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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Arty Party

Thank goodness fashion tires of trends quickly (last season's "recession chic" cast a dour pall over our festivities). But spring '10 is already looking up, and the strongest trend taking shaping is one we can get behind: art collaborations. Photographer (and Women Models founder) Paul Rowland will kick off the New York shows with a fete for Supreme and V in a hot new Chelsea penthouse space that might just give Milk Studios a run for its money... Meanwhile, Croatian wonder Damir Doma will be arting up the Soho Grand with a conceptual installation called Silent... Always adept at the art of being fashionable (or the fashion of being arty?), Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld and Andy Valmorbida are following up last season's exhibit with an homage to legendary painter Richard Hambleton. The duo will host a dinner at Armani and a top-secret opening bash... Not to be outdone that night, MOMA has recruited Linda Evangelista to host the opening of interior designer Ron Arad's No Discipline exhibit... Deitch Projects and Vogue are hosting The Open, a groups show of emerging artists at the epic Deitch Studios on the East River... Graduating from mannequin manhandling and basement dungeons, the crew at Bland is having a full-blown performance at Cherry Lane Theatre... Then there's the much-rumored threeasfour collaboration with Yoko Ono at Milk Studios, as well as the launch of Pop’s Damien Hirst-designed covers... The week will wrap up with a bang at the New Museum: the launch of Shoot, Rizzoli's valentine to the point-and-shoot revolution, showcasing the work of Nan Goldin, Wolfgang Tillmans and Juergen Teller. Collections, collectors, collectibles and collabos—can you handle it? Of course, we'll trust you to use your own wiles to shimmy your way in. Or just stay tuned.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Hint Tip: Kembra Pfahler

The last time we saw performance artist Kembra Pfahler, she was onstage, naked (save for a big black wig and head-to-toe blue body paint), upside-down and spread-eagle, while the other body-painted girls in her mock-goth band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black took turns smashing eggs into her, um, voluptuous horror. It was more camp and fun than it sounds, but a dark message of female brutality does permeate Kembra's shows and her sardonic lyrics—as her new book documents all too vividly. Published by Deitch Projects, Beautalism chronicles the three decades of her irreverent career, up to her gobsmacking 2008 Whitney Biennial performance. It's pretty amazing stuff. So we're crossing our fingers (and legs) that Kembra might, just might, do a ditty at the launch party for Beautalism, which will also inaugurate a yearlong bookstore, ARTBOOK at X, between D.A.P. Books and the curators at X-Initiative. 548 West 22nd Street (the old Dia space), May 16, 5-7 pm...

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

We're With the Bland

By Franklin Melendez...

What is Bland? According to the press release, it's a “fantastic experiment in modification and restraint that reveals a dynamic meta-aesthetic that is only desirable via adjective-heavy tropes, run-on sentences and compounded German vocabulary.” We might translate this semi-serious, semiotic code by saying Bland is one of those amorphous fashion-art hybrids with an enviably cool following from the moment of inception, which makes its actual content seem almost negligible.

The brainchild of Teddy, longstanding charter member of the Deitch Projects tribe, the line debuted last year at the Wooster space with a another art-heavy presentation involving mannequins, an all-black palette and conceptual pantomime-dance. The line offered some cleverly tailored jumpsuits and beautifully draped tops—a promising first presentation that took a turn to the macabre this time, maybe as an homage to its host Terrence Koh and his gallery space, ASS (Asia Song Society).

Returning to the mannequin theme, the result this season was less mime convention, more lost reels from Silence of the Lambs. It played out like the fashion-week fantasy of Jame Gumb, aka Buffalo Bill, replete with studding, corsetry, rivets and hardware. The effect was brought to full-force when descending into the cavernous basement of ASS, which, needless to say, has witnessed its share of debauchery.

When asked about how the collaboration came about, Terence and Teddy were a bit at a loss. Teddy: “Well, it just…happened. Suddenly we thought we’d be here.” Terence: “It sort of...just happened…and then we were making vanilla milkshakes.” Fair enough.

Of course, all the cerebral gloom and doom was no match for the revelers, who included Deitch Projects director Kathy Grayson, artist Aurel Smidt and most of the cast of Butt. It made for a good thumping party, which the city quickly took note of, sending over a fire inspector before the night was over.

photos Maz Redpath

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Friday, January 9, 2009


So, yeah, the latest New Year's resolution we've obliterated is to be more punctual. We arrived late to all three of Louis Vuitton's shindigs on Thursday to celebrate its new Stephen Sprouse collection. And the worst thing is we don't even have a lame excuse.

