First Friday was hotter than Hell in the galleries, and we complained a lot. Every person who asked us how our summer was going got the same answer–shitty, hot. But beyond weather, we have to say the art was hotter than we expected for the usually dead month of August. Performance and installation art was what we saw at Vox Populi, Bodega, Grizzly Grizzly, Tigers Strikes Asteroid and Marginal Utility.
Vox was the first big surprise. We skimmed the top of the press release for the one-night event Sound/Stages and assumed it was going to be an evening of djs, music and bands. Guess we needed to read down to the bottom. Turns out, it was performance and puppet shows too! Performances by Beth Heinly and Bobby Gonzales and puppetry by PuppeTyranny. The Mouth Theatre puppeteering by Leslie Rogers and Zachary Palladino was part flea circus part gender discussion. Very unexpected content for a tiny puppet show–all performed in Leslie’s mouth, with Zachary inserting a variety of instruments of torture and food. It was part yucky and part laugh out loud funny, and very suggestive of bondage and control–without being either of those. Some videos by Jeffrey Bussman here.
Meanwhile, our own beloved Beth Heinly, artblog’s ad coordinator and gal friday, saturday and sunday, gave a deadpan reading of Art & Fear, dressed in all white and exuding Greta Garbo I vant to be alone-ness in a white box space–Olympia on a white chaise in white bicycle shorts and white socks. The artist as art object! The self-help text was a little bit ridiculous and the subtext was ironic and the comedy was subtle. No fear here and lots of art!
We ran into Diedra Krieger whose reading-Baudrillard video was on tap for the open-call video room. We couldn’t stay, but we had curated it into the ID show at Projects Gallery a couple of years ago. It was a perfect pairing with Beth’s performance! Theory and practice.
We also ran into Austin Lee and Katrina Mortorff, who gave us a postcard for the upcoming Thanks. Frank show they organized to honor recently retired Tyler painting guru Frank Bramblett.http://www.thanksfrank.info/ The show will be Aug. 27 to Sept. 21. Reception on the 27th. See you there. We co-taught with Frank one semester so we know we’re a little partial, but really, the guy is amazing. And he’s left a huge mark on many many artists, including, besides the organizers, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Anthony Campuzano and Rebecca Saylor Sack.
Thomas Vance, one of the contributors to Thanks.Frank is at Tiger Strikes Asteroid, with his charming cartoon Zen topiary, trees as the planets. It’s nature without the natural, and the large planet/potatoes are a break-out new direction in his work. Vance told us he and his wife artist Nami Yamamoto were leaving for real nature in Maine soon at the Acadia Summer Arts Program, aka Kamp Kippy, as in Kippy Stroud, Fabric Workshop founder and patron of the arts.
At Marginal Utility, Yale grad student Abigail DeVille has installed Gold Mountain, a black-lit black hole with references to discrimination against Chinese gold miners and all other discrimination-affected classes. The piece was made from scavenged material found in Chinatown and vicinity, including burnt timbers from the newly incinerated Trestle Inn.
The floor “bricks” gave the piece a Yellow Brick Road jauntiness that was jarring. The stars and stripes allusions, plus a real flag, situated the piece in a land of dripping irony. DeVille said she hadn’t used black light paint before, but the effect was pretty great. The installation took her a week with help from David Dempewolf, and lots of hard labor.
Abigail had never been to Philadelphia before. We had a conversation about Chinese American history and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and America’s long history of serial racial intolerance. DeVille looked glamorous, even in the heat.
MU has been one amazing installation after another, each one transforming it so its real shape has become increasingly mysterious. We think there’s some competition between MU and GG (Grizzly Grizzly) next door, which also has been running fabulous installations in its shoebox space.
This month, we saw new work by Tim Eads and our gal (contributing writer) Tiernan Alexander, whose installation is a husband-wife death match, in which they will invade one another’s portion of the installation and revise each other. We hope they are still talking in the end. As Tiernan said to us, “At the closing there will be blood or snacks!” Eads and Alexander really are husband and wife, btw.
And speaking of GG and couples, artists Paul Outlaw and Jennifer Catron, known to us as the Honeymooners from their installation at GG, will soon be trolling around Brooklyn and Chelsea serving up Midwest fishfry, which we can’t define–batter-dipped mystery fish? We got this news from Art Fag City.
We also ran into Gerard Brown and his two little boys. He was glad the summer semester was over.
Then we skedaddled over to North 3rd Street to Bodega. The highlight was in the window–Minty, the puppy in the window, was sticking up his butt and wagging it at us, making googly eyes at anyone who passed and paused. Two thumbs up for one weird performance. By the way, Minty was Matt Savitsky, we think, and he’d been in that window all day long, except for a change of costume to dress swanky for the evening. That’s the version we saw. This was pretty edgy–a mix of endearing and kitsch and strange. It captured our mixed feelings about real puppies in the window. Then of course there’s that whole level about sex trafficking and Amsterdam hookers in windows.
The final touch–we walked through old city and there was a harpist in a white gown on the sidewalk playing celestial music. Old City sure shines up pretty these days. A lot of the galleries were shut, but the street scene was glamorous and chock-a-block.