I tell myself that I am an open channel for infinite riches, just like it says in the cult self-help book The Secret, but times remain hard. The economy is so bad that I have become a veritable Bob Cratchit in go-go boots, working two jobs and maintaining a policy of taking any gig that pays more than $40. After all, winter is on the way and my chihuahua Jen Junior, the Tiny Tim of this Dickensian drama, will soon need a new jacket.
With this in mind, I took on the relatively daunting task of reporting on last week’s slew of art openings even though I felt about as energetic as Mimi in Act Four of La bohème and even though the weather has done nothing but provide one bad hair day after another. Fearlessly, I soaked my head in leave-in conditioner and prayed to mighty Isis for strength in adversity before setting out with an extensive list of openings this past Friday.
On the subway uptown, I examined the new Neo-Luddite ads for Dentyne gum. The posters feature attractive people (who’ve presumably just chewed Dentyne) kissing and embracing along with the captions "Send and Receive" and "Friend Request Accepted," while small text encourages commuters to "log off," "open arms" and "make face time." Is Dentyne implying that the entire Internet Revolution is simply the result of halitosis?
While contemplating breath freshener and technology, I walked to my first stop – the Gary Simmons show at Metro Pictures. Long ago, when I was simply an uncool art student who penned (but never sent) love letters to Mike Kelley, Metro Pictures was my favorite gallery. Nowadays, I’m too jaded to have a fave gallery, though I was happy to see they haven’t let the economy spoil their generosity with the free wine. According to the press release, the paintings are influenced by the 1972 film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and though this isn’t obvious (no portraits of Roddy McDowall, for instance) the mural-sized paintings, which mostly depict burning buildings against blood-red backgrounds, evoke the film’s theme: revolution against The Man.
From Metro Pictures, I walked to Taxter & Spengemann for the group show "PM Dawn," not to be confused with the ’90s hip-hop R&B act, P.M. Dawn. Inside a group of leotard-clad performers did a gymnastics routine on what looked like a set of homemade uneven bars while a teeming bunch of hipsters drank beer and looked on. Maybe it was residual Olympic fever or maybe it was the heat, but I started to feel claustro to the degree that I left the mini-art-star Olympics and wandered up the stairs, checking out a collage titled Queer Is the New Black by A.L. Steiner along the way. It features sexy pix of androgynous, scantily clad people having fun.
Upstairs I found more leotard-clad people along with more sexy photos. The aptly titled, Lara at Desk by Richard Kern shows Lara, who is naked and looks angry, posed at her desk. Maybe she’s angry because her wooden seat is painfully uncomfortable and unbefitting a bare ass. Wandering back downstairs, I watched a video of a shirtless man who it seemed was trying to align his chakras. I was very confused and later looked at the show’s press release, which references donutburgers (two donuts for the bun!), Egon Schiele and Luther Vandross and which left me more confused than ever.
Next stop was Anton Kern Gallery where I checked out a solo show by the German painter Bendix Harms titled "Lebenslieben," or "Loves of Life." The stripped-down works, which are painted in the most energetically anal expulsive manner, depict bird-men with hairy testicular sacks, eggs, boats, castles and people sleeping peacefully as a giant, red bird flies above their heads. I couldn’t stay to examine them closely because the clock was ticking and I was intent on visiting the opening at Edelman Arts on the exotic Upper East Side, where I hoped to meet real-life Gossip Girl types.
Edelman Arts is a four-story brownstone on East 63rd Street that almost makes you feel like you’ve been invited to a party at a rich person’s home. The opening had couches, cocktails and several spacious bathrooms (though no beds). A number of clean, perfume-scented people far above my tax bracket mingled and looked at "Stolen Moments," a series of grainy, peeping-tom-type photographs by Yasmine Chatila. Through various windows we see people canoodling (The Office Romance), doing Tai Chi (The Tai Chi Class) and hanging out in sweet kitchens with remarkable cabinet space (The Bachelor). After taking in the show and failing to meet either Nate Archibald or Chuck Bass, I decided it was time to leave the UES for my hovel on the LES. Maybe I could convince the rats in my building to sew me a gown for my next visit there.
After a pinch of sleep, I awoke early Saturday to the news that Hurricane Hanna was going to sweep through NYC. I prayed this wasn’t the case, as I planned on not only attending more openings, but also doing a final dress rehearsal for the production of Puss in Boots I was staging the following day as part of the Howl! Festival in Tompkins Square Park (as I said, I’m taking any gig that pays). Not to mention, no amount of product could possibly keep my hair smooth and silky during torrential rain and 40 mph winds.
