Deitch Does Stephen Sprouse

Frankly Stephen Sprouse, and no- its not awkward addressing this post to someone whose dead, I’m not familiar with you or your design work. Maybe its my lack of interest in things that walk down runways, or perhaps its the fact that my birthdate is a little past your prime. In any case, Rock on Mars is clearly a memorial to you. Cheers.

Stephen Sprouse: Rock on Mars is a Deitch Project located at 18 Wooster St. Open til Feb 28th, make it a stop on your lower east side adventures. So, the show is interesting based on two components, Deitch and his ability to create a fantastically lavish space and then, of course, Stephen Sprouse’s work itself. So, in sum, exhibition design concepts + art. For me the design here is actually more interesting, but we’ll start with the art.

So if you’re a small girl, fashion senseless, born out of sync with the rest of your time, then you don’t have the faintest clue who Stephen Sprouse is. As I’ve now learned, let me share the knowledge. Think fashion explorer of the punk rock 80s. Think clothing made out of rows of safety pins, think big shoulders mini skirt, baggy, angular, color and pattern traumatized. Place extra emphasis on that traumatized.

Now that you get the image of what’s on display, lets check out how its displayed because this to me is more interesting. First, bright napalm orange walls covered in a sort of screen printed graffiti. Line of mannequins against the wall in a runwayesque look, your center stage display of course and then both an upper and lower level of more memorabilia. Heading downstairs you find yourself in a room of black lights with sketches like the one above popping with its day glow color scheme. Opposite, the wall is covered in gray spandex camouflage sheen. Its pulled and stretched and wrapped about with its nose up in the air. Its fashion punk and it knows it. Now get out of its way. Upstairs, its a wall of Polaroids, some random some documenting people actually wearing these clothes. I get a kick out of finding someone wearing the see-through mesh dress covered in large (but not large enough) dangling sequins. Its quite funny, as is the scribbled on Barcelona Chair – its a message to Mies Van Der Rohe of course.

The place flaunts the punk culture – this fashiony aesthetic that might as well be from a different time. With all the appropriate music tastefully not quite blaring in the background, you might just be convinced you’re backstage at the catwalk waiting for some leather and studs to appear.



Being in London woke up the part of me that thrived on exploration. Paired with the quick after thought that having been plopped down in NYC with school around the corner, a mysterious apartment that wasn’t ready on time, and a family life to sink into; that I had completely skipped the embracing and adventuring step generally common to my big city lifestyle. I like how it takes me this long to realize it. And I wonder about if I hadn’t been in London, how I would be doing right now. So while red shoes an an LBD are nice, the best souvenir was remembering how to adventure.

There are, I might, add rules for adventuring. That’s right if you don’t have rules to play by, then having an adventure can be boring. What? Isn’t this all counter intuitive? No. If you can do anything you like and you know what you’re about to do, then where’s the satisfaction in doing it?

Rules for adventuring: having a start destination. Having a goal for the adventure. Being able to sidetrack. Realizing that completing the goal is not necessarily the mission. Keeping track of random things as you go (the other day I kept track of how many Starbucks I passed in addition to how many Battlestar signs were of stealable quality). Remembering to be where you are and be conscious. I think that’s most of the rules.

So adventuring commenced to say the least and has been progressing since I arrive back on Saturday. Here’s the debriefing of the highlights:

Saturday: Goal: rearranged my bedroom. not a full blown sort of Indiana Jones adventure but changing your physical lifestyle is a no-joke thing. it certainly reorients your sense of being in more that a physical way.

Sunday: Goal: pearl paint, canal st. frame for artwork, $10 in my pocket. without direction, without caring so much about direction, I wandered from Christopher St. down, around, etc. With great mini-trips into dog boutiques, a chocolate store, a high-end sex shop, and an Aldo where I found my red shoes at twice the price than in London. Wandering back, stopped off to make use of the NYU library. Scanning room + Tom Robbins.

Monday: Goal: Ikea, Ikea water taxi, as much of my buy list as under $9.00. Found lots of art on this part of my trip through the financial district. Theres something delightful about finding unexpected pieces of large scale public art. And taking your picture in the mirrored one. Water taxi- not enough room, I ride on top in a snow storm. More white than usual, more cold than usual and also happier than usual. Coat hooks and planter base at $6.00. Going back to Manhattan sitting inside the water taxi, you got it: priceless. Then visit to Southside Seaport and Seaport Museum. Museum no misnomer, Seaport well yes. I was expecting more fish and less tacky mall.

