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.