~an Interloper . . . at FIT

TUES FEB 26, 2013 / 7-9 PM
Katie Murphy Amphitheatre, Fashion Institute of Technology/FIT, NYC


“People want to be blown away. Bigger. Louder. Shinier. We need our next fix.”
~FIT Press release

I kinda backed into this. I was over there really for the knock-out ‘Shoe Obsession’ exhibit, and the even more knock-out .. ‘Fashion and Technology’ exhibit … which runs thru MAY 8, 2013. both of which are just as good as anything I’ve ever seen at the MET COSTUME INSTITUTE. and both beg … for return visits.
so don’t blink. consider yourself .. warned & informed !!

and my son, newly obsessed with the art world players that colored his dad’s life – wanted to see some action esp re Gavin and Roberta !! who he’d heard so much about over the years.
I wanted to see KAWS.

so there we were, the only 2 art world characters … the veteran, and the brand newly-minted – in an auditorium full of fashionistas. the couldn’t-be-skinner girl in mini skirt and thigh high boots – entering just before us, was balancing a take-out salad of what looked like total organic greens, no dressing – check !! and everybody seemed dressed in shades of grey, and of course, those trending .. checkerboard black & white patterns !!

the intro by the new dean, or whatever, (no big fashion / nor art statement there) seemed to project that this talk was aligned to some newish art class or program they were promoting at the school, art consultancy 101 ?!!! – the new next BIG opportunity – I gather ?
I had my doubts. stick to what you know – guys, is what came to mind.

the moderator, a dutiful but ultimately boring HRAG VARTANIAN (welcome to the art world) … began with some art world slides of historic and then contemporary .. BIG ART. It was a truly blah beginning, esp considering the richness of the centuries of art world imagery available – and esp in comparison – to the hyped-up jauntiness of the press release. the wishy-washy slide intro, I’m sorry to say … set the rather insipid & self-conscious tone – for the night.

or for as long as I could take it .. yeah, we ducked out after a polite enough period of time. well, we gave everybody their first round of 10 minutes, saw no fireworks, and figured the best was over, meaning – those fresh and least-guarded, off-the-top of their heads – opening remarks.
if it heated up afterwards, I’d be very surprised.

Specifics, ok:

VRAG started off with French classical/Grand Salon slides of Impressionist-era pretty enough examples, but not really jolting. maybe more tailor-made to a fashion crowd, or ‘baby-art history’ student – in terms of relate-able BIG / ‘GILT & RED VELVET’ projects, or large scale art – in the past. and continued onward with … no BIG emotions anywhere, or even IDEAS. the only truly striking image he could come up with – was the always awesome: SPIRAL GETTY. what, no EGYPTIAN PYRAMIDS. which did come up among the panelists – bye the way, what did they read my thoughts ?
ok. sorry. the OLAFUR ELIASSON waterfalls, and his huge ‘sun’ installation in London slide samplings – were cool, and right on.

but his earlier CLAUS OLDENBURG example, the oversize ‘cherry on the spoon’, was the worst. and killed pretty much everything else that followed, for me.
ok, he gave Oldenburg’s wife her newly de-rigeur ranking, but that specific piece is the worst, and proved what Roberta, with common sense, not just art props … was to go on to say, the obvious: with all works of art, it’s not the scale or the ‘movement’, or provenance in history – it’s the specific individual piece of art, as SMITH put it: “you have to go case by case”.
something a lot of new Picasso owners – are just beginning to find out, hahaha. talk about art collecting 101.

and yes, ‘Vartanian’ drove me crazy .. referring to the guest panelists constantly, by their last names. oh my god I am so over that, who in the art world do we have – to blame for that ?

but, back to the opening slides.
he should have shown the Oldensburgs (plural) first over-size trail-blazers – before blowing-up large-scale ‘ordinary’ objects – became a total worn-out cliche, even in their own time and work. I mean, Oldenburg .. he was like the monkey that first transferred the AIDS virus … to humans.

though of course, in specifics we do find the gold. Vartanian did catch the JEFF KOONS projected/project: that life-size replica multi-ton cast metal-type train engine that KOONS wants to hang over the high line. that is if … if anybody will fork out the 25 million $ he wants to fabricate it.

what ?!!! he wouldn’t need … city planning approval. an interesting tangent, that didn’t come up. artists imposing large structures on the rest of us, dropping dominating ‘ciphers’ – good or bad, humorous or scary – on our fragile pysches, at will. not to mention fragile / actually ancient inner city infra-structures. or equally fragile eco-systems, I mean even the desert has it’s limits re rows of old car semi-burials. I mean … even the Eliasson waterfalls caused a lot of damage to the natural and fragile (there’s that word again re us vs. the BIG IDEA !!) eco-systems of the island of New York, kicking up salt that eroded ancient trees, etc etc. no mention the ‘fragile economics, as well. I remember there was also alot of bad publicity at the time – about how he (Oliasson) scooped up the money and ran. made off with the entire bundle, in the millions, natch – and brought it back to his hometown base of Berlin, right smack in the midst of a recession-hurt local art world. NOT much, if any trickled down to local NYC, fabricators. ok, maybe the local tree doctors, scored some dough, after the fact.

and in fact, are museums the appropriate place for these things. the big stuff that goes on the roof of the MET did come up. and well I remember, the TRULY shock and awe of seeing the indoor Eliasson waterworks at P.S. 1.