Tuesday: Goal: Find place to view inauguration. In NYC there were lots of places to view publicly, but at 9 am I selected my Aunt and Uncle’s place in Brooklyn. Threw some spice cake muffins (calling them muffins so I can eat more than if they were called cupcakes) and took them on the F once they popped out of the oven. Family, lunch, watching my man Obama getting sworn in. First day of class, goes smoothly. Get home in time to write up my grant and get it submitted – big weight off my shoulders.

Wednesday: Goal: Rotunda Gallery opening. First day at work. 5 mins late. Don’t have the paperwork done. Get it all set up and I’m off by 1pm. I scan images. Its not all that bad. Second class of the week. Done at 4pm, how to kill time before Rotunda’s opening begins? Lower East side: Deitch Projects and Nyland Blake. Nyland disappoints. Stephen Sprouse: Walk on Mars does not. Gallery is completely transformed into a crazy punk wonderland. For a person who could care less about his clothing, I was impressed. Add to this trip the store Evolution (advertised as the meeting of art and science) and you now know where to buy human skulls the next time you need one.

Thursday: Goal: make it through the day. I work 9-5 in the Blackroom. Around 4 pm, I start to fade. It takes all the chocolate I have to keep me going. Thats okay, tolerance is something you build and in that respect, I’m at a good starting point. Last class of the week: Exhibition Design. By the end of class around 8:30 I’m ready to head home. Get back to outside my apartment but I don’t want to stop walking. Head ove r to the waterfront and watch the lights for a while. Close eyes and wish I was in a hammock, in the middle of no where, cold enough to tingle but hands are still warm, looking up at the stars. Film of the night: Kenneth Branaugh’s As You Like It. Absolutely beautiful to say the least. And you can always depend on Shakespeare for some quick wit.

Friday: Goal: Don’t screw up. Internship at Chelsea gallery. Goes smoothly. Labeling, sending postcards through postage meter. No problems there. Find toothpaste stain on black shirt. Great! Get off work and head to the Whitney for a tour of their Calder show. First time there. Free. Calder. Have mentioned that I love Calder? Excellent show, so glad I saw it. Walk back to the Path train from 75th st. Yup, count down to street #14. Go past the Chrystler Building. See that blue lite building that I can see from the Hoboken waterfront and I keep walking. Its at 14th st. so now I have a good idea of where things are in relation when looking from the other side.

Saturday: Goal: MoMA, Buffalo Exchange. Saturday was pretty direct for an adventure. On a time schedule with meeting friend for dinner does that to you. But good all the same. MoMA was amazing, I now know I can get more than one free ticket in. Vik Muniz is my mascot of Mock Art. He’s curated the show Rubus from the MoMA’s collection. If you’re within traveling distance, make it happen. I’m in love with this man. I’m in love with his humor. The way he connects his thoughts. I will be using his exhibition as the topic of my exhibition display paper. He will get his own post. Buffalo Exchange is disappointing. Meet Chris in Chinatown. Dinner, bottle of wine and I’m getting back into the groove of Guitar Hero on his couch. Good friends are great.

Sunday: well that’s today! Goal: PS 1. More later.

Ode to Air India’s Film Selection

So I’ve never been on a flight that has offered so many video selections. I mean, let me compare this to the Air India flight I took over to London. One project screen, barely visible if you’re my height and sitting in the middle row some aisles back. You sleep through Mama Mia of course because, I mean, its just bad. It looked worse without sound though; however definitely sounded better this way.

Then you’ve got the after musical, musical of some Bollywood film that began as your regular rich guy spurns father and meets young girl who doesn’t give him a chance. Here’s where I fell asleep on the guy next to me who I didn’t actually know or ever talk to. Now cut back to me waking up here and there catching glimpses of the screen. And low and behold the film hasn’t changed but has added the interesting sub-non-plot of time travel. Yes, time traveling bollywood stars with robots that now drastically differ the film I started to watch but ended up falling asleep instead. But this is okay because even at half way through any Bollywood flick, you’ve still got an hour and a half for further plot development or the sheer failure of plot. Voting for the failure in this case.

