Inside Out Art Fair * New York, New York
by Kenny Schachter
New York, New York
The name of the show was Inside Out Art Fair, and if I remember correctly from the press release, the alleged premise (the shows usually don't have too firm a relation to the intended theme) was the notion that contemporary art is more "outsider" than the now trendy art made by the insane, criminal, unschooled, or Whitney Independent Study Program graduates. In any event, regardless of the validity of such a concept, the show marked a comeback of sorts for me in the way of curatorial where-with-all and skill. There was a cohesiveness and freshness in this exhibition not seen in the shows since early on in the '90s; one hopes it will continue. Additionally, there was the introduction of works by artists that have shown in and around town over the years, but have been underrepresented overall. And then there was the inimitable Rene Ricard, the poet and painter not seen to this extent since a wonderful incursion at Petersberg Press in '91.
As an aside, I continue to make an effort to include seating elements in the exhibits and other unorthodox lay-outs (a curtain designer participated) in an effort to alter the white cube paradigm for galleries that has not been fooled with since the late '40s. All I am trying to foster is a more accessible (ground floor) and welcoming environment in which to view art. We need to get back to the ingenuity of the good ol' days of Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century; the last time innovation was put into effect in galleries. If I had the strength, I'd serve sandwiches, too.
Now the show: Rob Pruitt, formerly of Pruitt & Early, flew solo with back to back paintings on vinyl hung from the ceiling and visible both through the store front and in the space. There was a cartoonish salad like a generic downtown fast food restaurant, a Japanese tsunami wave, the image of which seems to pop up everywhere these days, and among others, a cute-as-buttons Lisa Simpson astray in a lush garden. The paintings had something that never quite gelled; but, on the other hand, there was a series of barely noticeable designer water bottles--the labels of which were recreated with glitter. These works were seductive objects that indicate Pruitt will be back in force by his lonesome self.
Kim Jones has shown frequently in the past, but not enough. His schematic drawings of military type logistics and war maneuvers, fanatic and obsessive, are beyond good. His mud man routine and slapstick performances of slapping his scrotum with a weathered cigar are, if anything, vivid. In this instance, he shows a series of photographic documentations of past performance work from the '70s with haphazard pours of mud running over the surface of the frames. In one instance, he lays comatose covered in a variety of stuff, kind of like a Mario Mertz table-top sculpture, with his dick looking big and swollen. Another has faint rat drawings surrounding a handmade frame recalling his notoriety as a rat torturer and abuser. Don't tell PETA. This performance as a whole was subdued but well worth a close look.
Another missed interloper is Curtis Mitchell, previously with Andrea Rosen, also flying solo, so to speak, for some years. To this day, I can clearly remember a '90-ish work of his comprised of a velvet corset filled with slimy Crisco oil. The work was reminiscent of the transient, deteriorating sculptures by Dieter Roth made from chocolate and other unmentionable materials. In his reemergence here, he showed paintings done with carpet cleaner and resin on rugs, which he first stained, then fruitlessly attempted to clean, and ultimately froze the results in a state of decay. The pieces looked like monochromatic, diseased Sam Francis paintings.
Lisa Ruyter showed strongly in the early '90s, then left New York for a while. Here, her '60s and '70s day-glo palette looked like quasi-representational Peter Halley's, done in outline form. The imagery was often of the stark, existential, post-industrial decay seen primarily in New Jersey, never dare I say in New York. Yet, there was also a cheery, candy-colored, happy-go-lucky portrait of a house in pink. The work uniquely conveyed a Post-modern synthesis of figuration and abstraction with subject matter both urban and suburban, but somehow very timely and urgent.
Michael Minelli makes clay sculptures on structures with table-top, colored pencil, cartoon-like drawings. The sculptures, brutally detailed and adept, seemed to be made from the never-drying clay toyed with in grade school. Will they ever dry? Better check with Mike. One was a four foot tall Pipi Longstocking, wearing oversized business man wing tip shoes, with perfectly sculpted laces and a monkey atop her head. She was poised on a metal support structure and resembled a Disney Degas ballerina on crank. Minelli's zone of concern, in addition to his freaked out Pipi on her way to Merrill Lynch, seems to be the not-quite-as-famous as their brothers and sisters (Jimmy Osmond and Randy Jackson caught in a staring contest) and other '70s and '80s era media symbols like Ron Howard and Jessica Lange gripped in the furry hands of King (as in Kong). Surrealism, academic realism, contemporary cartoon drawings: it's an on-target amalgam of divergent art forms that raises the hair on your back with its technical and conceptual acuity.
Daniela Rossell is Richard Billingham with bucks. No one can possibly ever again want to cast eyes on the over shown images of the 24 year old Billingham's family, drunk and obese, flying around a clapboard house like protons in an atom smasher. Rossell documents her family in Mexico, yet the environs they inhabit are more akin to an episode of Life Styles of the Rich and Famous visiting ornate, Rococo whorehouses in Paris. Her family is posed, maids, pooches and all, inhabiting the lush and kitschy homes of grandeur, together with things both fine and foul (in the later category is a woman shot at her bar next to a headshot of a toothless, grinning Mike Tyson). The frames that housed the photos looked like the clear plastic bubble tops of '60s experimental sports cars. Critic Jerry Saltz noted his impression of the gold and plastic hanging devices: "they are like leaky valves letting the air out of the photographs." Thanks for the gratuitous crit, Jerry, next time put it in print.
John Roach makes sculptures that look like they were made by a sober Jean Tinguely. These mechanical savvy constructions are all set into action by motion detectors to do things expected and at times unforeseen. The best among them was a work that contained a book in a suitcase with four small fans that in turn blow the pages in one direction then the next. An unnoticeable microphone and micro-video camera record the sounds and sights of the billowing pages flicking from one side to another and display them on a monitor and speaker out of sight from the book sculpture. Around the corner, the amplified noise of the pages makes a foreboding, scary bustle, and you need to squint to recognize the cropped image of the opened book. Subtle, brainy, and well made in a mad scientist, high school lab project kind of way.
Rene Ricard has a way of walking into a room without his feet making contact with the floor. The demands he makes are as high as his expectations. Nevertheless, the paintings were enchanting diaristic poems scrawled out in oil stick on wistfully abstract oil painted grounds, or the words applied directly to the glass frames of found flea market art works. Ricard manages to create seductive, covetous objects seemingly out of thin air.
Last and least, Kenny Schachter, me. I would be remiss if I did not mention my own contributions. One work was of a cropped dangling hand that belonged to JonBenet Ramsey, computer printed on vinyl used in promotions at your local supermarket. The ring she was wearing, in its exact pattern and form, was gold leafed. What can I say about that? In some juxtaposed test prints way in the back and almost out of sight, were two photo works. In one, my grandmother, with skin made up Kabuki-white (why, I'm not sure) was paired with an image of Mother Teresa: the only thing uniting the two was the color of their garb. The next was an image of Hitler and Saddem Hussein taken at a wax museum in Arlington, Texas. I got the feeling the display was more homage than depiction of human atrocity. Yea for self-nepotism.