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Mike Weiss Gallery Takes On Crisis In Egypt (!)


Unrest in Egypt? New York’s Mike Weiss Gallery has it covered. The boys acting up in the streets of Cairo?  Christian Vincent is on the case.  Well that’s the message received yesterday from the gallery’s director Anna Ortt.  The urgent e-mail tunes us in: “Media Alert: Parallel between painting exhibition in New York and riots in Cairo.”

Is it cause and effect? Has the Los Angeles-based Vincent been working on these “riot pieces” in anticipation of a break out of street violence in the Middle East (or anywhere else?).  Or has his paintings of boys with bats or boys lined up in graphic propaganda style launched a revolution across the Arab world?  Try: Neither.

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Source or result of Christian Vincent's Tunnel Vision paintings? Neither. Photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters.

Christian Vincent
Boys With Bats, 2010, by Christian Vincent. Anticipating mob violence the world over. Courtesy: Mike Weiss Gallery, NYC.

To be fair, gallery director, Anna Ortt, did write back responding to a request for elucidation.

“Let me clarify, the paintings are not about violence in the middle east,” she wrote.  “The artist made these over the last year.  It’s just that the images echo what is happening there right now – it could be anywhere. By calling attention to the parallel, I am just trying to open a door, and start a dialogue.  It’s my job to get people to look, and talk.  I think it’s interesting, regardless of whether or not you like the paintings.”

Ortt noted that many visitors to the gallery said Vincent’s “bat” paintings reminded them of “the Bensonhurst beatings.” And she qualified the entire media “alert” with the note: “The show is already almost entirely sold out so sales have nothing to do with the media alert.  (I can’t imagine violence would ever help sell a painting.)”

Well maybe not, but the Mike Weiss Gallery is actually asking people to come in and examine the painter’s work to better understand the news, then. Or at least the surface of the news. Or the striking parallels. The bald pitch for publicity is a bit frightening.  Why not just go to YouTube and check out the police beating of Rodney King (“Can’t we just all get along?”) Do we see an Egyptian flag of solidarity on the gallery web page?  How about one flying in front of the gallery? It’s a curious strategy while the various Egyptian museums are looted and busted up.

Well, we gave the Mike Weiss Gallery 15 minutes.  Mission accomplished. Now what?