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Down at the Factory: Bruce High Quality Foundation Channels Warhol at Benefit in Industry City

COURTESY BFA

COURTESY BFA

Last week, on a floor in one of Industry City’s many warehouses, a sampling of the matriculated scrappy-looking Cooper Union students mixed with the artists they hope to become at the “Not For Profit” benefit concert for the Bruce High Quality Foundation University—the free art school in the East Village founded by the eponymous art collective.

“I brought my friend here and he was like, ‘Where are we going, the Hamptons’?” said designer Waris Ahluwalia. The massive, waterfront complex is in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, but close enough.

The lines at the bar were such that I didn’t bother and, with the exception of the noise band (“Is this screamo?”) that played what seems to have been a set, the comedians and dancers—many of them Bruce students—performing in different (largely inconvenient) nooks and crannies of the space could barely be heard.

Per usual, Dustin Yellin made himself heard, describing his method for making matzo ball soup (“Two hours the way I roast the balls”) and how his friendship began with Ahluwalia: “I was trying to play with the elephants in a blue forest and it was New Year’s Eve. We pressed up against each other. It was crazy the way we felt and feel.”

“Thank you for that,” said Ahluwalia. “I’m touched.”

I thanked him too and excused myself to speak to Williamsburg-based artist Oliver Clegg, who had some “art news” for me. “I make homemade sausages,” he said. That’s everything that’s fit to print? I asked. “Yes.” Okay then.

In another corner of the room, Allison Brainard, a Bruce student who was performing a rendition of the last sequence of Flashdance in her “Judy” wig, said her day job was assisting Marina Abramovic. I asked her what she did for her boss that day. “Um,” she said. “We ate oatmeal for breakfast.”

Speaking of the banal lives of our favorite art celebrities: “I saw Marina Abromovic in Crate & Barrel shopping for stuff,” Matthew Doull, the former owner of The Hollywood Reporter, told me. “I was like, wow, even Marina has to buy placemats.”

Less prosaic was the pile of Bushwick-aged kids collapsed around one of the “interactive art pieces” on display (chalkboards, basically). They were scrawling messages: “2COOL4SCHOOL,” “I wore my slut clogs for this,” etc. A young man was wearing swimming goggles because he forgot his glasses. “They’re prescription,” he said.

I asked the photographer Clifford Ross if he came here to talk to the youths. “No, sure, more just to breathe the air,” he said. “It’s good energy. There’s a tempo of Andy’s Factory.” Hm, really? “If you can’t feel optimistic here, you’re really screwed.” Speaking of Andy’s, Bob Colacello, the editor of Interview magazine under Warhol, was in the crowd with his arm around the host of the evening, a louche Vito Schnabel, both looking very…ready for Miami.

They were perusing the art, much of which was collaboratively made by those in the semi-secretive Bruce High Quality Foundation collective. (The event took place in their impressively large studio.) None would give their names to me, though three mumbled that they studied at Cooper. (The collective was founded there about a decade ago, and they’ve kept their identities “anonymous” even though most of the art world knows who they are and what they look like.) I didn’t not enjoy their cheeky, Play-Doh reconstructions of the Met’s Greek and Roman Collection.

I headed outside and flagged down a cab that was arriving to deliver Natalie Kovacs, the independent curator, straight from Paris. “This is fate,” she said, stuffing cash through the receptacle. I let the cab go and lit her cigarette for her. “Nobody works and everybody mopes in Paris,” she said, “They’re all crooked, they’re all thieves, and they’re all dishonest in business.” Viva Americana!

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