opened FRI FEB 25, 2011
the show runs thru SAT APRIL 9, 2011


DUKE RILEY at the opening of his 3rd solo show at the gallery . . .

he’s standing in front of my favorite piece of all, a large drawing on canary paper . . talk about artifacts, icons, code. and history.
not to mention pirates, women, guns and flies-on-the-wall. the Great Depression. hobos and serial murder on squatter’s territory.
buried water sources. islands turned into toxic dumps.
and wake up. where the hell are we going ?

DUKE RILEY, ink drawing on canary paper.

DUKE RILEY, detail. some houseboat . . . or what.

DUKE RILEY, detail. a damsel fishing . . . in the sea of imagination, is what.

DUKE RILEY, detail

DUKE RILEY, detail

DUKE RILEY, detail

DUKE RILEY – barbed wire – that great 19th C. invention of the American west !!

DUKE RILEY, yo. evil invader – stay outta here !!
yeah NYC artists want – guns. but it’s no joke. where the hell are we going, world. Brooklyn’s ok. – it’s ok over here for now, it’s all role play here. but if you raise your head and look out . . . bad news all over the globe. the middle east is friggin blowing up.
guns. war. if you ruled the seas, you once ruled the land. weaponry = might. might = right. fortification = safety.
big big guns and sharp ramming weaponry – rule these imaginary seas !! are these gentle folk art drawings – cautionary fables ?
well, its also a metaphor for art. intellect over malls. clean air over pollution. green over processed. whatever. squatters over the landed elite. the list goes on and on. the free spirited vs the entrenched. in Riley’s world.

or maybe he’s just spoofing – an ordinary day’s newspaper headline, ca 2011 – war somewhere. ugly war for real. blood and guts. ambulances blowing up. assassination. today Libya. Afghanistan. tomorrow Pakistan ?
hey, give me back that big oil spill. there’s no winning. and its getting fierce. it’s a really violent world – out there. past Brooklyn.
du du duality. maybe that’s why Brooklyn is so sweet . . . gotta be somebody taking a stand for the good. taking a cue from the early American ideals. of peace, equality. freedom and liberty to pursue . . . the artisan life, for sure.

DUKE RILEY, detail
and, then there are these great big flat, and fat ‘flies-on-the-wall’ everywhere . . . the imagery must have archival roots – but only take me as far back – as when those TAYLOR McKIMENS ‘flies’ – hotlinked to his website – used to grace these pages, anybody else remember ?

DUKE RILEY, detail. just love his draftsmanship.
love the fluid, spontaneous, and even sometimes corrected line of his hand, running in blue ink, telling stories – on that thin parchment-like canary paper.

DUKE RILEY takes a lot of the inspiration behind his line drawing technique – from folk art, nautical folk art – specifically the art of scrimshaw. SCRIMSHAW: “handiwork created by whalers made from the byproducts of harvesting marine mammals. It is most commonly made out of the bones and teeth of sperm whales, the baleen of the other whales . . ”
the engraving was rubbed with pigment to highlight the designs . . . “The making of scrimshaw began on whaling ship between 1745-1759 on the Pacific Ocean . . ”
in fact, in his last show at the gallery – ‘AFTER THE BATTLE OF BROOKLYN’ (2007) – there we go again – !! – locavore history buffs – there was a display of replica scrimshaw made by Duke on synthetic composite material – that looked just like the real thing – bawdy themes and all . . . though Mr. Riley’s cannot be denied as contemporary – up close his (bawdy) humor is just a little bit – too darn edgy !!

the opening was packed, and the crowd – dynamic !!

it was as if – all of BROOKLYN had come to the motherland of all islands: Manhattan – first and foremost a small bit of land – surrounded by water.

KITTY JOE STE-MARIE – DUKE RILEY’S long time project manager . . .

sporting some DUKE RILEY skin – ink . . .

not sure how that still works, but DUKE RILEY used to run his own tattoo shop.
I hear tell it is very difficult for an artist to be both good at drawing on paper, and drawing on skin. very few make the transition – Duke is one of the few – who does.

MEG with her Duke Riley . . .

Chrysler Building tattoo.

loved this white flower petal dress in the crowd.

and quelle great – hat !!
the way fashionable dude is standing in front of my other fave piece – a big mosaic . . .

DUKE RILEY, ‘Spero Meliora’, 2011. ceramic, glass & composite tile on panels. 82-7/8 x 84 in.

bye the way, DUKE RILEY – is this year’s – MTA – as in subway – artist of the year – and supposedly his nautical !! images just started going up on the trains – watch out !!

I know he also was commissioned to do the tile designs for a subway station out by the sea – you know, where the Island of Manhattan meets the sea . . .

DUKE RILEY, detail . . . ‘Spero Meliora’ – folk art speak – to me, oh yes !!

