HEY, YOU NEVER KNOW: 534 LAGUARDIA PLACE, NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Scream, Video Still/ "Hey You Never Know", Installation View
Twenty-seven artists; four fashion designers; three bands; and 20 plus writers squared off for this two month extravaganza in an abandoned pottery supply store on La Guardia Place in Greenwich Village. The storefront, musty and silt-filled, had not been touched in excess of twenty years and bore the evidence of decay like a frayed sweater. Performances were held weekly and ranged from poets and garage bands to a rock concert by a group recently signed to a Disney imprint. The space was an intimate old store with ample window frontage on a street that once housed the Paula Cooper Gallery, in the heart of New York University territory, with easy accessibility to the many passers-by. Though a cafe was advertised to be installed to really addle the issue of what was transpiring within, catered by the "Fat Witch" bakery, the landlord threatened eviction when he got wind of it due to stringent building regulations. A gratis basket of brownies, continuously replenished throughout, had to suffice.
The artwork in the show touched upon all genres, old and new with results good, bad, and ugly. Peter Fend led the charge with his window installation entitled "Desert Flood", labeled as such with a giant Xerox banner practically visible in Washington Square Park and Soho, respectively. The nature of the work was a commentary on the standoff in the Gulf which pitted US weapons inspectors versus the intransigence of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Trouble was (which is the case for much political art), the issue blew over prior to the onset of the exhibit which somewhat let the steam out of the bold proclamations contained in the piece. Rather than seen as a hotbed for debate on stirring international events perhaps leading to war, the installation ended up a more indeterminate effort, serving to befuddle the general public, since this was the only visible sign from the sidewalk. What kind of new boutique was this?
Among the mishmash were abstract and figurative paintings, photography, audio, video, installation, and traditional sculpture. Alan Uglow, a mid-career abstract painter, weighed in with an installation based on his obsession with soccer. Flanking two sides of a small room located in the rear of the space were casual photographic images of fields, stadiums, fans, and suggestions of the remains of the hangovers that followed the match. Two tape decks faced off against each other spewing the ramblings of the same announcer, though slightly off queue, with the resulting effect similar to vertigo. On a window were posted cryptic notes and advertisements, one depicting the victory of Uglow over his former demised gallery that shuttered it's doors prior to his scheduled one person show. TouchÈ.
Brian Griffiths, a young British artist, recently graduated from Goldsmiths College, has become known for his lumbering anachronistic cardboard machines which look like early IBM computers that filled rooms and accomplished little more than Radio Shack calculators do now. In this case, he built a 30 foot arc of a console with a cornucopia of plastic doodads as knobs, levers, tubes, wires, computers, and assorted sundry paraphernalia that might have accompanied a space ship on the set of a Planet of the Apes installment.
Thor Eric Paulson, possessor of a strong Nordic name, exhibited a series of meek figurative paintings that due to their unresolved state, mostly went unnoticed. The subject matter was teeth, mouths, figures of cowgirls and men in underwear, and cars. Though it sometimes came close, the cartoonish imagery set on gray backgrounds never quite congealed, whether it was a matter of composition, artistry or lack of distinct style. Nevertheless, as these uneven group exhibitions purposefully serve as a forum for experimentation, the work could conceivably fall into place at a later date.
Joan Linder paints contemporary everyday machinery, like copiers and medical equipment, floating on brightly colored monochromatic grounds. Though this formal method of representation is so prevalent, from the photographs of Sarah Charlesworth to the paintings of John Currin, it remains an effective means to isolate an image for closer scrutiny and is somehow very gratifying to the eye. The pared down subject matter of these works were video cameras, one set on a peach background, which due to the slightly distorted perspective, looked like an arched insect ready to sting.
Hiroshi Sunari is a Japanese artist involved mostly with performance. He constructed a small installation in a window more noticeable for the ingenious use of the space than the self-aggrandizing contents within. Sunari built an impromptu display, similar to a department store window, from nothing more than draped paper and some other odds and ends he found lying around the space. Within his industrious, contained diorama were laminated signs depicting the artist, younger than he was during the exhibit, clad only in little briefs, with a genie lamp. Also part of this nativity scene was a t-shirt with the image of a naked boy farting a cloud from his ass that spelled: "Early Hiroshi," constructing a narcissistic myth that such a thing mattered, out of thin air.
John Illig is a Yale educated artist that has exhibited only haltingly over the years, and is also involved in designing men's fashion. His work illustrates a phenomenon increasingly apparent in the art world today which is a hybrid of painting, sculpture, photography, and installation. Rachel Harrison is another practitioner who is gaining in stature, and who's work will be seen in an upcoming incarnation of the new photography series at MoMA. Illig's piece was fused together with a dissonant palate of colors seemingly culled from a carnival, made from melted fragments of plastic and laminated photographs. The work spanned 25 feet and was wedged into a corner in an "L" shaped form. Appropriated photographs were coupled with shots taken by the artist, and together, all of these components jutted off the wall like a melt-down at Toys-R-Us.
John Kelsey is a film maker from NYU who created a fictitious narrative photo essay, crammed in the bathroom, of a band called "Russia" made up of four very real 20-somethings. The images in the installation showed the foursome sort of hard at work rehearsing and clowning around (as bands are wont to do), and included posters and other trappings like gold sprayed beer bottles, tapes, amps, and guitars. Problem is, the band actually played throughout the exhibit, mostly in the bathroom, in many incarnations; and, ever playing the role, during one engagement shattered bottles into the audience.
Another mid-career artist, also an abstract painter and seen slightly out of character here, was Steven Parrino who exhibited a wooden platform painted "Industrial Blue," which happens to be the name of his band. During the opening, Parrino drank Brooklyn Lager and played disturbing, shrill guitar noise with an associate on his stage/painting and left the remnants as his piece.
Mary Clancy has exhibited paintings of unhinged objects, usually pitiable little animals, hurtling through colorful fields of space. Her realistic pencil drawing here was an absolute contrast to some of the more technological efforts on view. In a surreal vein, a colorful brood of birds were depicted flying out of a lesion in the stomach of a reclining woman rendered in black and white. For some reason, the work on paper was fastened to the wall with a disproportionately large amount of push pins around the entire perimeter so as to become almost a part of the drawing.The birds were pictured fleeing the woman, yet ended up caged by the numerous clear plastic pins.
Bill Albertini displayed three computer animated videos, each accompanied by a photograph. The images on the videos were blurry, twirling sculptural forms that only intermittently gelled into quasi-recognizable abstract objects. The virtual sculptures, in clear focus, were the images contained in the photos above each monitor. These things, located in the imaginary architecture of the computer generated gallery space, in a non-existent material, still managed to look fairly voluptuous.
Floria Sigismundi was included in the fashion portion of the show yet got carried away and attempted to contribute "sculpture". The work consisted of an antique wheelchair with the cushions re-upholstered with latex printed with the image of a naked woman. Wooden hands with text adhered, and placed on the armrests were the finishing touch. Perhaps the fact that Ms. Sigismundi is now a video director for the likes of Marylin Manson has gone to her head. Another fashion contribution was by Christina Perrin, who outfitted a model at the opening with a black lace apron strung around the waist of the virile young man wearing only jockeys underneath. Noticeable to all who ventured a look was the fact that the guy grew more erect during the course of the party. Finally someone aroused over an art show.
I included a video entitled "Rock" which consisted of me screaming relentlessly loud in a recording studio, dressed like a rock singer in vinyl pants and latex shirt, shot from behind while jumping up and down and writhing on the floor. Try it sometime.
New York, New York