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.