Devon Watson at the Department of Signs & Symbols


VCS alumna Devon Watson is spending the summer as artist-in-residence at the Department of Signs & Symbols in Brooklyn. In addition to making her own work while she’s there, she is organizing a variety of discussions and other events to take place at the gallery.

Here’s a statement about the space that Devon forwarded to us:

The Dept. of Signs & Symbols is a pop-up gallery and project based artist’s event space housed in the long-time studio of Dumbo painter Daniel Horowitz. The space was founded by Mitra Khoresheh, Elise Herget and Helene Remmel in 2015. The artist in residence is Devon Watson who is available during the week and through appointment for studio visits and informational meetings.

She also added the following comments:

I’m most excited (beyond the few series that I’m working on now) about the open-forum discussion groups and artist talks that I’m organizing for the summer. When I have dates and details approved I’ll send you the information for late August.

I’ll be having a show in September or October, depending on if we extend the life of the space. I’d also like to organize a small group show after the summer (maybe inviting some SVA alumni to participate).


The Department of Signs & Symbols was recently profiled in a Hyperallergic article by Benjamin Sutton (shown above), which you can find at this link.

Its current exhibition is Filipe Cortez: Disenchantments, on display through July 29th. Here’s a brief description of some of the works in the show (you can also read more about them and see several images at this profile on Wall Street International):

Cortez’s new series, ‘Fossils’, consists of latex casts and plaster replicas of abandoned objects found on the streets of New York City. Cortez collects the discarded objects from construction sites and piles of waste, attracted by their forgotten state. He then castes them in latex, which when removed creates a skin that preserves the object’s shape and absorbs the texture of the surface. Flakes of paint and dirt cling to the latex membrane, embedding the original object within its copy. These skins act as reservoirs of memory, forming an archive of the abandoned objects. The skin is then used to create a plaster replica, with Cortez meticulously duplicating the found object and preserving the traces of human life. The ‘fossils’ are distinct from that which they are records of, yet concurrently retain many of the original properties. They exist as residues of past lives, recalling the passage of time and process of decay.


With the ‘fossils’, Cortez creates visual allegories for lived experience – of history, place, memory and the body. His practice breaks the recycle-cycle and questions the relationship between the ready-made and the object. The skins create an archive of abandoned objects while his replicas act as relics of the future. The poetry of his practice lies within the very nature of the materiality of latex. While creating an archive of abandoned objects, latex preserves the memory of the imprint only temporarily; as its nature pre-determines its inevitable disintegration. Cortez’s process therefore is a mix of rejuvenation and degeneration. For a moment, the fossils are boats against the current, before they yield to their determined fate.

On August 6th, the gallery will open the exhibition limit work by Steph Gonzalez-Turner. The show’s press release includes the following information:


The Dept. of Signs and Symbols is pleased to announce the exhibition: limit work, Steph Gonzalez-Turner’s first solo exhibition. The exhibition will feature a series of hand-sewn acid-dyed silk paintings, along with an installation of the artist’s density columns created in situ. The body of work explores the intersection of craft traditions with a medical narrative in both process and material. Limit work will be on view from August 6 through August 30, 2015. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, August 6, from 6 – 8 p.m.

Limit work, the exhibition title, comes from a term coined by the feminist scholar Elisabeth Grosz to describe the seemingly paradoxical proposition that “‘the outside’ only makes sense in relation to what it is not – the inside.” In considering existence and knowledge through this threshold, “the limit itself is an intercorporeal space, where the extreme body is opened, altered, and created.” Accordingly, Gonzalez-Turner’s silk paintings, which utilize the same acid dyes used in medical research, reference the interior body and its varied landscape of organic materials. The corporeal abstraction in the works deftly juxtaposes irregularity and deformation with beauty and delicate materiality, all while miming biological cycles of repair and regeneration. Gonzalez-Turner’s investigations of the body, a central subject in feminist art and theory, and her employment of textile art as her medium, with its long history as an interrogation of gendered craft, synthesize concerns and open up new dialogues in feminist art discourse through a prism of science, a traditionally male-dominated field, mirroring the paradoxical nature of Grosz’s theory.

(The rest of the text is available here.)

The Department of Signs & Symbols is located at 54 Hudson Ave in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 6 pm. For more information, visit the gallery’s website or contact them at

You can learn more about Devon and see some of her work at her website. I will post announcements and updates about her residency at the Department of Signs & Symbols from time to time as it become available.


A screenshot from Devon’s website (click to visit)

Visual & Critical Studies