First we were late to the LV store on Greene St. (where we did catch Marc and Lorenzo being extra-super-duper-frisky as they ran around from guest to guest giggling like girls). Then we were late to the "Rock on Mars" exhibit at Deitch Projects around the corner (where we overheard our new favorite line, delivered in perfect deadpan to the clueless door girl: "Marc Jacobs would vomit in your face if he knew you were making us wait out here.") And then late again to Bowery Ballroom (where Debbie Harry went onstage pretty much on time for her four-song set.) Foiled again!

But we promise, dear readers, to do better. And now, a few enlightening words about Stephen from Mauricio Padilha, co-author of The Stephen Sprouse Book, out this month from Rizzoli...

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Watch Your Back

Liz Armstrong sees the signs...

When you're on a road trip deep into this country, you know shit's getting scary when grocery stores disgust you. They offer nothing edible and, as further proof of widespread malnutrition, you see biohazard boxes in public restrooms for syringe disposal after insulin administration. This is when billboards get weirder, advertising a lucrative business owned by the likes of Dick Raper, advocating having your baby and hoarding firearms in the name of Jesus—unironically. Frightening though they may be, these are billboards of isolated, idealistic dreamers, so fascinating that you’ll even crane your neck to see around them on the other side. This is what Totalities, Chris Johanson's current installation at Deitch Projects (Soho outpost), feels like: you can't see the message until you're on the wrong side of it, looking back.

Walking through a painted patchwork wall of flesh tones, you're faced with an angular primer-gray Willy Wonka tunnel. The view at the end of it could be of nothing, or maybe a mirror? Will you get through? Yes, you will—you'll pop out into a labyrinth of billboard-style paintings made on reclaimed wood, all facing the wrong way. Any angle at which you initially approach the installation leaves you feeling like you can't see anything. Only when you get to the middle, where you face a spinning meteorite of more primer-gray ugliness and shards of mirror (death to the disco ball!), can you then turn around and face what's been in front of you the whole time. You've stepped into a metaphor and you can't get out: you have to head to the end before you can start.

On these billboards, beams of color fall off the page, and beams of color pile up like hemorrhoids in the ass of the painting. They tell us to expand and contract, or touch god and go back inside ourselves. Like signs in the heartland, they urge you to hang on to your unpopular values, you wild creature! Your dreams are yours, yours alone—keep them. Only one written missive floats by in Johanson's sea of wordless documents, a black board with gray text scrawled with the kind of shaky finger a bored kid in the back seat of the car uses on a fogged up window: “CAN YOU HEAR ME?” Yeah, I think I can. But more importantly, I think he means: CAN YOU HEAR YOURSELF?



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Monday, September 15, 2008

Hint Tip: Deitch Projects

Deitch Projects celebrates the launch of two new books:
- NEST by Dash Snow and Dan Colen
- Beautalism by Kembra Pfahler

Monday, September 15, 6 - 9 pm
Santos Party House
100 Lafayette St.
NYC 10013

Doors open at 6 pm
The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black goes on at 7 pm
Cheeseburger at 8 pm
Dance party from 9 pm - late

This book documents the infamous NEST exhibition by artists Dash Snow and Dan Colen, where they turned Deitch Projects into a giant hamster nest. Along with many downtown artists in their community, Dash and Dan filled the space with over 3000 shredded phone books, and then in multiple overnight celebrations, destroyed the gallery to create a complex performance piece and earthwork. With paint poles speared into the wall, bottles protruding from hacked-up sheet rock, and a pummeling of enormous wine, pee, and paint spit-balls stuck to the walls, it seems a great deal took place during these night-into-mornings.

This is artist Kembra Pfahler’s first book in her amazing thirty-year underground New York City art career. Cataloging her recent projects for the 2008 Whitney Biennial, which included a huge rock show in the Park Avenue Armory, this book also features her most notorious body art performances and shocking “sewn Vagina” and “wall of vagina” pieces. Numerous full-bleed photos capture the making of the Biennial artworks, the preparation for her live show, the performance itself, and the aftermath.

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Boat People

Liz Armstrong is moved...

A floating Gypsy-like caravan carrying four precarious pyramids of junk reecently docked on the Hudson for our viewing pleasure. Piles and piles of beautiful refuse—ornate wooden curlicues, ferris-wheel spokes, colorful swings—slowly drifted up to the 70th Street riverfront, linked together by ropes and pirate planks.