Now we’re back to just last Saturday. Talk about time travel! When I get onto a much nicer looking Air India flight and sit down next to the window to watch the airplane wings raise and lower those steel feather contraptions that somehow contribute to the flight of a massive metal cylinder. Can you tell I didn’t take physics? So though my headset is having problems, I check out the film listing. Its all crazy remote control like and I’m automatically impressed. It even takes me a moment to figure out how to use it. For your film selection you can choose “English” “Hindi” or “Regional” I scout out the regional films but they all look, well, old, 80’s and just bad bollywood. If you can picture that. It looks something like a massive Indian wrestler dressed in tight leopard print spandex rolling barrels of flaming gasoline about to explode onto the safari-dressed young male hero who manages to save the girl but not the mother. The mothers always die. It’s tradition.

And trust me. I’m telling you about a real film I watched. Its in the Bollywood textbooks. I’ve got witnesses. Puja took place during the film screening. Hard green metal chairs for 8 rupees or sit on the ground for 3.

So regional films I pass by. I scroll to English which lists current English films, Classic English films and German films. Yes, german. Under the heading of German is. Hold your breath. 10,000 BC and Dan in Real Life. Because of course these are german films. What the heck? The Classic English films don’t look much better – Spartacus and Ben Hur. Its all Charleston Heston-esque spectacle bible based films. These Indian film viewers are particular about their films. Religion and spectacle. Some signing, dancing and chariot racing.

Now, under Current English films, there are quite a few. Many of them just look bad but I come to “Grace is Gone” and its got John Cusack so I stop. He’s great, funny, and easy to look at. I can kill some time here. Less than a half hour in I’m in tears on the plane. I remain in tears for most of the film and I’m sure I’m keeping the people up around me. “Grace is Gone” is this beautifully sad story about a family where the mother is in the army.  And the film is about a socially graceless John Cusack who, upon finding out his wife has been killed in battle, tries to find ways to avoid telling his two little girls about their mom’s fate.  Tears. Tears. Tears. They go to a theme park all in new dresses and I’m just thinking: Crystal Bartolovich’s class – here we are trying to escape reality by entering Enchanted Wonderland. It was brilliantly well done. The whole film really is. So if you need a good cry, watch it. Really quite beautiful and brings this whole terrible war into a personal perspective.

John Cusack in Grace is Gone

John Cusack in Grace is Gone

Now in contrast, I still had several hours left on the flight so I looked through the Current Hindi films. To be honest, they were pretty terrible even for my very open and accepting view of Bollywood films. Did I mention I taught myself a class on Bollywood? So, I had started to watch the Bollywood version of Casper with Amitabh Bachchan as the ghost and Sharakahn as the dad (that covers two of the three main Indian actors, anyone know the third? There may be a prize!). But after the 2cd grader goes to school and there’s a 15 min long dance of little kids dressed as gansters and cheerleaders and street whores in the playground. And they’re suppose to be little thugs when in fact they’re less than 10 yrs. old. That just turned me off. And they’re putting in every sort of materialistic culture they can find from fast cars to gold chains, I’m about ready to throw up (that would be #5!) but don’t. Instead I change to Classic Hindi films.

I’m on an Air India flight. I really should be watching some “Angry Young Man” films. I’ve only seen a few with the great Bollywood God himself in them. So I turn into Naseeb. Its 5 mins in and its about a waiter and a group of friends who buy a lottery ticket from a guy who can’t pay for his meal. I’m thinking: yes, waiter. This isn’t Amitabh (who is advertised as being the waiter in the film). I pause, I double check. I start watching again. Still confused. Where’s my Pen Guy?! Then a half hour in, it hits me. This was just the opening scenes! So in the first half hour, two of the friends group have ganged up on the other two and murdered one of them. They set it up so the one that gets away is framed with the murder. The two surviving friends who really did do the murder get the winning lottery ticket and set up a hotel. Each of these four men have sons. (This is a total bollywood film plot structural thing, its a must.) One of the wives dies in a natural disaster. (again, typical bollywood). And the boys of man who was framed for murder end up working for the two gentleman who did the actual killing.

