Sunday, August 8, 2010
First Friday, August 2010
The strange allure of Jell-O, a food that I do not remember having eaten for some years, drew me to The Chemical Heritage Foundation to kick off First Friday. Among other things, Jell-O calls to mind strong personal association with childhood and memories of Bill Cosby commercials from the 1980s. Jell-O is hospital food, served to the elderly and infirm. It will never shake the whiff of kitsch trailing back to its heyday as a staple dessert in the Post-war American kitchen. And, of course, it would be best not to think about its animal byproduct origin. Nevertheless, Jell-O wields power over the psyche because of the way it connects to our shared experiences as a populace.
Forgotten classic recipes, if they can be called such, were revived for degustation at CHF’s Mid-century Cooking from the Jell-O Cookbook. Gigi Naglak and Jennifer Dionisio, looking smart in their throwback aprons, gave a talk about the history and the chemical properties of Jell-O, and then provided samples from each of four varieties that they had prepared: Macaroni Salad, typical of once-popular savory gelatin dishes; Long Weekend, a layered dish made with cream and sugar; Peach Bavarian, whipped until fluffy; and a traditional canned fruit jelly mold. I tested the Long Weekend, which was not only quite tasty, but brought on nostalgia of days passed.
While there, I took a quick peek at Marvels and Ciphers: A Look Inside The Flask. Art and objects drawn from the permanent collection depicted chemistry in action throughout the ages, tempered with a healthy dose of humor.
A quick jaunt through the rest of Old City proved forgettable, except for my first contact of the evening with performance. In the window of Bodega, Matt Savitsky was playing a character named Minty. Paint-mottled and gender-ambiguous, one moment s/he was acting as though asleep and unconcerned with the presence of a spectator, while the next moment enthusiastically vamping for my camera. Nestled in a bed of shredded newspapers, Minty was like a kitten in a pet store display window begging to be taken home.
At Grizzly Grizzly I caught up with Tim Eads (a former colleague from The Fabric Workshop) and Tiernan Alexander. Lovingly entitled Husband vs. Wife, the show has started off peaceably enough, but promises to unfold with the drama of a title fight. The two, who are married, have split the gallery 50/50, doing two separate installations. Tim’s is an interactive work with tubing twined around wood joinery that snakes down from the ceiling; the tubes connect bicycle pumps to Gatorade bottles that bubble and perfume the air with a fruity scent. Tiernan’s is a domestic scene where things seem to be amiss: a plant grows from a card catalogue, a mass of braided hair looks about to spring to life and crawl out of a baby crib. But it is after the opening night that the fun truly begins, when husband and wife each get to muck about with the other’s work, or as Tim put it, make the other’s “better”. Revisions and manipulations will be ongoing throughout the month, until the final product is revealed at the closing on August 27.
Glowing bricks lit the way into the disorienting dark of Marginal Utility for Abigail D. DeVille’s Gold Mountain (apologies in advance, as it was impossible to photograph well). Black lights illuminated the front of the gallery; an infernal red shone in the back. According to what I have read on their website, DeVille’s work explores race as an issue in contemporary America. Funny, because I did not observe anything in the least that would suggest this theme. If anything, the installation started off about as groovy as cosmic bowling, but then, in following the brick path, led towards a circle painted on the back wall reminiscent of a hell-mouth. Road to perdition via rave?
Vox Populi was all about performance for the night. Going Out, enacted by Bobby Gonzales and Jean Suivan, was concerned with the rituals of its namesake. When I first came in, the two were situated in opposing corners of the gallery set up as though separate apartments, fiddling on their laptops whilst talking on the phone to one another. A bit later, they were getting ready in earnest to “go out”. I did not stay for the next step, which apparently involved dancing and other aspects that relate to clubbing. Moving on to the next gallery, Beth Heinly lounged in her underwear as she read aloud from Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, a book by David Bayles and Ted Orland.
At the back gallery, I was completely delighted with Puppetyranny. By way of description, I will not say much, other than to direct you to the two videos below. Zachary Palladino acted as master of ceremonies, with Leslie Rogers offering her face as a proscenium, for a Mouth Puppet Show. A larger troupe of performers materialized to interpret Mystic Powers, the fantastical journey of two heroes who are literally joined at the hip, written by Palladino at the age of five.
Upstairs at Tiger Strikes Asteroid I chatted with Tom Vance about his Plan. There was a certain air of sereneness to the installation. The way in which the sculpture divided the gallery, channeling the flow of traffic, called to mind both Eastern and Western sensibilities, perhaps feng shui as well as the carefully manicured topiaries of a palatial European estate. Even the simple title of the work suggests landscape design. The partitioned fields within his paintings, like orderly compartments of a bento box, mimicked the feeling of human rationality as applied to nature.