DUKE RILEY, detail mosaic work – ‘Spero Meliora’

DUKE RILEY, detail mosaic work – ‘Spero Meliora’

DUKE RILEY, detail mosaic work – ‘Spero Meliora’.

around a kind of alleyway to a kind of smaller ‘project room’ – in the back – was an alcove where 2 folk musicians played live music.
the guy on the left – turns out to the gifted BRETT NELSON aka SWEET TOOTH NELSON, a bonafide musician from down south, North Carolina, to be exact. accompanying him to-nite on the banjo was BRETT LAND.

I don’t think Brett Land would be terribly insulted if I were to tell you – he wasn’t exactly a terror on the banjo – ok give him 6 more months and then, tell me that. but he did graduate from SVA and he is the cameraman and assistant filmmaker to DUKE RILEY – on those wonderful archival looking video loops, that adorn that back alleyway. way to go, dude !!
He also rode the train tracks – as a modern day hobo – with Duke – across the country. . .
but that’s a story – for another day !!

but wait, before we got to the videos, there was this fascinating well, or I guess hidden sewer entrance to that closed off underground river . . .

that created a kind of grotto – where the musicians played and that still remains – as part of the exhibit.
someone stuck their hand in it while I was there – and came up with a fistful of water !! but an overhead projector beams down the eerie copper coin-like writing – on the well, or I guess sewer-top. dedicated to the hobos of the Great Depression – that used to populate ‘Kingsbury Run’ – “a prehistoric stream now buried beneath the streets of Cleveland.” and whose story narrates the ‘Lubberland’ part of the exhibit.

while overhead – hung some of the hobo clothes . . . not sure if this was a deliberate reference to the big ANSELM KIEFER show – ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ – that obviously made a big impact when Gagosian put up – that mammoth undertaking this past Nov – Dec 2010. History, artifacts, narratives from the past – and not to forget: looking up !! – Kiefer also had clothes hung from the ceiling – Kiefer’s past-looking narrative – artifacts and all – code and all – is proving to have been not only mighty pre-sentient, but to have left a dynamic and living artistic legacy, among the city’s next generation artists . . . in its wake. Old Stone House included.

ok. so talking about artifacts, history and code – the DUKE RILEY videos that BRETT LAND worked on – all started with codes – like this !!
yo, momma.

they were more like shorts. archival grainy historical records . . . brief vignettes that silently looped on small screens.

“The man claimed that the ancient creek was cursed . . . ”
with titles – that drove the narrative – just like Charlie Chaplin shorts . . .

and then you’d see DUKE RILEY, in period costume in the ‘Landlubber’ condemned and covered-up Kingsbury Run River sewer system – that once was a hobo life-sustaining creek . . .

and yeah, there were rats . . . scurryin’ about.

big inner city – sewer rats !!
the short films – were a new departure for Mr. Riley – and were really well done. re-created time capsules.

in a salute to his new filmmaking effort – his Charlie Chaplin-like period film costume – hung over the receptionist’s desk.

another element new to this show – was the inclusion of actual artifacts: in this case a vintage cork-board display of archival photos and newspaper clippings that supported the ‘Lost Kingdom of Laird’ narrative – that shared the exhibition billing with ‘An Invitation to Lubberland’.

Margaret Katherine Waterhouse with adoptive parents William Henry Morgan and Margaret Laird. ca. 1940s.

.the related ‘commemorative’ portrait porcelain plates . . .

while fillmmaker BRETT LAND, and BRETT ‘SWEET TOOTH” NELSON – take up their instruments again, this time in front of the big mosaic. . .

ALBERTO MAGNAN, the gallery’s co-owner and co-director – also enjoying the musical goings on. . . . and why not. he’s got a hit show on his hands.

on the right, performance artist LARA ALLEN, who sang some witty nautical ditties dedicated to Duke – at the opening. with
her friend, REBECCA GOYETTE – in the Education Department at MoMA/Musuem of Modern Art . .

at the center, sculptor MATT CRANE, originally from Missouri, been here in the Big Apple going on – 15 years now.

ok. one last shot – BRETT LAND – the banjo playing, SVA grad train-riding – assistant to Duke Riley filmmaker . . .

BRETT NELSON aka SWEET TOOTH NELSON, and yeah check him out !!
and p.s. he has a record launch at Northeast Kingdom – in Brooklyn – Bushwick – next week – Wed March 9. his set starts at 9 pm.

and he’s got 2 young filmmakers following him around for – VANS !!


of course the very last word goes to the man of the moment himself, DUKE RILEY. savoring the night at the near conclusion of the opening – amid the ‘fruits’ of some pretty incredible Americana time travel -.with one eye looking back, and the other looking straight ahead, under a black pirate’s patch. ha.


yeah, most def check out: DUKE RILEY / ARTIST – PATRIOT