Ludlow Studios was packed to the brim with people for the private one-night only event to celebrate and ogle Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett’s art work. The crowd included everyone from stylish hip kids furtively scanning the room for Barnett’s messy brown mane to appear somewhere in the crowd, loafers who weren’t sure exactly what all the hoopla and video cameras were all about but knew for certain there were infinite free mezcal cocktails to be guzzled, and the nearing-the-top-of-the-hills sponging around to see what the kids are into these days. I’m not old, but this event made me feel old, particularly because up until I heard word of this event, I had no idea who Courtney Barnett was.
I’d never seen art move so quickly off the walls as I did last night at Con Artist Collective‘s Lower East Side gallery. Things were so hectic that it was difficult even to talk to founder Brian Shevlin about the unusual exhibition. His eyes were too busy darting to and from the small, rectangular pieces of art as they were gently taken off the walls, wrapped in red plastic bags, and quickly replaced by more art works. It felt like a feeding frenzy, and I couldn’t help but join in. Snagging some art myself, I realized I’d never even considered buying art in a gallery before this. I mean, definitely the $20 price tag had something, a lot, to do with making an already appealing piece of work feel accessible. “We did this based on Bread & Puppet Theater’s Why Cheap Art? Manifesto,” Shevlin explained. “Basically, we believe that artists should be required to make cheap art.”
Everything was going rather predictably at the preview event for an upcoming arts initiative in Detroit spearheaded by Gary Wasserman, a well-known steel mogul, philanthropist, and patron of the arts in Southeast Michigan. Inside the Williamsburg studio of Markus Linnenbrink there was the requisite colorful, unprovocative artwork chosen for public display, the starchitect with an approachable design, and talk of revitalization of a bankrupt city through the arts. There were even sandwiches. But once the conversation moved into specifics about Wasserman Projects– namely, the launching of a public outreach initiative involving a modular pavilion, $250 chickens, and Zimbabwean mushrooms– that sandwich nearly fell out of my mouth.
The invitation for Seek: A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy, at Soho’s Recess gallery, was a strange one, steeped in culty vibes. “Visitors are invited to make an appointment to meet with a consultant for their personal reading. Seek is the newest treatment from Institute for New Feeling. It offers individuals a clairvoyant reading generated by the misuse of online search engines.” An invitation for a free “reading?” Check. Sounds a lot like an E-meter reading. Arcane symbols? Check. The Institute’s website is replete with them. And hold up– the Institute? Yup. It’s a self-described “research clinic committed to new ways of feeling, and ways of feeling new” that offers “a rotating menu of wellness treatments, therapies, and retreats.” Right. Needless to say we got down there quicker than you can say “Scientology.”
Last Wednesday, the Bushwick Art Crit Group met for an evening of critique that in many ways wasn’t out of the ordinary. Yet the founder of the non-profit community art organization, Christopher Stout, admitted later that during his opening comments his voice began to shake as he introduced the curator and opening presenter, Anthony Rosado. “No one likes to feel like you are part of the problem, especially when you are working so hard to bring good into the world,” Christopher said in a follow-up interview with B+B.
A roughly hewn slab of marbled granite juts from the wall of Lower East Side gallery On Stellar Rays. Atop the granite sit two circles: one a speckled ceramic lens-like object, the other a framed photograph of a violent scene.
Anyone who attended Bushwick Open Studios this past weekend knows there was a plethora of penetrating art. Especially at the closing weekend of “Housebound,” an exhibit at Chasm Gallery where penises abounded.
Robyn Renee Hasty is no stranger to outsiders, countercultures, and misfits. So it might feel a little strange for the artist to be in the midst of what’s becoming a mainstream social movement and media obsession to match, as embodied in the debut of Caitlyn Jenner. A new exhibition featuring Hasty’s most recent work, opening Thursday at Brooklyn’s Pioneer Works, couldn’t be more timely. But even with a newfound frank (but still sometimes fraught) discussion of the transgender experience going mainstream, Hasty’s nude portraits of transgender, gender non-conforming, and cisgender people are still subversive.
Paper holds much value, even when it’s not green, with Franklin’s unsmiling mug on it. A recent MoMA exhibit, for instance, showed Henri Matisse’s appreciation for the potential beauty of tree pulp. Another fellow who seems to have received the memo is Mexican-based artist Eduardo Sarabia, whose most recent exhibit, “Ballads,” opens today at Other Criteria gallery in Soho.
Bushwick Open Studios is upon us once again and leave it to an event of this magnitude — really though, a decade in, BOS is like post-post-post blown up at this point — to spawn a bunch of auxiliary commercialized, money-making ventures as well as some wacky, well, outside-the-mainstream artistic endeavors. This year, to help you avoid any confusion that might arise, we’re going to draw some abundantly clear lines in the sand between the Newd Art Show (what director and co-founder Kate Bryan calls “a small, digestible art fair” that “aims to invigorate the fair model”) and something called Nude Weekend. To peak your interest, let’s just say only one of these events features a “human display case.”
“As a group, we’re imagining the future,” explained Douglas Paulson, who co-founded the Menu for Mars Supper Club with fellow artist Heidi Neilson. This weekend throughout June, the supper club– which has been holding meetups for the past year where members gather to dream up, enact, and discuss solutions to culinary life on Mars– will hold a residency at The Boiler, The Menu For Mars Kitchen, complete with tastings, cook-offs, and interactive events of all kinds. “It’s thinking expansively about interpreting the Martian experience,” Paulson explained. “We have a pretty ambitious lineup and hopefully we’ll get a lot of people who come in and try their hand at cooking something.” When the exhibition wraps up, the supper club will hand out awards to the most innovative chefs and will pack up the winning dishes and ship them off not to Mars, but to NASA in hopes their creations will be adopted in missions to Mars.
Walking into the Company Gallery on the Lower East Side feels like stepping inside a Tumblr. Photographs of painted people, tinted by sunlight flooding in through colorful tissue paper, are interspersed with delicate ferns and towering bamboo sticks. A lithium drone within the gallery’s white walls is broken up by Night Soil – Fake Paradise, an experimental documentary film by Melanie Bonajo in which women from Brooklyn candidly discussion their deeply personal experiences with ayahuasca. Some of the revelations are blissful and mystic while others turn completely horrifying, melting the psyche down into utterly submissive goo — Bonajo’s way of reminding us of the immeasurable power of psychedelic substances.