Image: Austin Thomas, Lounge, mixed media /  ©Austin Thomas    ©Black & White Gallery/Project Space

Image: Austin Thomas, Lounge, mixed media / ©Austin Thomas  ©Black & White Gallery/Project Space


"I wanted to make the quintessential Brooklyn backyard," said Austin Thomas of Lounge, her 2003 installation in the gallery's outdoor project space. Thomas had been working on a series of "perches" for over two years. Taking the shape of chairs, gazebos, tree-houses, and other architectural elements that invite viewers to pause and survey locations, her site-specific structures respond directly to the conditions of their geographies, but more importantly, they reconfigure the experience of place by facilitating both contemplation and relaxed social interaction. Demonstrating an acute calculation of the psychology of space and a flair for playful ergonomics, her installation for Black & White gallery consisted of four structures. The elaborate Adirondack-style chair, equipped with a sunshade and a school-desk-style tray for holding a magazine, stood across from a comparatively spartan "natural circle" perch. Next to it, a "double-wide" chaise lounge, which allows two people to face one another while reclining, was installed opposite the most brilliantly simple—and formally economic—of the perches, an orange armrest made of a single plank and mounted to one wall. More genteel than a barbecue, when Thomas came by the gallery to serve tea every Sunday during the exhibition, the installation realized the backyard-haven type of social interaction that she had planned. Thomas cites the project as a momentum-building step toward the social spaces she has been creating in more recent bodies of work. "It's a really powerful thing when you say yes to an artist," she said of her experience with the gallery.