I started taking note of Katherine Bernhardt’s work after I saw cigarettes on her canvases. One of her paintings she posted to her Instagram took up the better half of someone’s living room wall, and aside from the lushious palm leaves she has a particular affinity for there were cigarettes orientated right beside the vegetation. I thought, Wow… how stupid! I mean that in the most generous of ways. It takes a certain level of skill to achieve a balance in painting, especially when you’re inserting pop-arty items like Bernhardt does. You can catch the Pink Panther, Darth Vader and Garfield all on display at her most recent show at Canada. Featuring eight canvases and an additional six sculptures, GREEN is what you would expect from a Bernhardt show. I mostly went because the very first canvas exhibited on Canada is visible from the street, and I could not help but laugh every time I walked past. One thing I should mention is that this particular painting, titled “Direct Flight” is fucking 114 x 318 inches — It takes up the entire wall. Not to mention the juxtaposition of cigarettes and pink watermelon surrounding what seriously looks like a flightless bird is just totally hilarious. I’m really interested in her content because frankly it makes no sense, though my best guess — what with all of the American iconography — is that she has a deep interest in what has become banal to the contemporary person. Coke cans, coffee machines, Lisa Simpson, sharpies. This is an artist who loves Capitalism’s detritus and welcomes them into the world of paint with messy strokes, a disregard for reapplication of color, and spray paint. It’s all very cheery in Bernhardt’s world, at least that’s what I’m taking from it as an American in 2018! On view through Feb. 11th.
If you’ve ever been to Printed Matter’s Art Book Fair in New York or Art Basel, you know that these sorts of bazaar-style, art-driven spaces feel like highly competitive arenas. They’re driven by art, of course, plus consumerism and all of the trendy-folk who love to go out to see and be seen. If that’s totally not your schtick, I get it. It can be exhausting to pretend your fabulous, or even care, but this weekend you’re in luck! Back for its 20th edition is Postcards From the Edge. Featuring postcard size works from a handful of celebrated artists like Catherine Opie, Nicole Eisenman, Nayland Blake, Tom Bianchi, Marilyn Minter and many other queer-focused photographers and painters, over 1,500 works displayed will all be on sale from Friday through Sunday for an eye-popping $85 with proceeds going towards the organization celebrating their 30th year! That means even if you’re struggling to make rent, you could budget your funds right (say no to brunch this weekend) and end up owning a serious piece of art. Here’s the catch: The works are shown anonymously, so you’ll have to spend a particular amount of time assessing the works if you’re after a particular name. I chatted with Esther McGowan, Executive Director of Visual AIDS and she said, “Saturday is very busy, with collectors vying to grab artwork that they think is by a well known artist. Sunday is more chill, with a great special – BUY 2 GET THE 3RD FREE!” Because I’ve been to many similar fairs, I wanted to get the inside scoop: Was there any way of spotting the well known artists? How can we beat crowds? She just told me to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to spend time looking at a lot of art. “It’s not always easy to spot works by well-known artists – sometimes they create a work for us that is in a different style than their usual.” Good to know!
The multimedia event took place at American Medium in NYC
Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon is a massive show at the New Museum. When we decamped for the opening night party it felt like every queer who makes the art world buzzy was there for a peek at the many who are contouring what we know as gender. Amidst sculptures, photographs and paintings, a delicious collage featuring vintage pornography hung on one of the gallery walls. It was by no means an in your face work, but its subtlety seemed to toy with everything Trigger is about: gender, sexuality, race, subverting the socio-political identity. Troy Michie has been working in assemblage for several years now. Having come out of grad school pursuing research-based work (the pornography and other images in his work are sourced), his first solo show up at Company Gallery Fat Cat Came to Play continues his ongoing exploration of blackness, queerness and sexuality within assemblage. While earlier works deal more explicitly with sex, his solo show takes queerness seen as a fashion and elaborates on the socio-political/socio-economic characteristics built into the Zoot Suit. Popularized by jazz musicians and typically seen worn by black men, this fashion was co-opted by butch lesbians in the 50s and has a silent queer history itself. Company exhibits several new works with sourced materials from vintage Vogue pages, to some of Michie’s own repurposed clothing. Most noteworthy is a customized zoot suit he had made by a local Texas tailor. It sits among 2017 back issues of The New York Times, beginning with Inauguration Day. Michie, who has Mexican relatives, wanted to explore labor and how that’s convoluted into daily fashion, especially in the tumultuous lens of contemporary American politics. The show nods at queerness, blue-collar labor, and how fashion — an armor of its own — has been dictating class structures since the beginning of the 20th century.
Gio Black Peter and Brian Kenny's multi-media creative lab is back with performance, film, dance, art and more.
Gio Black Peter and Brian Kenny — longtime friends, creative collaborators and GAYLETTER contributors — met while bartending. The two got popular in the downtown scene with their big old art party “Over the Knee.” They’ve brought “OTK” back for another installment, and we sent them a few questions to learn more about the show.
Why is it called OTK2? Brian & Gio: OTK is an acronym for “Over The Knee.” This is our second Over The Knee event, so it’s OTK2! The phrase “Over the Knee” is a reference to spanking. We both like this action phrase because spanking is about rule-breaking, administering discipline/taking action, sex (both playful and serious) and irreverence, all which are important concepts that apply to our creative practices. The night is our way our way to show resistance!
How did OTK2 come together? We started this collaboration back in the day when we met as bartenders in a now defunct downtown NYC sleaze bar. Since we were both artists it was only natural for us to incorporate our creativity into our nightlife. We’d go crazy and jump all over the bar, draw on the walls, draw on each other. The go-go dancers would get naked or only wear trash bags and dance with each other. [Gio] would sing, [Brian] would pole dance and we’d spank people for free Jagermeister shots. We made beautiful paddles that we covered in our drawings. Eventually word got out and our party became a hit. …
Two separate shows reflect on AIDS, community and compassion.