Bollywood God

Bollywood God

I’m realizing how pointless it is to describe this about now. But its so classically Bollywood that it seems like it should be easy to describe! But let me try to outline it the best I can:

Sons of framed man must prove their value in society by being the good guys, avenging their father (who comes back and oddly represents all three major Indian religions – again typical Bollywood plot structure). Then they have to conquer some religious or social or other issue that involves why they can’t get together with the woman they love. Of course, there’s some elaborate scheme that involves them sacrificing their love for some larger concept. This of course pays off because they get the woman anyway. The woman have to provide some way for getting their men out of a mess. There are always couples and no one ever gets left out. In this case one for each religion. Like Amar, Akbar and Anthony. I can’t believe I just referenced that like it could be part of a normal conversation. Anyway, then the bad guys have to be killed in a way that is appropriate for bad guys but not by the hands of the good guys because then they wouldn’t be pure good guys anymore. So this generally involves natural disaster. And then somewhere in there one of the bad guys has to kill a mother figure. This is a sheer must as it demonstrates ultimate bad guyness.

So yup, that was the plot. Just like any other plot of the time  period. If you watch Bollywood film from this period, just keep your eyes pealed. (what sort of metaphore is that anyway: because that’s what you get!

So that’s the flight back. A girl who can watch a bollywood film and still watch a regular flick after? This is dedication to the art of the movie.

Last of London

With two days left, my class makes a stop over at Saatchi Gallery. This worth mentioning for two reasons: first because of the nature of the gallery and second because what I did before going to the gallery. Lets start with the gallery.

Old Person's Home - Sun Yuan and Peng Yu

Old Person's Home - Sun Yuan and Peng Yu

Mr. Saatchi is and is not the person I want to be when I “grow up” I would certainly love to own a beautiful gallery space and be able to show and catalogue all of the masses of art that I own ( my personal favorite above ) but at the same time, I hear the Indiana Jones catch line – from film #3 to be exact – hovering in my head, yes you named it, “It belongs in a museum!” At the same time I think Dali and his museum, which isn’t exactly what I was intending by the use of the term. Its an interesting debate though. Saatchi is free to public and self promoting. There seems to be something not quite right about it, but not quite wrong either. Its up in the air Mr. Saatchi.

Now briefly, a fantasy interlude: It a bright and beautiful day. The sun was shining. I was in an airplane reading about a sexy redheaded vampire who had recently become self-empowered to wear the LBD. Little Black Dress for those of you who don’t know.  (Like me!) LBD is not part of my vocab. But since this reading on the airplane I had gotten it in mind that I would find the perfect little outfit as well. …and rainbow colored unicorns pranced under puffy clouds to songs that emanated from strawberries….the realism here is that on my adventures in Camdon Market I had found the perfect shoes. Aldo 10 pounds. Red. Not red in the “*#$@ me” sort of sense of the novel or according to Lola, but red in that sort of Librarian lets her hair down sort of way that embodies me to a T.

I was satisfied here with the shoe purchase. I had been spending very little, I require very little, so I was tempted to just exchange the money back. But then I remembered how I needed money for postage etc and that ended that. So empowered with my own desire for a LBD, I checked out the All Saints website since I had been hearing rave reviews. Then I actually visited the store and did something I don’t really do. Be prepared. I wasn’t. I walked in, in my rainbow winter garb (no fantasy joke there), looked at the first employee I saw and said.  “I am looking for a black dress, simple, elegant and on sale. What can you find for me?” I’ve never went into a place known for their expensive stuff and said. I have money and I am going to buy. Show me. But I did and it was strange, gratifying in a strange sort of way. I don’t plan on doing it again soon. And I didn’t fulfill the part when I pranced around in the dress through the store after trying it on. Yes, go ahead. Little deer like creature, in tight waisted but flowy skirted black taffataeque dress, skipping past the racks. I really did do it. Hadn’t shaved for months. Probably embarrassed several patrons. Enjoyed every moment. For 36 pounds, for which I had lived on bread, cheese and yogurt for the past two weeks and for which I hadn’t really gone out, I had in fact secured an experience and a LBD that I won’t forget…And there were chocolate sundaes sprouting from the ground and chocolate fudge sauce in rivers and gnomes running around in a hypercolored farmland. Fantasy interlude completed.

