Deathdays aren’t usually cause for celebration, but in the case of Christopher Wallace– better known as Biggie Smalls– it only makes sense to organize an art show dedicated to the late rapper around the afterlife. Without it, 20 Big Years would have denied the necromancy that runs throughout the life work of Notorious B.I.G. (his mere two studio albums are a clear sign that his life was cut too short), and that has come to define his persona after death. Even if all these ghosts still give his fans the willies. As one visitor, pointing to an altered version of Barron Claiborne’s famous photo of Biggie wearing a crown, said to her friend: “That one with the skull–it’s so morbid, but so deep.” (The friend agreed.)
By the time I arrived at Knockdown Center on Saturday night for day two of Nasty Women– the four-day, all-women exhibition and giant middle finger directed at Trump–the place had been all but cleaned out. All anyone could talk about was the “epic” turnout for opening night– even the shuttle bus driver sounded beat when he told me how he helped move “thousands” of people back and forth between Knockdown and the Jefferson stop.
A new art show opening this week is just the sort of hopeful omen we need really, really need right now, just one week before this horror show of an election culminates in Donald Trump’s inauguration, when he’ll make history as the Free World’s very first Twitter Troll in Chief. Nasty Women is proof that, even though we can expect many, many more deeply ignorant, casually misogynist remarks (like the one that inspired this show) to drop like so many pigeon poos from the stratospheric heights of Trump Tower, there are an even greater number of people out there who are refusing to let this stuff slide.
Tackling the topic of feminism is a monumental task for any art exhibition, let alone one that fits inside a downtown art space called White Box–which you already know, or maybe just guessed, is not all that enormous. Even if the curator had the MoMA to herself, a show like this would require some epic planning. And from the viewer’s perspective? Yeah right. Seeing everything in one go would be require an Odyssean attention span which, let’s be real, just doesn’t exist anymore.
So when curator Lara Pan was commissioned by the non-profit art space White Box to put together a show “about women,” she and her co-curator Ruben Natal-San Miguel came up with Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (on view through January 21), a 27-piece show that fits neatly within a realm of feminism she knows well. She may have felt compelled to whittle down the larger theme, but she managed to keep the feeling of an epic, history-sweeping, time-spanning, half-the-human-race, cross-culturally inclusive narrative. At the same time, the show defies what we’ve come to expect from women’s art exhibitions: those one-note, temporary deviations from the default (i.e. white men) that are plagued by tokenism, tiptoeing, stale themes, and work that’s about as revolutionary as a closet full of pantsuits.
Queer-themed art shows are having a moment right now, and we can only expect that trend to continue as we enter a time of uncertainty about the future of LGBTQ rights in this country (and those of all marginalized people, really). An ongoing exhibition called Like Smoke (on view through December 4 at the New York Artists Equity Association on the Lower East Side) feels so right-now in that way. The show mines gay history and examines the ways in which oppression, both past and persistent, still creep into the present. Though it examines the queer body, you won’t see any actual bodies on display. Instead there’s a great gaping black hole, phantoms from the past, and a lingering sense of absence.
Attending an art opening usually means agreeing to a trade-off: in exchange for free booze and the company of other humans, you won’t be seeing much, if any of the art work. But at “Slow, Dimwitted Carnage,” the second exhibition from newcomer gallery Coustof Waxman, guests can have their art and, um, drink it too.
A new art show at the Fortnight Institute is flipping the script on a persistent imbalance in the art world. While men still dominate the major museums, massive retrospectives, and money-makers of the art market, most of the weens found at DICKS (on view now through December 4) are actually nailed to the wall.
All but one of the eight participating artists are women, and each artwork included in the show (paintings, photography, and sculpture) is strikingly phallocentric and jarringly figurative. DICKS is so literal in its approach to the ding-dong (arguably the most hilarious feature associated with the male anatomy) that the show was announced without explanation. The title, and a glimpse of Betty Tompkins’s contribution, Dick Painting #3, said it all.
Not too long ago, Michael Alan, the multimedia artist of Nude Thrift Shop notoriety, hosted an event at Bowery venue Teatro IATI and “really fucked up,” in his own words. “There was cake everywhere and, like, a bunch of bugs for months after,” he recalled. “I turned every person into a cake, and there was fish and garbage, for like a whole month I collected garbage. There was this infestation. They were really nice– they didn’t kick me out, they were just like, ‘Let’s take a break.’”
Last week’s video of Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault threw a giant dildo into a campaign that seemed impervious to shame, just as the candidate had almost started seeming more presidential (at least, in light of the spotty track record of previous presidents). As screwed up as the whole thing is, nothing in the video was all that surprising. The “locker room talk” only confirmed Trump’s image as a billionaire playboy who trades skyscrapers (his most phallic assets) like Pokémon cards, and gets whatever his little Trump desires.
“His whole image is vulgarly sexual in a way,” agreed Alfred Steiner, the curator of a very timely new art show. “And he’s played right into that the whole time.”
I’m ashamed to say, The International Print Center New York, or IPCNY always gets tangled up in my brain with ICP– as in, yes, the Insane Clown Posse. But one thing you’re definitely not gonna find at IPCNY right now are white people dressed up like murderous clown folk who have yet to grasp some of the most basic, life-on-Earth concepts such as “stuff falls when you let go of it” and “some metal things stick together.” Instead, you’ll find a historically-minded, mind-mining show dedicated to a critical exploration of black identity in America from 1912 to the present by way of pulp.
Long Gone and Missing
Opening Wednesday August 1, 7 pm to 9 pm at Shin Gallery. On view through September 10.
Imagine a beach on the Lower East Side. Now imagine that beach stuffed inside an art gallery. Some might call it crazy, but this wacky dream will become reality at the opening of Peyton Freiman’s solo show, Long Gone and Missing. The Brooklyn-based artist (who also recently showed a piece in loft-gallery Club 157’s first group show) will transform Shin Gallery into a “veritable beach playground” filled with his colorful mixed media works on paper.
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like everything on this place we call Planet Earth is terrible right now. Mostly because a bigoted, beady-eyed mop man partial to Valencia-orange spray tans has power boated, ass pinched, and butt picked his way to the Presidential contest. The whole charade is sort of starting to feel like the first few chapters of a sci-fi paperback– when the autocratic overlord is hurtling toward consolidating his dystopian reign, and you can’t believe that no one saw it coming.