Downtown Manhattan in the latter part of the 20th century is something of lore if you grew up interested in the arts, alternative rock, counter-culture or battling corrupt government. Nan Goldin was no stranger to 1980s New York City’s dangerous and drug fueled streets. She moved to New York following her graduation from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1978 and quickly began photographing the burgeoning arts scene. Goldin befriended and photographed the many vibrant characters that populated the Bowery neighborhood. Among those documented in her work was Kathleen White.
In dual shows up at Pioneer Works, curator David Everitt Howe — along with White’s partner Rafael Sánchez — returns Spirits of Manhattan to the gallery setting in tandem with Nan Goldin: Kathleen, which features five portraits of White taken by Goldin in the 90s.
Spirits of Manhattan was first shown in 1999’s Shy, an exhibition curated by Goldin that featured works from some of those she was photographing at the time . In what Pioneer Works calls a “posthumous return to White’s work” (the artist lost her battle with cancer in 2014), the two separate but interconnected exhibitions revolve around the two artists; “formidable colleagues, they were mutually affected by the AIDS crisis then unfolding in the 1980s and 90s.”
Wig suitcase, c. 1990s, suitcase, wigs, dimensions variable.
Flloyd, 1991, wig hair, hair, watercolor, acrylic, glitter, pencil, and eye pencil on phone book page, dimensions variable. …
On a private tour, Festival of Life took our breath away
Search “#Kusama” on Instagram and notice how many polka-dotted mirror selfies clog the feed. You’ve probably seen these playful rooms online before. When seen digitally, the rooms that appear to extend for miles look like elaborate set designs. People’s photos are a curiosity all their own, and knowledge of their context or not, Kusama’s work looks like art made with the millennial in mind.
Yayoi Kusama’s work is worth millions of dollars. That should come as no surprise. Aside from being one of the most widely shared and known working artists today, Kusama has been shocking crowds since the 1960s when Andy Warhol and his factory were camping up the line between the commercial and the gallery. Kusama was right there inside the movement, goofing up the seriousness of art-culture and debuting work in a handful of mediums including painting, performance and sculpture.
In 1965 the then-young artist premiered “Infinity Mirror Room: Phalli’s Field.” It included hundreds of soft, phallic forms in a room under 300 square-feet that enveloped the viewer in a kind of psychosexual encounter; one that commanded attention due in part to the total copiousness of it. Since then, Kusama has debuted several more of her now world-famous infinity rooms and they have since been exhibited in galleries and museums all over the world, not to mention broadcasted on social media ad nauseam.
Yayoi Kusama: Festival of Life at David Zwirner has been drawing crowds since it opened on November 2nd. Including sixty-six paintings from the iconic My Eternal Soul series, plus the premiere of two new infinity rooms and three new large-scale flower sculptures, the show reconstitutes the artist’s prolific nature and invites art-lovers and social media bloggers alike to the gallery where lines to see her incomparable work have extended into several hour wait periods. …
Each year, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art curates an “ART & AIDS” exhibition. This year’s show is called 35 Years of Survival and will serve to commemorate the 35th anniversary of GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis). “The artworks, created in a variety of media, are the products of GMHC clients and weekly therapeutic art classes run by GMHC’s Volunteer, Work & Wellness Center. Art instructors donate their time to teach classes for GMHC’s clients (who include both professional and non-professional artists), and teacher David Livingston, along with GMHC board member Osvaldo Perdomo, curate the exhibition.” There will also be a panel discussion featuring Sally Fisher, Luna Luis Ortiz, Nelson Santos, and Robert Vázquez-Pacheco. The panel discussion will be moderated by museum cofounder Charles Leslie. All you need to do is register/RSVP, which is free, and show up! That RSVP comes with a guaranteed seat in the panel audience, also — yas! If the event is filled I am sure if you ask them they'll let you stand or sit on the floor. As queer people, it’s important for us to interact with queer art, how else are we to understand our collective and not-as-collective struggles?
A review of Joseph Rodriguez's recent documentary photo book Spanish Harlem, El Barrio in the '80s.
Here at the GAYLETTER office, we’re surrounded by photo books. Some are fine art, some documentary. Some portraiture, some erotic. A few of the books are by photographers we’re friends with or have worked alongside, while others we’ve received as gifts or to review. The newest book in the GL library is Spanish Harlem by Brooklyn-raised photographer Joseph Rodriguez.
Before I dive into my glowing review of the book, I’ll pass on a few words from the press release to give my thoughts some context.
“Spanish Harlem, New York’s oldest barrio, is the U.S. mecca where Puerto Ricans first established themselves in the 1940s. One of America’s most vital centers of Latino culture, Spanish Harlem is home to 125,000 people, half of whom are Latino. Shot in the mid-to-late 80s, Joseph Rodriguez’s superb photographs bring us into the core of the neighborhood, capturing a spirit of a people that survives despite the ravages of poverty, and more recently, the threat of gentrification and displacement. In a now-distant landscape littered with abandoned buildings, ominous alleyways, and the plague of addiction, the residents of Spanish Harlem persevered with flamboyant style and gritty self-reliance.
“The heart of the work comes from Rodriguez’s intimacy and access. The trust and familiarity he built with his subjects — repeated visits with no camera, then no photographing, then little by little, a peek here, a shot there — allowed him to transcend surface level sheen and exploitation to capture images that reveal the essence of the neighborhood and of the era. …