In any case, on my last day I meet up with Forbes – a really nice adjunct SU professor who has been teaching in London for the last 17 yrs. We meet at an artsy coffee house above an artsy cinema in Brixton – the first really gentrified neighborhood which I’ve seen since getting to London. For never having met before, we spend a good hour and a half talking about art, visual culture, theory, film, our backgrounds. Fascinating guy and the time flies! Its my last night in London, so I ask him what I should do! With a bit of persuasion, he’s given me some ideas. I take the bus over to a bridge from which you can see the houses of Parliament and the whole London sky light up at night. Its really beautiful. On my way I’ve passed the British Film Institute (playing Michael Snow!) and I pass through the free gallery exhibit. Yup, its Michael Snow’s work! I had screened him back through Thursday Screeners and it was  good to get a refresher course. Near by is some neat advertising which makes me giggle:

Quite the advertising!

Quite the advertising!

I’ve been taking pictures of poster and ads all over London – they just have such a better sense of humor! So this one is for the Southbank Centre (love the “re”) which hosts some free programs that I couldn’t quite figure out but asked about profusely. From here I can see almost everything in London. But I head over to the TATE Modern and go up to their 7th floor bar to get an even bigger view. Its all beautiful. All the lights and shadows and mystique that the camera can’t capture. I gave up on photos right then. Just beautiful.

Coming back to earth I finished up my trip with two other stops: Primark and St. John Wood’s Tube stop.

As mentioned, I am extremely conscious about finances. With 15 pound in my pocket, the remainder of all of my money for the trip. I did what I had planned on doing, spending my last few pounds at Primark. I love Primark. I love Penneys. I love the company that sponsors them. These are two sister store brands that I’ve encountered in my UK/Ireland experiences. They’re delightfully cheap and they’re always full. So many people pulling things out that they’ve hired a staff to refold things. I spent my last few pounds there buying these amazing pants with bondage like suspenders that were slightly too big but pinstriped and absolutely something I would love to wear.

As for St. John Wood’s Tube stop. It was really about walking down Abbey Road. I have a heart for the Beatles, who doesn’t? Had to ask a really nice ambulance driver to find my way, but got there. And, late at night, in the dark, I completed my journey. Alone, happy, pleased. Everything was as it should be and I was fully content. London was successful and I headed home to write the last few of the 22 letters I sent out about it. Crazy girl, but happy.

friendly faces and whole foods

So, regardless of the fact that I’m comfortably sitting in my own bed with my own pillows right now and clearly not in London, I need to wrap up some loose ends.

In traveling to London, I had two goals: go to class and hang out with two of my favorite beings of all time, Courtney and Tara. Having scheduled their trip to overlap with my time in London, the fact that I was sick with what may have been a fever was not going to stop the part of my adventure that I had been most looking forward to.

Of course, delay that adventure for 45 mins as we know certain people are notoriously late and I am absolutely one of them at times. So the V&A is about to close when I with my newly purchased zipper earrings finally see Tara trying to get in to the museum. Security is almost not buying it, but rainbow hats cannot fail to be seen and therefore our adventure begins.

We walk around the Kensignton area – I know this only because of the Tube stop names, if someone asked me what district I was in NYC, I’d have no idea – and attempt to make it to the All Saints store where Courtney and Tara had been window shopping. Its closed, but around the corner we find Tara’s demi-god, not an appearance of her guru as I can’t really joke about that, but the one and only Whole Foods. Can you believe it? Tara is like one of those water finding sticks but instead its about good grocery stores. Now would you believe it if I told you that we spent at least an hour in this Whole Foods – I feel a Get Smart joke coming on but I’ll resist. So, time flies when you’re in a Whole Foods. We eventually make our exit and I navigate us to the raw food restaurant that I had researched in preparation for this visit. Saf is a beautiful restaurant, Courtney makes me order a lemon ginger drink to get me to feel better. Delish! In actuality, everything is good. Nut cheeses, sweet potato thingies, apple cheesecake! Yum!

At this point I’ve read my watch to say 10:30. I think this is accurate. However, we make our way over to Roxy Bar and Screen – Courtney had some desire to visit here and, you know me I’m a film person. So we get lost, we get found, we ask, we find and there we are: Roxy Bar and Screen. And its delightful. Of course we’ve missed the short films but its a wonderful red velvet curtain walled lounge with leathery couches pulled in like stands in arena but this time surrounding a pull down screen where some unexpectedly violent film is taking place. Minus the child being shot in the head in a church, I’m all for the place. We don’t order drinks, we rest our feet, I try not to be sick and we have a good time. Then I take a look down at my watch and its 12:00 or so. What the heck?

