Tonight, the Bushwick gallery 99¢ Plus opens “The Lamp Show,” a group exhibition wherein over 30 artists take a stab at creating some sort of light-producing object. Within those parameters, the show is very open-ended.
“The range of work is huge,” said curator Zoe Alexander Fisher, who also runs the Handjob gallery and store, located in the same space as 99¢ Plus. The show mixes and matches styles: works range from the more functional to what Alexander Fisher calls “very conceptual bizarre things that happen to be illuminated.”
Alexander Fisher pointed to a few standouts: Clown Lamp by New York artist Matthew Palladino—which features a sad clown with a lit-up face and nose and resembles some of the relief paintings the artist has been making—as well as Brooklyn-based B. Thom Stevenson’s “conceptual artist lamp that spins and moves” and includes an electric motor. On the more design end of things, she mentioned Gingko Lamp (1 of 3) by New York studio Chen Chen & Kai Williams, made with resin, wood, fabric, acrylic, and collaged bits of other materials.
Alexander Fisher also brought up “this crazy yellow clay ceramic lamp” care of the San Francisco–based artist Chris Lux. “My lamp is supposed to be a sweet potato,” Lux told me over the phone from Los Angeles. “It’s very much an assemblage of things that are supposed to represent a decaying underground version of a vegetable,” he continued. “Kind of like a tier in hell.”
The Hudson, New York–based artist Annie Bielski has worked with Handjob in the past on what she calls “sad, comedic objects,” including a series of iPhone cases made with two-by-fours. “They don’t really work, some of them are four feet long and they have a wheel attached to it,” she explained. For “The Lamp Show,” Bielski joked that the curator “asked if I would stick a lightbulb into something.” The result is Panty Lamp. The piece features a pair of Hanes underwear, painted and hardened, so they stand up on their own. “It’s really dumb. It’s like a two-trick lamp,” she went on to say, calling it “a pair of panties on top and a lightbulb underneath.”
Along with this spectrum of work comes a spectrum of prices—to be expected from a gallery whose name stems from a group show where work started at just under a buck. Things range from roughly $150 to around $3,000. For example: Panty Lamp can be had for $200, while B. Thom Stevenson’s Kinetic Lamp 1 fetches $2,700. The show contains work that is, according to the curator, “very accessible for a lot of people” alongside pieces and prices that inch toward a higher end.
Alexander Fisher sees “The Lamp Show” as part of a larger series of object-based exhibitions that she wants to explore further. “I want to basically develop and research with a bunch of artists what it means to make a functional object,” she said. As the show clearly displays, that can mean a lot of different things. There is definitely such a thing as a casual functionality. “I don’t know man, you lean it against things,” the New York artist Nick DeMarco told me over text message as a way to explain his Step Lamp. “It’s got little steps that you can put sea shells and other little junk on.”