GAVIN, oops I mean … ‘BROWN’ … spoke first.
he looked exceptionally well-groomed for the fashion one-day-would-buy-art ? crowd .. I like him a little bit scruffier, but who the hell am I ? His once-was-a-Brit accent sounded like a sweet bell in the big room. and, even to my son, who first took note – it didn’t look like he came with any prepared agenda or remarks – go Gavin !! so the first words out of his mouth were:

“I don’t really look at any other art, except for what I show in my own gallery.”

hahaha love it. oh god, it made the whole night worthwhile. I almost fell off my upper perch seat, with laughter. yep, that good-natured laughter that rang out in the room – upon the utterance of that super fresh and honest and what the art world is really all about (!!) nugget of a remark, I hate to admit – that was me. oh, man. the rest of the audience was too much newbies, to get it.

and the fun thing is, it’s not really true.

of all the gallerists out there, Gavin is the most likely to send a shooting star glance your way. he’ll read your words, take note of your pix, hopefully scan the images of your own work you send him, when he has a free iota of a moment – not saying his gallery might take you, or give you even a most tiny single spot in a mega-group show summer throw-off – but still, a glance is glance is a glance.

he spoke mostly, or initially .. like I said I didn’t stay past the first round – about his most infamous jab at meaningless spectacle art, esp that of the ‘art fair’ genre – the year when he showed URS FISCHER’S ‘FISHING POLE’ swinging a trashed cigarette package – in an entire booth at Miami, and nada, nothing else in the room. ha, I bet it was produced in an edition, and he made off with a pile of dough, anyway.
it was all anybody talked about, it was a brilliant under-play gesture .. that stole the whole show. nothing else mattered, or counted. everybody loved it.
everybody got it. he shoulda brought – a slide of it !!

and of course, Gavin though for the most part sounding a bit cynical & turned-off by big budget, scale for scale’s sake alon – and rightly so, has shown some far-out huge shows himself. the time he let ROB PRUITT wallpaper the inside and outside (!!) of his gallery – with blown-up iPhone photos .. does come to mind.and so does that knock-out RIRKRIT TIRAVANIJA .. ‘FEAR EATS THE SOUL’ – mega-installation, possibly the very best ever, of anything I have ever seen.

ROBERTA, oops I mean, SMITH !!
was her usual non-nonsense but missing the top 1% self. she made a case for intimate art – but we all know she always drops the ball .. there. big time. she ‘fessed to not liking outdoor over-scale site-specific art – because she likes to get bowled over, and it just, in her opinion, gets over-shadowed by the natural environment. something like that. though I do remember she went absolutely nuts, plain crazy puppy love crazy for the JEFF KOONS ‘Flower Planter – PUPPY’- when it first wagged it’s gigantic leafy tail. like she said, and rightly so, obviously so .. you have to go case by case.

HALLEY, was the worst, and the most boring, I don’t know what the hell he was saying, except the way he dropped that he and somebody, more interesting than himself, but I still can’t remember who, one day later … were doing a collaborative show at Mary Boone (yawn) some time soon – made me feel that he, Halley had initiated the whole night’s gig – just to plug it.

and then, KAWS, no prob with the last name here !! and a homeboy, a Jersey boy – to boot !!
did NOT disappoint. no. you go, ’cause’ – you so REAL.
they just jealous of you here, cause you such a west coast boy mega-success – for a left coastie street artist . . . you sure blew off this town, and it’s two-tone art critics .. and no wonder.
he did not back down one iota, even though he was very low-key and .. not rattled in the least.
he said basically: playing into large scale .. was just part and parcel of the trying to have a career in the big stakes art world, and no big deal. in fact, super exciting , and way fun … to have somebody want to make your imagery big, no kidding. dude.
and about blowing up big /spraying big on the streets, back in the street game days – he said, the better to catch a ‘businessman’ on his way to the daily grind .. and make him think about art, or even the bigger issues of the day .. the better.

my kid asked me half-way through – with an epiphany of his own, “so, is this why DAN ASHER’S work is so good ?”

my kid is so right on the money, or what !!

DAN ASHER, untitled work on paper, graphite. circa 1994. approx 15 x 10 in.

detail, DAN ASHER work on paper, circa 1994.
size of the ‘fingerprint’ drawing: approx 1 inch sq. it’s tiny – get it ?

URS FISCHER . . . dug up Gavin’s gallery, NOV 2007

ROB PRUITT . . . plastered GAVIN BROWN’s enterprise with over-scale iPhoto photos, OCT 2008.

inside and out.
the show was called ROB PRUITT – ‘iPruitt’ – !!

KAWS – over-size ‘shy boy’ or ‘Companion’ as it was termed officially. in last year’s 86th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.