Now we’re scurrying back to the Tube, which closes at 12:30. We make it, we think. I get Courtney and Tara to a destination where they can catch a bus and I take the next stop to transfer to my line – so I think. But no, the Eastbound Tube is closed. I’m stuck with searching for a night bus. Luckily, Tara had forced me into taking the bus map and Courtney had attached an empty whole foods back to my wrist. Like I said, I wasn’t feeling well. So for a moment I’m distracted trying to get to the right bus stop to get the right bus to get to the next station and repeat the process. It goes smoothly! I’m feeling terribly ill though by the time the bus passes a place I recognize, so I get out to walk the rest of the way home. Night air is good for you? Uhuh. Its a 5 block walk to my residence and half way through, out comes that bag and out comes raw food. I now count on one hand how many times I’ve thrown up in my recent memory. Funny that number 4 actually makes me feel better.

The next day I’m completely fine. Remnants of a fever but feeling amazing. When I run into Courtney and Tara at our Whole Foods meeting locale, we exchange bus stories. Did I get the short end of the stick?! Chaperon service vs. middle of the street upchuck? Oh well. Again, we don’t make it to All Saints before they close. We wander to Portobello Market as I hadn’t been there yet. All closed up but I get my picture of verification. Soon enough we all have to get back to our respective places and its the end of the trip. I’ve gotten a whole 9 hours in with my girls and then they’re off to Paris. I always get a tad sad about their leaving but thats life. We wave goodbye only to keep in mind how wonderful our time together was.

Heading out!

Heading out!

two words.

Part of this being in London thing is doing the class assignments of course. One of our diy projects was to hit up the Mark Rothko (wow, I used his first name!) show at the Tate Modern. Now, I know you’re average Rothko. I mean this in the least familiar of senses. I’ve read about him in Kathrine Kuh’s book and I’ve seen his work here and there but, no, I’m not obsessive and, no, I haven’t seen him in this number before. There are a ton!

I’ve heard about his smaller works. Now seeing them, I like. Get into this burgundy, red series at the Tate and, also beautiful. These are the most familiar style with the loose look of overlapping colors weaving in and out of the visual playing field like we’re exploring the depths of the kaleidoscopes. I find a stunning one, iridescent shine, and pick up the post card. Then we get into these black form ones and here I find true love. Maybe even true art. Yes. The common viewer must want to call this man an asshole and I want his work to be the lover who will never love me back.

Now if I were to paint a series of black form pieces, I would get the idea and I would laugh out loud for a moment. No one would notice any difference from my usual unusuality. However, if I were to actually paint it, I would lay it out, tape it off. I would lay down the paint and I would stand back and there it would be. For all of its hypothetical physical presence it would still be an idea of my head. And this is where Rothko’s beauty lies. I’m sure there are many Rothko fans that already know exactly what I’m about to write and therefore will understand how little the meaning behind the words can actually translate. But here it is anyways.

There’s unspeakable passion in Rothko’s painting. It’s not an idea – it’s a love affair – with the color, the canvas, the stroke. It’s in the quite, subtle, softness of both knowing where to touch and how it will react. Letting it be both mysterious and understood. Closing your eyes, trusting and just breathing the same breath. It’s the intimacy of the affair, the private, unconditional love glance that causes that someone to notice the little quirks you never knew you had. And that’s what my painting would miss if I had ever tried to make it – the unseen movement of heartstrings that really hold the brush.

Maybe not everyone sees it that way, but to me it’s clear. I searched the gift shops for postcards of the black form pieces. And realized lovingly that their beauty couldn’t be photographed; I mean this honestly. Don’t look at the ones online. They polarize the black on black so you can only see it as two shades when it’s really meant to be seen as both one and two shades at the same time. I’ve looked for pictures to add to the post and I certainly challenge you to find one that comes close to accurately being what the black form pieces truly are, or maybe more percisely, truly art.

