Pound Sign

New York City, pop culture, art and nightlife. Because nobody else is blogging about those things.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

scope, to sum up: crafty and porny, with guns.

Honestly, those three elements, in varied combinations, account for a good 80, 85% of the entire scope fair. With a few years under its belt as the most established alternative to the Armory Show, this year's scope seems to be making a bid for some institutionalized legitimacy, but without losing its street cred, and the end result is a crowded, grungy muddle that is neither genuinely raw or cleanly upscale.

And with the emerging artists, craft and porn continue to have their moment, with a healthy dose of gunplay in the mix...Sarah Bednark's life-sized, dreadlocked macrame couple screwing on a blanket (in London's Keith Talent Gallery) may have been called "Fucking Hippies" and be good for a laugh, but it was still just clever, not interesting. By the time I passed Suzannah Sinclair's delicate images of masturbating girls in watercolor and wood (at Samson Projects, from Toronto, I think), or Joseph Peragine's reproduction of a Sherman tank made from cardboard (at Atlanta's Solomon Projects), or 31 Grand's living installation of a very young artist dressed like Stevie Nicks and surrounded by machine guns and heavy metal mannequins, the trend was really settling in. It all reaches a literal height of absurdity at the booth for Chelsea's Proposition Gallery. Alfred Martinez's life-sized anti-aircraft gun, made of an assembly of found objects painted black, around the corner from David Caspe's giant c-print of a gore-drenched topless model pointing twin glocks at the viewer. When I asked him about Martinez's work, Ron Sosinski of Proposition told me "you know, he's the one who was in jail for forging Basquiats? We've gotten great publicity on him. He's out of jail now." That statement should be on the scope t-shirt, it really sums up the enterprise somehow. But there were red stickers all over the place. This stuff sells...as a coworker of mine, who's an astute observer of the art market, put it: this is the show that the young hedgefunders flush with cash can come to and buy something that they "get," that will probably appreciate, and as a bonus is also porny.

The fair was bisected by an ungodly mess of an installation that was apparently called "Winner Takes All" and curated by David Hunt and Franklin Sirmans: complete with a Coney Island "Shoot the Freak!"-style paintball range, a girl in hotpants and a bleached wig posing for polaroids, a droning art rock band, a fleet of those three-wheel electric scooters (the ones advertised for elderly people on latenight cable) tricked out with cow skulls and bass-heavy speakers...ugly, loud, grotesque, pointless, an effort to bank the fair's continuing edginess that completely flops due to its essential hollowness and self-conscious, artschool laziness. Around the corner was a feux outdoor space reserved for performance works, and the only compelling thing going on was the crowd staring at a woman breastfeeding her child on the "hill"-for the record it was impossible to tell if she was part of the installation or had just picked what seemed to be a quiet spot. I will say that another of the exhibitions within the fair, called "All Systems Go!" and curated by Rhizome's Marisa Olson (in the spirit of full disclosure, I work with Rhizome and I'm a bit biased), displayed an actual thematic sensibility. The Rhizomers also saved the day by having a bottle of vodka under their table to mix with the fruity energy drink that seemed to be the only official free beverage in the place.

Having said all that there were definitely some highlights:
LA's Merry Karnowsky Gallery showcased Camille Rose Garcia's Tim Burtonesque hellbound glamour girls; her sparkly canvases augmented by an installation of a giant plushy squid with sickly green skin and her trademark heavy-lidded pinup girl's eyes and goth-black beestung lips. She's the Juxtapoz magazine-annointed queen B of the lowbrow West Coast scene, and proud of it.
Brooklyn's Metaphor Gallery showcased Nina Levy's new series of sculptures and photographs, called "Family Resemblences." Her toddler son's face as a ceramic mask covering the faces of his parents, or a giant smushed Nina-head, dropped from the second floor balcony by a life-sized sculpture of her son; eerie and ambivalent portraits of the "joy" of parenthood. I ran into Nina taking pictures of her installation; asking her about the switch from her previous work, which was completely defined by her own physicality, she said with a weary half-smile "I don't get to think about MY physicality anymore." She soon after made herself scarce with a mention of relieving the babysitter.
A new discovery to me was the work of Tracey Snelling, represented here by San Francisco's Brown Bag Contemporary. Handmade dollhouse-like constructions of brothels over late night diners, fleabag hotels and drive-in theaters, either realized as installation (incorporating small video screens in the windows to allow us to leer in on seedy interactions), or in color photographs set in front of dusty, lonely roads and neon-lit landscapes. David Lynch by way of the McCoys...this is crafty homage to poptrash-Americana done right, haunting and with a brilliant sense of place.

Oh, there was some other nice stuff too. But this is really, really skippable.


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