A grizzled seafarer hopped from boat to boat with a lantern as his guide, rousing sleeping inhabitants curled up on decks and tucked in improbable nooks. They ascended stairs and ramps to the top of their boats. I counted at least 33 of them, in particular a cutie in 70's gym shorts (not the ones from American Apparel, but the thrift kind, most likely previously worn by a pervert), her perfect ass peeking out. Underneath them she'd layered shredded tights, a low-cut teal leotard with one shoulder dangling off, lumberjack suspenders, plus combat boots. You want to see style, here it is. They were all dressed ridiculously to some extent, and they looked fantastic—the most beautiful people I've seen in a long time.

“There’s no place for you,” the seafarer cried from a podium made of rusted scraps of metal. “I’m terribly sorry, but there’s no place for you.” Then he waxed lyrical for a while about the urge to head for the sea, the causality for which is starved, scorched and overcrowded land with zero opportunity for refertilization. When he finished, others took the podium with equally poetic, partially real soliloquies about the boats and their origins, how long they’ve been on the water and how they pass the time. Back on the dock, where we'd all gathered to watch the spectacle, Dark Dark Dark, a New York/Minneapolis band that sounds as if it came from yonder back in time, provided musical accompaniment suitable for a Venetian cantina or Parisian speakeasy.

The whole thing was masterminded by New York-based artist Swoon, who, among other projects promoting self-sustainability and interaction with one's immediate environment, headed a flotilla of barges made from found stuff down the Mississippi for two consecutive summers. Called Miss Rockaway, the migration started in Minnesota and was supposed to make it to New Orleans, but right around St. Louis the river began to branch in an erratic and volatile way, so most of the captains decided the expedition should end there.

Swoon regrouped those crews and others to assemble four boats, all powered with engines that leave minimal damage in their wake, all elaborately and entirely constructed from reclaimed materials, to cruise around the upper New York area. Unlike Miss Rockaway, Switchback Sea, as this project is named, exists mainly as a vehicle for performance.

A suave-looking gent in a silver suit rolled up in a little speedboat. He was welcomed aboard, given a grubby T-shirt in exchange for his jacket and handed a hunk of bread. The allegories delivered from the podium resumed, building upon their self-created mythology. Are they descendants from criminals? Or free thinkers with no place left to go? Regardless, it was clear they care a great deal about one another, as they sort of picked at one another like monkeys, teased, gathered in small circles to chat, smoked cigs and stared out at the water, curling up together. And they care just as much for their vessels, breaking into frequent pantomime to shine and repair them.

Suddenly everyone went bananas. The suit did something wrong, the trust was broken and a madcap chase involving a hula-hoop ensued. They captured the man, marched him to the highest point of all the ships, stripped him of his shirt, and decorated him with war paint and a headdress. He rolled up the legs of his pants, revealing mismatched socks and red-laced boots. Aha! An anarchist. Now transformed, he’s gone to Croatan, too.

Then the scholar of the boat delivered his speech, a bone-dry pontification about joining the river crew as an intellectual pursuit, going into great detail about his extensive note-taking and theories about who comprises the crew. Meanwhile, the crew—who’d been nothing less than absolutely attentive and respectful of all the other speakers—became restless, braying like donkeys, razzing him. It's obvious his character is there to comment on the nature of cold observation—how dull and clueless it can be, how overintellectualization of art drains its potential for beauty and surprise. I realized I was taking notes as he was talking; I was playing the same role he was. Shamed, I put my notepad and camera away. It was time to just watch instead of drawing conclusions.

Without my recording devices at hand, the rest of the performance took on special importance. This existed just for me (and, okay, everyone else watching, but my memory of it would be my own) and for that reason I’m not going to recount some of the best parts here. Some things really shouldn’t be documented; they should be experienced. So go for yourself, or don't. There’s a party for the project at the new Deitch outpost at 4-40 44th Drive in Long Island City, from 6 to 9 pm tonight.

Midway through I’d made a pact—yes, a serious one—with myself to only pursue joy from this point on. By the time the boats went dark I was openly crying. As if cosmically cued to make the moment more cinematic, a bushy-browed old man waddled up next to me and grumbled, “To me, this is irresponsible and pointless, even if it's fun. Do I see myself doing it? No. But I'm envious that they are.” Why be envious? These people made a choice, the same choice available to anyone on that dock, to create their own homes out of nothing and shape reality for themselves. That’s actually the most responsible, meaningful thing you could ever do with your life. At the beginning of the performance the band encouraged the audience to not only turn off our cell phones, but to throw them in the river. If it weren’t for the polluting aspect, I would have.

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