Monday, May 16, 2011

This weekend on Technicolor Island (and adjacent burrough)

It was a week of open studios in New York, starting with ISCP and rolling over to LMCC. I wasn't that attentive at ISCP, I must admit, other than a video that D joked that I just liked because it looked like the fabulous Narcissister video I'll be screening at the next Dirty Looks, I wasn't taken to too much of what I saw, but there was very little moving image-based work . After a mull around the studios, I headed over to my pal Mark Golamco's studio to drink some beers and watch Vaginal Davis' Fertile La Toya Jackson "Akshunist Video Magazine." Which left the two of us in tears - to say the least. I will be including her Barbi Twins skit in the next DL also, though it pains me to leave out the wonderful opening sequence in which Vag plays a t.v. host, over-emphasizing every line, every feminine gesture, with a painfully wide white smile. Then Mark gave me this fab striped Diane Von Furstenberg jumpsuit that he's had for years and I felt very lucky, indeed, to have such good friends.

Shana (L) and Rachel

The next evening we headed over to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for their open studios as my friend, Rachel Mason was performing with the fabulous video artist Shana Moulton. We got there en retard, as they say, and Rachel was knee deep in her song, 'Mrs. Eyes' - and people! I had to crane my head through the door just to get a peep. Not a very gracious thing to do, I suppose when you're prone to wearing hats. Once Rachel finished her song, some people cleared out so I made my way in to view the remaining performance. Moulton, whose imagery is culled from more California hippy sects, launched into a great projection based piece in which she is instructed to gaze deep into one of those horrible posters from the early 90s - Magic Eye, google informs, which I could never even see with young eyes. Anyway, Moulton slits the projection scrim and dives into the poster itself where she's joined by animated animals who wave at her and in the grand tradition of Southern California artists (a segment to which I marginally include myself - I always wave at dogs) she waves back. After the performance we made our way around the other studios where we ran into Molly Dillworth, Lillian Gerson and Roddy Schrock. I ran into a certain gallerist who maintains a gallery upstate and he started to extend an invitation to go up there but then... kind of changed his mind mid sentence. I smirked at the awkward moment and talked full-stop as I'm apt to do. I was feeling anti-social so I made my way home, only diverted by the intoxicating odors from Goodburger.

The following day I played host to a Eurovision party! But, in rare form, I had to dash to Gladstone to see the rare program of Jack Smith films that Penny Arcade was presenting. It was great to see all of these wonderful children gathered to take in Jack's work (but enough with the fucking iphone snaps mid-film, thanks). Penny was very good and humble in her Jack tirades (the best of which involved Jack's complete devotion to ice cream and an upstate jaunt on which he regaled a confounded truckstop creamery staff by granting them the perfect recipe for a malted). The first film, The Yellow Sequence (1963) was obviously shot during the filming of Normal Love featuring the mongol child who dashes all of the cake creatures in the latter film, cavorting with yellow flowers and a particularly made-up creature perched in and atop a car. Befittingly the predominant color pallet was... yellow. The film gave you such a rich understanding of what a specific and meticulous compositionalist Smith was, with layer after layer of bead, glitter, lace, parasol, flower upon flower. Only 3 or four people might occupy the outdoor garbage heap, closely cropped in Smith's camera, but it feels like the world. Film number two was Jungle Island AKA Reefers of Technicolor Island (1967), which Penny informed is footage used for performance backings. God knows why. This was the standout of the program by miles, though it doesn't appear in Hoberman's book on Smith's cinema for some reason. For me, with Jungle Island Jack achieved his dream to make a Maria Montez movie without the petty confines of narrative. Clutter, fountains and muck makes up the exotic island of the films title, again in closely cropped, carefully studied shots - sometimes double exposed in a less aesthetic level than Rice's Chumlum. Mario Montez is on on the tropical revelry, of course, looking majestic and statuesque. And she's got a love interest of sorts who wears about as many pearls and scarves as she. But the real pleasure to be had is just the investment in the flowing imagery, which builds as densely and gorgeously as any Universal flic. In the final sequence Mario and mate are roofside, cropped in so close you can feign for a moment some tropical fantasia until you catch glimpse of a water tower behind them. Then an airplane careens above head. It's a truly exceptional film, ripe for rediscovery. Two more treat included I Was a Male Yvonne DeCarlo for the Lucky Landlord Underground (1967-70s), a self-mythologizing film where Smith cavorts and autographs a midget/small child's glossy of that most famous photo of him with the dagger. Before this, however, we see some of this most lusciously shot, smokey images of creatues, sprawling in a kitchen, decorated with headdresses so big I thought to myself, "now this is what Where The Wild Things Are should have been." Hot Air Specialists was a document of a kind of drag performance that Jack enacted in his huge red wig.

