Detours is an ongoing series in which a New York–based artist gives a tour of a show of his or her choosing. For this edition, we go to Glen Fogel, who is known for his multimedia environments that deal with intimacy. He currently has a new video installation on view at JTT with an intriguing premise: It’s based on Fogel’s discovery that, following a fling with the director Andrew Haigh, he ended up being the inspiration for a character in the acclaimed 2011 film “Weekend.” Here, Fogel discusses an exhibition of new paintings by Martin Gustavsson at Participant Inc. Running alongside the Gustavsson show is an ongoing live rehearsal for an upcoming performance by Stanley Love, which will be held at Participant in January. Love, whose performances have been seen at the Whitney Biennial and in Performa 15, will chant and dance around Gustavsson’s paintings—both artists evoke layers of history and refer to the sex club that used to be in Participant’s space. Fogel’s show at JTT, titled “Why Don’t I…Pretend to Be Your Dad,” runs through January 17. Martin Gustavsson’s “El Mirage” will be on view at Participant through January 17; Love’s performance will be held at the gallery each day from January 13 to 17.
On a Sunday afternoon, at Participant Inc., Stanley Love could be heard making clanging noises and yelling, “Five, six, I was here first. I was here before you.” Meanwhile, Glen Fogel pointed to a Martin Gustavsson painting of a man’s hand. The painting was on wheels and partially transparent—it was half abstract, with the other half looking like a figure study of a reclining man. “This one is really odd,” he shouted, competing with the noise from Love’s screaming and banging. “Do you see the man’s extra finger?” He was right—the hand had six fingers.
Twenty minutes earlier, the situation seemed much less absurd. Love hadn’t entered the gallery yet, and Fogel had just emerged from the back of the space, wearing a tanned leather jacket, a deep-blue button-down, and some stubble. Fogel is friendly with the staff of Participant—he had his first New York solo show there in 2011, and met Gustavsson through Participant’s director, Lia Gangitano. Gustavsson, who hails from Sweden, has never had a solo show in the states, Fogel explained, “and it just happens to be right around the corner from my show that’s up at the same time, which is exciting for both of us. I know the work, and I know him.”
Shortly after he said this, one gallery visitor came up to Fogel to thank him, and he responded by telling her and someone she was with to have a nice day. He turned to me and smirked. “Those people just asked me if they could move the paintings around,” he said, laughing a little. “They assumed I worked here or something.”
Just to prove to me that you could, in fact, move them around, Fogel walked behind one of Gustavsson’s canvases and pushed it in front of me. The painting was a blurry image of what appears to be Michelangelo’s David, but, as Fogel explained, it’s actually Robert Mapplethorpe. Nearby was a painting of a Peter Hujar photograph of a man masturbating.
“The show’s called ‘El Mirage,’ and [Gustavsson] wanted to conjure up the spirit of El Mirage, which was a sex club here, and also bring East Village gay artists back into the space,” Fogel said.
At about that time, Love walked into the gallery and plopped himself down on the floor next to a performer who was waiting for him. Fogel introduced me to Love, who is lanky and has shoulder-length hair, and we exchanged pleasantries. Love is currently in residence at the gallery, rehearsing a performance before he formally premieres it on January 13, but he’s been having trouble getting everyone to be in the same place at once. “People are moving all the time,” he said. “It’s kind of, like, all over the place.”
Love disappeared behind some paintings and began to dance and sing, so Fogel started discussing the show’s combination of performance and painting. “With this show, [Gustavsson’s] kind of relinquished control of how the show’s going to look from day to day,” Fogel said. “People come in, they switch around the lights, everything changes. Me, I’m a total control freak, so my show is so highly tuned. I would have an anxiety attack!”
Fogel’s also interested in how Gustavsson and Love move people through a space—so interested, in fact, that the day after we spoke, he sent me an e-mail about Love’s performances. Love has used Gustavsson’s show as a stage for rehearsals, but Fogel hasn’t been able to spend too much time watching them. He did catch Love’s performance at the 2012 Whitney Biennial, in which he had dancers perform routines to a Bee Gees song. “He was able to communicate simultaneously a deep love of the pop culture and a total disdain for it,” Fogel wrote in an e-mail. “This kind of reclaiming of pop culture is something that I am also deeply invested in and plays out in my current show.”
Fogel also sees some similarities between his work and Gustavsson’s paintings. They’ve both recently started doing double-sided painting. Well, sort of. It would be more accurate to say that Fogel has started conceiving new paintings of postcards, then would send them out to China, where they are painted by non-English speakers. The paintings come back with characters and words that aren’t in the English language. “When I saw these, I was like, ‘We were making the same paintings at the same time!’” Fogel said, referring to the fact that they were both making double-sided work.
Perhaps the greatest similarity between Gustavsson and Love’s show and Fogel’s new installation at JTT is the way they move viewers through space, allowing them to become a part of the work, whether they like it or not. “There are layers of history in it, too,” Fogel said, noting the way that their show refers to the former occupant of Participant’s address, and the way that his show at JTT refers explicitly to his personal life.
Fogel walked over to a painting of two semi-circles with a splash of green moving across them. “I think the abstract ones are particularly stunning,” Fogel said over loud banging, courtesy of Love. “This one’s supposed to be a butt with a piss stain taken from a Mapplethorpe photograph.”
“And by the way, I’m going to kill you today,” Love could be heard shouting as he practiced his performance. Fogel didn’t flinch.
The painting had two circular holes in it, and Fogel moved it in front of a stage light on the floor to create what he found to be a beautiful effect. A circle of light was now cast onto another painting on wheels, creating what looked like a tiny spotlight; Fogel’s shadow could be seen moving behind the painting. He stepped back around, admiring the other painting’s new look, and said, “I think it’s just a playful gesture about creating a space where life can move through something.”