This May two of three Donut District galleries made a debut on the art fair circuit at Nada Nyc. Know More Games employed a Paintings Plus exo-modern Transcendental display case featuring art by Win McCarthy, Boru O’Brien O’Connell, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Avery K.Singer, Andrew Gbur, David X Levine, Sam Anderson, Curran Hatleberg. While 247365 juxtaposed Elizabeth Jaeger’s figurative sculpture with mostly abstracts by Julia Benjamin, Lukas Geronimas, Theodore Sefcik, D. Heidkamp, and Sebastian Black.
The paintings in Brian Belott’s current solo show are goof-fully cobbled together with sundry socks and combs, g-clefs, neon acid, wobbly grids, miscellaneous geometries, and directional arrows to point out the best parts. Because most of the works are framed and trapped under glass like scientific specimens, it may seem that this artist has an instinct to ‘contain’. But many of us in the Taste & Power family know the naked truth about Belott– that he crackles like a roman candle– you can douse him, but that only makes him burn hotter: he cannot be contained. Belott operates near the gurgling core from where all art emerges, and he gives off energy for the rest of us. The radiation levels were high at his October mid-exhibition karaoke and styrofoam themed performance art bash.
Know More Games’ awesome new Carroll Gardens location is host to an insane looking art show. Featuring eight large painted things, a cryptic audiobook soundtrack called “Anne of Carowinds”, and an amorphous book display, a tight-knit group of Philadelphia artists–Gwendolyn Kurtz, Phil Cote, Lindsay Kovnat, Lindsey Dickson, Nick Payne, Brian Mckelligott, Jesse Greenberg, Justin Samson, and Drew Gillespie–bring their weirdness to New York. With a no-rules approach, the art looks like paintings of sculptures of totem-pole-billboards from the some indefinite moment in distant time and space. There are frames too–made out of things like crushed beer cans, broken pencils, neck ties, and squashed rubber balls. In addition to unpredictable shapes and surfaces, the narratives twist in and out, like in Nick Payne’s picture of hermit crabs and monkeys cooking stew, Phil Cote’s snazzy party camera, and Lindsay Kovnat’s vacuum tube subway cityscape.
I asked artist Justin Samson for some background information about the show and its origins,
DH: Tell me about Philadelphia?
JS: Everyone in the show is working in Philly, except Drew, who now lives in San Francisco and has a real job involving human computer relations. Drew initially brought me down to Philadelphia in 2007, I moved in 2008. At that time there were so many people here, mostly from RISD/pink house/Ryan Trecartin/Experimental People scene. Since then, so many people have moved on. This exhibition is like the last great collaboration.
Is everyone’s studio in the same spot?
Gwen, Phil, Lindsey D, and myself have studios in the same building, formally PIFAS. Lindsay K had a studio there for years and was the studio manager after PIFAS. Now Lindsey D is the studio manager. Brian M painted his piece at the studio, but does not have a studio at our building. Nick painted his in his own studio. He lives in upstate NY now. You should visit our studio.
Which pieces are collaborations?
About two years ago I had this idea, since there were so many great and inspiring artists here in Philly that aren’t involved in the market scene, but are really innovative and creative, I would give several people large canvases and they would do their thing and we would have a show. Sometime after that I came across five large sort of canvases that used to be a display, or set or something, and I thought these would be perfect for that project. It wasn’t what I had in mind originally, but it could work. I then made a couple other panels and invited more artists. We were going to make a mural, one long painting, and it was decided that a frame would look great, and hold it together visually. Phil Cote and I worked together on the concept of the frame.
Did the same artist who painted the rectangle panel, make the frame above and below it?
I photographed each individual piece, frame, panel, and worked on photoshop to determine the best aesthetic combo. I gave each artist two frame sections to do something with, some people worked on more, some on none. Some only one person worked on, but their frame would be on someone else’s panel. One example of the last frame to be made, Since Brian didn’t have a studio with us he was unable to work on the frames, but he did give us the idea to chop up a preexisting frame and attach it to the new frame, so I chopped up a frame I found and attached it to the frame. I then painted it a color. I then asked Lindsey, Phil and Gwen what I should do next. Lindsey said paint the inside a different color, so I did, then she did something to it, then Phil painted a crackle on top. Gwen suggested I add a strip of fur along the edge, so I did, but that was on another frame.
Can you describe some of the other materials you used?
We were completely experimental with the process, what ever was at hand. Phil cut styrofoam cups in half, glued them to a frame and painted a giant fade over it. Lindsey’s uncle is a tie designer so she had garbage bags full of ties–she cut some up and attached them to the frame, then painted it. We found some pencils and karate chopped them which determined their size, painted them pink, put them down, and that frame was done. Then we had beer cans lying around so I attached them to a frame mimicking the ties. Lindsey painted it and another one was done.
Were these works shown before?
