. I began making paintings in college and started making still-lives to paint from.  The still-lives eventually grew larger and larger and turned into the work I am making now. I have always come to art from an interest in painting.

 I am constantly looking for materials and try to find one thing everyday to bring back to the studio. I am mostly finding things on the street, in dumpsters, and at construction sites. My studio acts as a catch-all for all my finds. Things will be rolling around the studio a while before I figure out what to do with them.

The hunt is different every time, but it is always a very physical task. As my work has grown I have gotten more specific, so I am looking for particular things now. My favorite part of gathering materials is the looking. I have so many places that I go to regularly to find materials, but one of the best spots is Bartos Pools and Spas. I have made friends with the owner and she saves old hot tubs for me to cut apart.

Weirdest: A three-foot tall rawhide bone. Best: A faux blue geode bookend.