Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Last Days of Chez Deitch, Part II

Line of people waiting to get into Deitch Projects, at opening night, Shephard Fairey, May 1, 2010.

Like his gallery openings with their crowds of people in the streets, Jeffrey Deitch himself is equal parts NYC and LA ,and always has been, sans silicone and fake tans. At Shephard Fairey's opening on May Day, Mr. Deitch wore a characteristically pastel pink suit, and (as seen on YouTube) caught swearing with a venom not unlike that of Ari Gold in "Entourage", Mr. Deitch will fit right into LA.

Left: barricaded at the entry, nervous people fret.

Shephard Fairey's opening, on a warm Saturday evening, was a scene straight out of "Exit at the Gift Shop". Crowds lined up hours before the start of the official opening, and the line was an event in itself, stretching around the block, 10 hipsters thick , and slow to move. Opposite the line was an unfettered block party, with fancy motorcycles whose shapes, colors and collaged naked ladies vied for attention with the staid flat graphic art within the gallery.

Posing and preening among the motos were a group of bedazzled, bejewelled, be-tatted, and sometimes bearded gents, presumably the owners of the bikes, though they could have been a bunch of models from the anti-Hell's-Angels department.

Celebrities abounded, including Tyson Beckford (left), quick to arrive and to depart. It all seemed strangely of another era--80's fabulous-- but sadly without the substance inside. I like the idea of Shephard Fairey much more than the reality: someone whose hard-working street art style has blossomed into a full-fledged commercial career, thanks to a certain Obama poster, and of course buoyed by Deitch's happy collaboration. Fairey was likable in "Exit through the Gift Shop", which I highly recommend as a parable about art-world hype. In that movie, an unlikely protagonist [thrift-shop owner-turned artiste] becomes a semi-celebrity due to a massive marketing campaign, yet his work rips off every other street artist and pop artist, including Fairey himself.

Fairey also recycles many a Pop and propaganda idiom, and happily admits to it, but inside a gallery his work suffers. So-called street art serves a purpose and attains a power that circumvent the Deitches of this world. The international nature of the art itself is even more fascinating, and its demographic is far wider than that of most "fine" artists. Mr.Deitch has had a long history of working with graffiti-based artists, and among these, Fairey's work is the tamest. And as for Mr.Fairey, who would turn down an opportunity at having Tyson Beckford, motorcycles, and fancy dogs at his opening, not to mention lines of eager beavers trying to get in?

Left: installation view of Shephard Fairey, "May Day" exhibition.

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