The panels, minus the collaborations, were shown at CK1, a gallery we made up that was in Phil and Gwen’s house. We thru a New Years day party at their place. New Years day is huge in Philly because of the Mummers parade. Everyone in the whole town drinks on the street and gets wasted. Philadelphia is a wild place, you can ride your bike on the sidewalk right in front of a cop and they won’t even look at you. It really is an Artist paradise, except there is no market. That is what NY is for. Kinder Schnott in der nacht isn’t a commercial venture. That is why this felt so good, we didn’t have to worry about selling, there were no restrictions.
When did the project begin?
We started in the spring of 2011, so the project really took a whole year to complete. We all do our own things of course, I almost put the project in storage when Know More Games contacted me and asked if I wanted to do a project separate from my own work. I said, “I have just the right thing”
What is the exhibition’s guiding principle ?
Freedom. Everyone created their own panel representing their individual style, and was connected with the collaborative element. Philadelphia has been really inspiring. From the outdoor stucco wall murals, the trash, and provincial style of window displays. Also the politics of the revolution sinks in. It’s all around Philly, much more than in NY. Philadelphia was America’s first capital. On my daily commute I pass Independence hall, thru old city every day. It feels very European.
In his exhibition statement for “New Solutions” curator Brian Faucette enacts a fictional email exchange between a distraught homeowner and a design agency concerning the strange behavior of Ryu—a prominent interior decorator gone berserk. With the sculptures situated in Mr. Fine Art, an expansive artist space and residence on the Bowery, each artist seems to embody some aspect of Ryu’s neurosis.
Jory Rabinovitz and Jules Marquis take the interior design theme most literally. With sponge painting Rabinovitz employs a classic and kitschy decorators technique executed by way of post-minimal process art. Each sponge is a hand cast cube cut to the dimensions of the shimmering grid shape painted on the wall. The excess sponges and painters tape accumulated from the creation of the work are contained in two blue transparent cubes that also match the interior dimensions of the wall grid.
Jules Marquis, an artistic collaboration between Daniel Turner and Colin Snapp, uses an image of a young Muslim bride in elaborate ceremonial dress to create a wallpaper border that snakes across part of the gallery wall. The specificity of the image is undercut by its repetition and placement, and the flowery shapes and warm color tones allow the piece to function less as global voyeurism and more as a traditional domestic wallpaper covering.
Sam Anderson thinks small. She assembled a menagerie of tiny handcrafted humanoid figurines and assorted small curiosities found on site in the exhibition space. The objects are displayed on and around various square pedestals creating an intimate tableau of subtle human drama, which the viewer, feeling like a giant, must climb down the beanstalk to fully comprehend.
The most painterly sculptor of the group is Winston McCarthy who applies unfired kiln clay sealed to curving metal bars with epoxy and colorful pigments. A close inspection of these forms reveals strange organic surfaces, material struggle, and decay. When viewing the objects as a group, these wiry shapes move with the fluidity of expressionist brush strokes.
Jacques Vidal’s interior design strategy is to create a room within a room. His “Houston Room” is inspired in part by both a recording studio and a jail. He pays homage to regional rappers from Texas with a smirking plaster bust lodged behind yellow bars and a floor lined with prescription codeine cough syrup or ‘sizzurp’. The spiraling handmade clock on the wall is meant to speed and slow time to simulate the drug’s effects– suitably, a strange feeling of disorientation permeates the entire exhibition.
Colin Snapp and Dan Turner
Joe Graham Felson
Jay Peter Salvas
Link to Gallery: K N O W M O R E G A M E S
At Primetime Gallery, a pint-sized art space in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn, Dmitri Hertz and Alex DeCarli have assembled a two-man show featuring six individual sculptures, plus a collaborative collage and window display. The six objects on the floor of the small room are arranged with an emphasis on compositional balance and symmetry that activates the entire space. DeCarli’s offerings– which include a humanoid mask flattened into a vitrine, an upright post made of differentiated glued wood shavings, and a pair of hiking socks mysteriously suspended by a plume of cement—emphasize organic form and a probing expressionist vision. While Hertz, with his three sculptures, strikes an even balance between conceptual wholeness and personal touch. He explores the possibilities of shape, texture, and function, while paradoxical relationships between materiality and the artist’s labor are gradually revealed.
Hertz’s “Icosahedron Heater” is a twenty-sided form made of a single sheet of galvanized metal with a heating element hidden inside. Like a conventional home appliance, the sculpture is hot to the touch. Because of its 20 perfect equilateral sides the Icosahedron is considered a perfect shape by mathematicians, but as a heating unit it becomes an exercise in absurdity. The Icosahedron was constructed using origami techniques pointing at another strange relationship between ritualistic paper folding and the more uncanny task of bending and bolting heavy metal.
The “Dead Snake” looks like a piece of driftwood but began as a traditional 10ft long 2x4in wood plank. It was rubbed and sanded until it became wavy and smooth. The length of wood rests on a small piece of black obsidian–a stone traditionally used for arrowheads. Hertz points out that “The stone represents a human age of both chaos and ingenuity, once utilitarian and now useless.”
The contrast of use and uselessness, or the idea of failed functionality is also a theme in “Cache”. This clamshell shaped cement form opens up but doesn’t close. Each half of the shell is layered and textured, punctuated by common stones and built up slowly in a process Hertz describes as “painterly”. The ground on which the shell rests is a trompe l’oeil patch of moss convincingly made from green enamel on a doormat. It is unclear what this cache is meant to catch; possibly it’s a place for art ideas—some of them stick while others dissolve into thin air.
