Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Painting with Pictures": loco con sabor!

I am very excited to announce the show I co-curated with David Gibson and Savannah Spirit, "Painting with Pictures", opened last night at the Casita Maria Center in the Bronx. The show of 32 artists revisits the concept of collage, and will have a follow-up "Part II" in the winter. Casita Maria is a gorgeous building, a few minutes walk from the 2, 5, and 6 trains, and the show is on the top floor, affording lovely views of city rooftops, sunsets, and the elegant stream of ever-present traffic on the Bruckner Expressway.

Right: Hector Madera-Gonzalez installation of collage on found posters.

Left: Artists Tim Rollins and Conrad Vogel.

After a lovely opening, the madding crowd assembled at a Mexican restaurant across the street, and supped on deliciosos Camarones a la Mexicana, freshly-chopped guacamole, and endless glasses of "apple juice" (code for beer). I could barely hear anyone as the jukebox regaled us with forlorn ditties in Spanish, and as I stumbled into the wrong door to have a breath of fresh air, I was pleased to be mortified by a posse of 6 decked-out gals, who clearly felt I had stumbled not only into the wrong door but perhaps the wrong neighborhood. I look forward to revisiting the show in the light of day, as the art changes in the daylight, and the neighborhood beckons with fruit vendors, vibrant graffiti, and a street culture that encourages interaction. Casita Maria has been a fixture in the neighborhood for over 74 years, but the building is only 2 years old and looks it, with gleaming floors, brightly colored walls, and kids energized by their exposure to art and culture.

Right: Director of Development for Casita Maria David Dean adjacent to a matching collage by Amelie Chunleau.

The exhibition continues through July 21, and features works by: Michael Anderson, Melissa Barrett, Chris Bors, Lesly Canossi, Amelie Chunleau, Nancy Drew, Chris Fennell, Carla Gannis, Liam Hanna-Lloyd, Halsey Hathaway, Daniel Kayne Scott, Kiernan, Isolde Kille, Elissa Levy, D. Dominick Lombardi, Hector Madera-Gonzalez, Leah Oates, Sarah Olson, Deborah Pohl, Alexander Reyna, Elizabeth Riley, Ron Rocheleau, Pamela Saturday, Raven Schlossberg, Kaeko Shabana, Jennifer Shepard, Mary Ann Strandell, thefactory101, Austin Thomas, Conrad Vogel, and Michael Zansky.

This exhibition explores the use of collage as an artistic medium, dissecting its impulses and agendas while providing a wide cross-spectrum of its usage in contemporary art. It addresses the role of material culture in mediating our shared view of reality, the notion of a borrowed aesthetic, and how specific visual agendas express differing cultural attitudes. It includes a variety of mediums and aesthetic agendas, presenting not only traditional collage, but works which establish a collage mentality in the liminal forms of photography, video, digital manipulation, painting, sculpture, printmaking, children’s books, commercial signage, portraiture, and others. In the end, it will posit collage as a cause, rather than a symptom, of both artistic style and generational meaning.

Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education; Casita Gallery, 6th Floor
928 Simpson St (Bet Fox/Baretto St & 163rd St)

For more information, check out their website: Casita Maria Center.

Right: Savannah Spirit, Lyla Rose, David Dean, and Asya Geisberg.

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.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Last Days of Chez Deitch, Part 1

Left: Rosson Crow at Deitch Projects, 3/4/2010.

Jeffrey Deitch's departure from our fair city for LA has been much-chronicled, and although I've charted a 50/50 hit rate with his artists (still much higher than most galleries), the element I'll miss most is the medieval-pageantry aura of his openings. While I only caught Jules de Balincourt on a quiet Tuesday, I found the openings of Rosson Crow, held during the first day of Armory Week, and of Shephard Fairey, held last week on the heels of a currently-playing movie featuring Fairey [Exit at the Gift Shop], to be extravaganzas of glamor.

Right: Graffiti-top, brick wall pants, man about town.

Left: Keith Haring tunnel with contemporary urban texting dweller.

But to be accurate, the glamor was of a certain very democratically-accessible sort: celebrities, collectoristas [one part fusty collector one part fashionista], and young kids with neon colors and ripped t-shirts all co-mingled and pretended to ignore each other. With all the hubbub of a movie premiere but without the velvet ropes (although the long lines at the Fairey show necessitated a special VIP-only line complete with bouncers), each opening reminded one of a Fellini-esque fete--yes, not quite circus-like, but certainly I'll miss my little pinch of Deitch's Dolce Vita.

Left: photographer waiting to snap as Rosson Crow greets fans.

Right: Rosson Crow's ball gown, all poufs and trains.

Rosson Crow's paintings were in themselves a tribute to art-worlds past: titled "The Bowery Boys", each painting was an homage to Bruce Nauman, Keith Haring, and other 80s stars, as well as subway trains, and now-gone places such as CBGBs. The meta-celebration of "Better Days Gone By" was everywhere--but in the person of a confident young artist who seduces with vibrant splashes of paint (detail at right) and loud bangs of ambition, one felt a kinship, and a re-imagining, rather than a sad eulogy or empty envy of the glitz and grit of the 80s art scene. Deitch's desire to cycle through (some say devour and spit out) younger artists was at least for this one evening an example of a benevolent dictator throwing a bread and circus for his subjects; and what a wonderful circus it was. Among the crowd were the equally young prodigy designer Zac Posen, Rosson Crow and several other ladies wearing the bright warm hues found in many of her paintings, onlookers in baseball caps or high heels, all in a gleaming white space that one has to ascend into, as if into a privileged inner cloister.

Left: matching lady-in-waiting.