Then I had my Eurovision party where we really didn't watch all that much of Eurovision due to Brooklyn internet blackouts. But we made due and thanks in large part to the wonderful creatures that spilled into every corner of the not-all-that-large apartment (without spilling their drinks, bless!) the night was a blast.

(Sunglasses as morning-after armor, particularly during a poetry reading)

However, the day after.... I nursed on a Mildred Pierce screener (Meh-ldred, it shoulda been called) and eventually made my way to the launch party for the newest issue of Adam Shecter's print project 2Up at SilverShed (where DL will take up residence July and August) where Adam (who just curated a show about the apocalypse at Eleven Rivington gallery with a sure to-be-fab show that will open on the day the world is meant to end) bared his bicep for me and showed off his AMAZE photorealist David Niven tattoo. Swoon. Joe Winter was one of the artists contributing to the poster and he liked my new Red Sonja bracelette, which is nice of him. I had a nice long sit down with Glen Fogel where we talked about karaoke and phallices. Then I made it over to Eyebeam for this Design Week Moleskin event with D and his friends Roddy and fellow curator Sally Szwed where we pilfered these really overtly organic carroty things and green dipping sauces called things like goddess. At least they had prosecco that killed the final pangs of alcohol-related morning sickness. I had fish and chips for dinner at some bullshit fish place on Graham ave back in Brooklyn and turned in early from lack of sleep the night prior.