Luckily, Hanna produced little more than a zephyr and a lot of rain so that though my hair looked like crap, I was spared death by falling tree branches. After rehearsal my first stop was David Opdyke’s "Manifest Destination" at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in SoHo, where I met up with my friend, George. The atmosphere was festive and refreshingly hipster-free. A group of children played tag. An adorable giggling baby sported a tiny pink cowboy hat. People actually talked to us. It was the feel-good opening of the year! The show’s intricate sculptures were also pretty groovy.
"This one looks like Middle Earth," George said, checking out Zenith, a model city that appeared to be made of military miniatures.
One of the children shook his head in agreement.
After an exhaustive discussion of what each sculpture looked like (a space-age weapon, a mind-numbing device or something unearthed from the sunken city of Atlantis), we figured it was time to move on. We frolicked through the rain, stopping briefly at the Painting Center on Greene Street before grabbing a cab to Chelsea and then leaping over puddles the size of the Ganges in order to get to the Kota Ezawa show at Murray Guy on 17th Street. Having never been there, I wanted to go for one reason: Murray Guy is the coolest name ever and I simply can’t believe there is a real person who bears this name. I hoped to catch a glimpse of him.
Inside, I was sidetracked from this mission when George handed me a pair of 3D glasses. Putting them on, I sat down to watch Multiplex, a show consisting of two animations that kind of looked like Alex Katz paintings moving around on the screen. The first animation was based on the film Last Year at Marienbad and the other depicted basketball players and fans having a brawl. Maybe it was the 3D glasses or maybe it was lack of sleep, but I soon felt that if I didn’t get fresh air immediately I would go to sleep on the floor of Murray Guy.
We tried to pop into a few more shows since we’d ventured all the way to Chelsea. At I-20 we watched a video of a black-clad trio performing a xylophone/keyboard concert. George theorized that they were part of a "Phillip Glass Cult." A man next to me was passed out and drooling.
At Bellwether, I became entranced by a tiny, painted wooden theater by Zoe Beloff entitled Comique Idiot. It featured a little dancing man who seemed very real to me in my borderline delirious state. The gallery was too packed to see most of the work, which was probably a good thing since no matter how cool the art was I was minutes away from passing out and drooling myself.
Back on the LES, I got ten desperately needed hours of sleep before I headed up to Tompkins Square Park for my first foray into children’s theater, only to find the place swarming with cops. I soon learned that a small riot had occurred in the park Friday night after the lead singer of the band Leftover Crack had been arrested for hurling donuts at cops. Trashcans had been overturned, bottles thrown and cop cars damaged – hence, this would be the most heavily policed performance of Puss in Boots ever staged.
Despite the heavy police presence, my new fan base of toddlers sat transfixed as I emerged from a swath of blue fabric as the "Lady of the East River" who greets Puss on his journey to slay an evil sorcerer. The entire show, which was narrated by an oversized roach puppet, went off without a hitch, except for a slight technical mishap in which a giant swan on wheels almost careened off the stage with me inside it.
Luckily I dove from the swan-carriage just in time and lived to report on one final opening – "You Have Been Misinformed" by Stephan Dillemuth and Nils Norman, conveniently located at Reena Spaulings on the LES. The gallery installation mimics certain formal elements from public spaces. There was a quaint footbridge, plaster "trees," hanging canvases and a plywood seating area, which visitors sprawled on while drinking Bud and watching the video at the center of the gallery. In one corner of the gallery sat a lump of plaster. It reminded me of the chunk that landed on my kitchen floor after my ceiling collapsed, but I soon learned that it was Stephen Dillemuth’s body cast.
I tried to watch the video but due to the raucous crowd it was tough to follow. A guy in a prosthetic Pinocchio nose and trucker cap crawled across the screen like he was strung out on meth while clutching something wrapped in bubble wrap and various characters who looked like zombies spoke about art and finance. A close caption revealed that one character, with what looked like blood running down his chin, worked for Sotheby’s. It also became apparent from phrases like "credit crunch" that kept flashing on the screen that this video might have something to do with the economy being in the crapper.
Stephan and Nils invited me to the show’s after-party at one of my fave karaoke bars, but the weekend art marathon had worn me out. I was content to go home and sleep, safe in the knowledge that, as far as the economy goes, having nothing means I’ve got nothing to lose.
REVEREND JEN is an art star, urban elf, troll museum founder and up-and-coming celebrity personality. Her new book, self-published, of course, is titled Art Star: The Adventures of an Underachieving Visionary, and can be found on lulu.com.