You are damp, cold, and huddled in a dark narrow shaft. A faint whiff of incense only partly masks a lingering rot. Cryptic drawings and diagrams cover the walls and a monotonous drumbeat repeats persistently from invisible speakers. Above it all is THE VOICE– deep, drawling, robotic, and curious. “Are you distracted?” it asks, “Are you all stuffed up?”
Only hours before, to escape a strengthening rain squall, you duck into a well lit storefront in New York City’s art gallery district. Lulled in with a strange feeling of familiarity, you at once observe a series of six large collages affixed to white paper in sleek black frames. A close inspection of the collages reveals a complex topography of edges and layers permeated by enigmatic words and transparent images of things like airport body scans, ghosts, and tapeworms. The outline of each collage is in the form of two overlapping circles like a MasterCard logo. Thinking about credit cards puts you further at ease, and you consider, “could I use my Visa to buy one of these?”
With this thought still lingering you notice a narrow corrider and follow it past offices, bookshelves, and attractive young people talking on phones. You enter the next room and hear a single faint high-pitched tone. Around you are three large sculptures, a framed collage, and little scraps of paper in piles on the floor. The sculptures are painted plywood spirals and helixes, shaped like oversized drill bits, DNA models, and djembe drums. Each wooden structure is lifted off the ground by rectilinear aluminum pedestals painted in modernist blue, red, yellow, and black.
While inspecting the mysterious text carved obsessively into all the dark surfaces of these sculptures, you hear, for the first time, THE VOICE.
“How many are you?” it asks, amplified and echoing.
You answer slowly to the empty room, “One.”
“How did you get here?” it asks.
“I passed through the corridor,” you reply.
“Are you hungry? Would you like some food stamps?”
“Are you wealthy? Are you a doctor?”
“There’s a woman in here her name is Sasha, she’s from Russia.”
You notice a scratching sound coming from a tiny slot in the wall and watch a small piece of paper fall to the floor. Picking it up, you read: What’s the one thing you would change about where you live? You quickly scrawl a reply with an available pencil and slide the note back through the wall. The voice booms again, “Do you often think about sex? Are you angry?”
Before you can reply another piece of paper falls from a different spot in the wall, it says: There’s a crime being committed right now, look. You glance around nervously, as THE VOICE asks, “Would you like to join us?”
You pause before answering, then reply, “Yes.”
Moments later a wall panel shifts to form a narrow opening. You enter the next room.
Two exceptional paintings in Ryan Schneider’s current New York solo exhibition at Priska Juschka Fine Arts are the self portraits,“The Drip, Etc” and “Self-Portrait as Missing”. “The Drip, Etc” reads like an updated version of Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear”. The Van Gogh painting depicts the artist with his head wrapped in white gauze after a mythic act of self-inflicted violence fueled by madness and 19th century angst. Schneider also deals with a type of self-inflicted brutality this time in the form of rampant drug use. White chunks of cocaine drip from the subject’s nose while swirls of dripping paint double as streaks of sweat surrounding hollow brown eyes. In Schneider’s painting, Van Gogh’s white bandage is replaced by the letters ‘ETC’ carved maniacally into the surface of the canvas near the subject’s forehead. This unexpected moment points less at psychological madness
and more at 21st century ambivalence, disaffection, and drug fueled brainstorming sessions where new ideas flash and fade in the same instant. The letters ‘ETC’ allude to the contemporary painters struggle to continually make new work, cover new ground, and avoid the sinking feeling that everything has been done before.
In “Self-Portrait as Missing” Schneider replaces the central subject with a ghost like outline surrounding a human form of painterly drips and washes. Featuring a linear composition and vibrating interior patterns, this painting follows many tenets of traditional portraiture, but with one major twist: the subject is invisible. One could interpret this painting as a visual manifestation of existential notions of ‘nothingness’ in which the subject empties his mind and body to transcend conscious thought. It could also be read as the artist imaging a time after his own death in which his spiritual presence is still felt despite the extinction of his physical body. But a closer analysis of this painting’s minutia offer clues to a different explanation. Strewn across the two foreground tabletops are numerous wine bottles, beer cans, cigarettes, and lines of powdered narcotics. This artist uses drugs and alcohol the way Frodo Baggins uses his magical ring—to disappear. The failure of this strategy is obvious and tragic, but serves as the source for many of the paintings in this strange and anxiety laden show.
The name of Schneider’s exhibition is “Send Me Through”. In connection with the ghost-like figure in “Self-Portrait as Missing” it is easy to think of the artist as passing like a spooky apparition through the walls of the gallery and beyond. This title could also be read as the subject calling out to an often-unsympathetic art world to “send me through” the glass ceiling built up around so many young artists. But mostly it seems upon the creation and display of his complicated and disturbing paintings Schneider is urgently demanding something of his maker: send me through the turmoil and into the peaceable realm.
Daniel Heidkamp, 2010