One of the great beauties of the art world is that the barriers to entry are breathtakingly minimal. Have some art that you think is worth showing to the world? Literally all you need is a little bit of space and some lights—a point that Dave Hickey underscored by naming his short-lived Austin gallery A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (after the Hemingway story).
In recent years there has been an insane explosion in the number of galleries in New York City, facilitated by that ease, and pushed along by the growing size of the art world and the number of people who want to inhabit it. Every third person I meet here seems to be a something-hypen-dealer, and artist-dealers are operating the firm majority of interesting young commercial galleries right now.
I expect I am not alone in feeling both overwhelmed and delighted. The spaces just keep coming! There are the big-box entrants, to be sure, but also boatloads of scrappy, fly-by-night galleries, operating in far-flung neighborhoods, out of studios and apartments. At least one is moving into an RV. They’re often open for just a single night, or a few hours each week, or only by appointment. News of their goings-on circulates among friends and social media.
This, of course, is an old story—people cooking up clever and cheap ways to show art—but what’s new is that these fringe spaces are arriving faster than ever before, and increasingly they’re the places to find the most interesting art in town. Since the financial risk is low, on-the-make artists can be as weird as they please, but because they’re performing in front of peers, they swing for the fences. Below, three shows in out-of-the-way (but tapped-in) places worth a visit.
“Jake Cruzen Joseph Geagan: Kanacoka” at Bed-Stuy Love Affair
No one in the New York art game is having more fun right now than Jared Madere. He’s an artist, and for the past year and a half he’s has been putting together positively ridiculous—filthy, funny, action-packed—shows, viewable by appointment, out of his pleasantly scuffed home/studio on the second floor of a Bed-Stuy brownstone. He named the space after a cocktail at the redoubtable Peach’s restaurant, located nearby, and recently held a benefit auction with Paddle8 to make ends meet.
This two-person show is easily the most traditional project that the space has seen, which is really saying something because it’s still a pretty odd one. On the one hand, you have Joseph Geagan, who makes fearsome figurative drawings—pencil or ink on paper—that have the vibe of black-metal album covers or occult-worship manuals. One has a gnarly haired, bare-breasted woman (I think) surrounded by scribbles and indecipherable symbols. Another, titled Industry Girls, is a teeming, grotesque boudoir/nightclub scene with a nice whiff of “Café Deutschland”-era Immendorf, hastily and densely sketched. There are at least four different (though certainly related) forms of outré figuration in his work. Why should he have to choose?
Jake Cruzen, meanwhile, has four ostensibly straightforward paintings on canvas. They’re in vaguely Cézanne-esque, dirty-water shades, and show a cloudy blue sky, a nude young woman, a bouquet of red flowers (the winner, hung over the space’s bricked-up fireplace), and what appears to be a rust stain, or possibly blood. They look like nearly finished works of an earnest amateur, or stripped-down fragments of the paintings that Bob Dylan showed in his first Gagosian joint. They carry with them the threat that they could dissolve into grimy abstractions at any moment.
Soon, Madere will be further flouting gallery conventions. He recently purchased an RV and is bringing the show down to Miami to coincide with the Basel Week fairs. When he returns to New York, Bed-Stuy Love Affair will be based out of that vehicle, becoming a gallery sans address.
Further north in Brooklyn, artist-dealer Tyler Dobson, who co-directs the Real Fine Arts gallery (where a winning Stefan Tcherepnin show is now on view), is hosting by-appointment shows out of his Greenpoint apartment. This one has just two large, long paintings—they barely fit on the walls—by the incisive Berlin duo Flame, nicely timed for auction season. One is made of a series of identical faux red Rothkos connected in a nested row and emblazoned with the word “burrito” (a nod to the deeply mediocre market-star Oscar Murillo) and the other total-abstraction Pollocks, defaced with a sticker that reads, “I FEEL NOTHING AT ALL.” The copies are not good enough to qualify as forgeries, but they’re sincere (better than they need to be), and share with Sturtevant’s (more precise) repetitions the mission of undercutting the comfort of recognizable imagery. Flame mimics, multiplies, and defaces blue-chip works, creating not so much a networked painting as a rococo painting of a network spinning comically out of control. (A last note: don’t miss the superb press release by critic Steven Shaviro.)
Boško Blagojević at Groung Floor Theater
In an industrial building a few blocks away, two artists who show with Real Fine Arts, Whitney Claflin and Dave Miko, have converted Claflin’s modest former studio into a space, painting the concrete floor a solid black and opening it to the public on Saturday afternoons. Their third show as Groung (the pronunciation is open to interpretation) is with the writer and artist Boško Blagojević (who, as it happens, recently opened his own low-key space, called Svetlana, in TriBeCa). There’s a sculpture of barbed wire, an outsourced, unfinished drawing of a large tarot card, and an audio piece that plays only when the door is closed, which causes the lights to go out. You listen in the dark as Blagojević tells a story in second-person about drug-addled downtown decadence, cut through with tales of torture, both psychosexual and physical. A beautiful woman named Victoria is involved. It’s a haunting show—and proof of just how much you can get done with a few dozen square feet.
“Art of the City” is a weekly column by ARTnews co-executive editor Andrew Russeth. It will be off next week for Thanksgiving, and return on Tuesday, December 2.