New Contemporaries 2008

Queen by Naiomi St. Clair Clarke

The Unconscious Significance of Hair: Queen by Naomi St. Clair Clarke

New Contemporaries is a student/emerging artist based exhibition based in London. Having been featured in Time Out London and with my super fondness for the student artist, I wanted to check it out. Of course, like anything in London its really hard to find. Only two blocks away I find myself asking a gentleman if he’s heard of Club Row Street. Nope, of course not. Finally finding the street, I still can’t find the venue. If I hadn’t noticed the lovely neon sign placed within a courtyard behind semi-closed gates, I would never have found it. However, I was so pleased with the exhibit that I actually bought the catalogue!

Let me premis the rest of this post with reasons for my fondness of student art. This comes from growing up in a location where there were only three visual art options. The Butler Art museum (and their little side museums), the McDonough Museum and some coffeehouse art. I’ve been visiting the Butler for as long as I can remember – my mother would feel guilty using their free parking to have lunch with my dad, so we’d all have to go inside the museum to make her feel better. The Butler is your traditional gallery of portraits and landscapes, not the edgy contemporary art that I seek. McDonough is the student art museum across the street and I’m love with it. What I love is that student art requires risk. You are obligated to try something new, to explore, to transform, to grow, to extend outside the expected. Sometimes this is successful and sometimes not so much. However, I still get McDonough posters for Christmas (I use to collect them – taping them all over my walls) and working in a student based gallery has been my career goal since I randomly pointed to the ad for the McDonough museum curator position in the newspaper when I was in middle school.  I just love student art – it gives me hope.

So New Contemporaries – like any art there was some great stuff and some not so great stuff. No photos were allowed, so I was excited to find the picture above online. Its a giant hair sculpture! Really! What I like about this piece is that its innovate while remaining totally old school. Hair sculptures are nothing new, but never have they been exaggerated into this sort of monument. Just playful, whimsical and fun. Joe Doldon also had a great floor installation. In the book its a corrugated cardboard construction that is formatted like a mosaic rose window – however for purposes of the show, he’s created an installation of packing tape in waves across the floor. Also enjoyable.

Another fantastic piece was done by Patricia Pinsker entitled “Davey”. So imagine with me a video to compete with my love Herzog’s How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck if a Woodchuck Could Chuck Wood. Its different, I give you that. Film opens with a mustached white man dressed in full out native american garb – total headdress and fringed deerskin look. Somethings strange in that he’s clearly not native american and watch for the hand tattoos. The musical overlay begins and its Elvis’s American Trilogy!  “Look away, look away, look away dixieland….” and Davey (our non native actor) begins to sign not sing but sign the lyrics! Its amazing camera work with the perfect closeups for effect. The power of the piece is just phenomenal! Here we have a non-native american who is performing to Elvis being nostalgic about his homeland of Dixieland and the silent performance of the “native american” figure. Just so well conceived and carried out! Absolutely love the irony.

And last but not least we come to my all time favorite of the exhibit. At number one we have littlewhitehead’s It Happened in the Corner. See image below. Now a visual image or my explanation just doesnt do justice to the piece. Really just doesnt. But let me do the best that I can. You’re walking through an art gallery and you’re looking around. From the far side of the room you see people kind of clustered in a corner looking down at something – possibly on the floor or on a pedestal. They’re all really still and you wonder what the heck they’re looking at that is so intricate and keeps their attention for so long. I figured it was a video piece myself, so you keep one eye on the group of people as you cautiously check out something near by – ready to jump in on your turn but not close enough to feel threatening. I mean the people are packed really tightly together and I’m sure the ones in the back can barely see in the first place. It may only take a few seconds for all of these thoughts and actions to run through your head. Maybe 10 seconds max but 10 seconds is a lot of time. And then you have it – you’ve been tricked. These people aren’t moving. They’re not people. They aren’t looking at some piece, they are the piece. And then you get the label “It happened in the corner” and you’re totally impressed. Wax figures dressed in real clothing, looking fantastically alive because you immediately think that they have to be real people. Playing with our subconscious now aren’t you littlewhitehead? so without further delay here’s the pic:

It Happened in the Corner by Littlewhitehead

It Happened in the Corner by Littlewhitehead

Impressive, right? Overall some really great art! And also a fantastic wall label system which I’m currently looking into. Uses plastic business card holders to mount business card sized paper labels to the wall, reducing the use of foam board, matboard or other wastefulness! Having never seen it in the US, maybe the display system will make an appearance in this small girl’s next gallery adventure!