Monday, May 09, 2011

NYC Gallery Week vs. New Ideas

It being Gallery Week in New York - and the New Museum's Festival of New Ideas (or something like that) there was a great deal of to do making this weekend in the city. It all began (as most things tend to) with Jack Smith - or rather, the opening of "Thanks for Explaining Me," a rather dubiously titled first public showing of Smith's work since his material was bought up by Barbara Gladstone gallery. Curated by Neville Wakefield, the show was a predictably scrubbed endeavor. Uniform gallery framing contained the beautiful and explosive color and black and white photography, collages and, in a darkened room, a uniform projection of two videos and two slideshows. The show brought out a crowd of Smith champions - Augusto Machado, Penny Arcade, Jerry Tartaglia, Jack Ferver, MM Serra, Josh Lubin Levy (who introduced Smith's No President at the last Dirty Looks), George Chauncey and his partner in queer historiography Ron Gregg (who will present Taxi Zum Klo at our next screening) as well as the "celebs" - I spotted Marina Abramovic. The wall of collages was strangely suspect as the assortment of works characterized Smith more as self-mythologizer - in a seeming selling tactic on the gallery's behalf, where Smith's use of his own image, pasted into fantastic landscapes and drawings here contextualizes to a vie for celebrity (rather than aesthete), a PR progeny rather than assemblage artist. But more on that later After moving through the throngs at Smith's pedagogical facelift, my performer/sculpture artist friend Rahel Mason and I moseyed on to Zach Feuer gallery where her friend Frank Benson was exhibiting work alongside Ken Price and Dasha Shishkin. I had had very little to eat that day, save the two tequila grapefruit juices I'd savored at happy hour with my friend Libby, who just picked up some shifts as an "exotic" dancer at Pumps - the Bushwick hipster strip club. So, after hanging for a bit with the artist Mark Golamco, joined by my producer friend Derek Marks, I scurried off to Trailer Park for a burger, where we ran into Gabourey Sebide - who was really set up in the front booth, in full performance mode. A man in line for the toilets lamented at the Precious few roles in Hollywood for the actress. I tried to contest, but he shot me a look like who you kidding and I guess he was right. We ended up being seated next to our friend Jessica Beyers for dinner. Later, the boys from Mirror Mirror poured in too. After dinner we met back up with Mark and Rachel - much to my dismay. I had hoped to attend Night of a Thousand Stevies - the yearly Stevie Nicks impersonators convention, but again this year, it was not to be. So we joined our friends at the after party at Zach Feuer's house, which was quite pleasant enough, an intimate affair where we nibbled on tastefully arranged pesto pasta and chatted with artist Robert Melee who is about to install his SEVENTH show at Andrew Krepps gallery. After a while we headed out to the Metropolitan with sculpter Michael Queenland and sat out back in the brisk spring air. Saturday saw a slew of performance events, but first I dashed over to Park Slope for film writer friends Dan Callahan and Keith Uhlich's MAYHAM. Yes, every year Keith's mother sends him a Virginia Ham, so we gorged on ham and attended as Dan put on Orson Welles' The Immortal Story from 1969 where Jeanne Moreau plays a 17-year-old virgin(!) and a Jennifer Jones movie titled (alternately) The Cult of the Damned and Angel, Angel, Down we Go. Their parties are a hoot because these two film writers are basically pals with all of the other film magazine critics and bloggers in New York and many turn up for their affairs to kibitz and laud forgotten gems (like Angel, Angel). We then headed over to Participant Inc. for their partnership panel with Visual AIDS timed for the Hunter Reynold's exhibition Survival AIDS. The panel, comprised of Julia Bryan-Wilson, David Deitcher, Nathan Lee and Anthony Viti was interesting, though the more seasoned panelists attested better to the cause than a more distance and conceptual attitude of the younger speakers. Sadly, Hunter's performance started immediately after the panel, which I had to dip out of during the last paper to attend Dawn Kasper's performance for Human Resources at the Collective Show's room at SCHOOL NIGHT, an evening of performances and exhibitions at OLD SCHOOL, a converted... school in NoLiTa. Dawn's performance was really quite intense and layered. There was a narrative about how she hated school - even made a pact with a neighboring drug dealer who pretended to be her father on days when she couldn't face the class any longer and played sick for the nurse. Then Dawn removed her shoes, withdrew a powertool and began to assault the teacher's desk at which she was seated. This found her precariously perched atop the lopsided surface, at one point (after she had hacked off one of the legs), without shoes and dangerously bisecting the desk with her saw. No toes were lost but the threat was palpable. We ran into Scott Kiernan from Louis V E.S.P. there and Patrick Meagher - who runs SilverShed, the rooftop venue that will be hosting Dirty Looks summer screenings. Also, this was the big coup for our friend Molly Dilworth, who painted the courtyard of the school with her now signature geographic shapes, designed to be viewed via Google Maps. The rest of the exhibitions were a mixed bag. PPOW had some really great work installed in their room, though director Jamie Sterns was MIA when I went looking for her. I quite enjoyed David Lynch's installation, a smoke, strobe and balloon filled room which blared 50s dance and doowop as a ghostly girl danced languidly in the center. Basically, it was a physical manifestation of that scene from Fire Walk With Me in the red-lighted bar. And there was Koolaid in the corner and candy. Everyone thought the girl was unnecessary, but I was into it. We ran back to Hunter's performance only to catch the tail end. Hunter is an HIV+ gay man who enacts physically rigorous and constricting performances - typically involving mummification. Here, he was mummified and guided by a surrogate arm - as the artist's left arm is not fully functional due to an infection. The artist was then cut out of his fluorescent duct tape bindings and he enacted a ceremonial performance with the attending viewers. We hung out afterwards and visited with Ethan Shoshan and Diana Puntar. All the galleries were open late for the festival and Lia kept Participant open til midnight, so we stayed and had a drink, catching up and looking over Hunter's wonderful newspaper collages, photoweavings that feature HIV-related headlines. Then we went to the Boiler Room for a night cap. Yesterday D and I walked through the Lower East Side, looking at galleries. I was quite fond of the expectedly Homophillic exhibition at Invisible-Exports: Notes on Notes on "Camp". The exhibition contained work by Johgn Waters, Vaginal Davis, Brent Owens and some really beguiling vintage photographs by Bob Mizer. Peering through other galleries found varying degrees of success. Noteworthy for their irritating art world attitude, CANADA's clan sat devouring smelly chinese food on porcelain plates whilst we poor plebians showed up for their opening. They spoke of the gallery goers as if we couldn't hear them. Whatev. Then I met up with some friends and attended the Original Plumbing mother's day bash Your Mom! which, in truth, could have been much better attended. Outdoors at the East River Bar, it was nice to chat amongst the crew and pose for the "Dress Like Your Mom" contest. Trans men dressing like their mothers - now that's what I call layered. I chatted a bit with Amos Mac, the bewilderingly hot founder of OP. Someone was walking around with a pet rodent perched on his shoulder and, at his behest, I allowed the mouse to lap at my beer. "He really likes booze," he explained. "Show him your tongue." So I did and that rat went to town on me, much like the recent Carolee Schneemann video Infinity Kisses: The Movie - only with a small white rat in lieu of a cat. So, that was my weekend. From Jack Smith to rat kisses.