PROW refers to the collaboration of artists Peter Rostovsky and Olav Westphalen, modeled after the organization of film studios. Recognizing that contemporary art, like filmmaking, involves many hands and minds, they strive to publicly acknowledge this multiple authorship. Rostovsky and Westphalen propose that we recognize the contributions of people with specialized skills or ideas in less easily numerated ways than regular wages, and everyone who helps make the installations is credited.
The pairing’s two exhibitions in New York, Prow: The Prequel at Sara Meltzer and Anti-Prow at Art in General, draw on conventions of narrative film. In both, visitors to the show become the protagonist, led through time and space by a sequence of events. The drawings that line the walls of both galleries provide the subject matter of the shows’ story. However, unlike typical narrative film, the ending of the story is not evident.
At Sara Meltzer, the show was set on a six-minute loop. Entering the space, a mechanically rigged cello and violin filled the gallery with a single minute-long note. The house lights dimmed, and a flickering fire of spotlights and fabric blowing in circulated air turned on for one minute. When the gallery lights came up, the audience had four minutes to view the exhibition’s six ink and watercolor drawings, which took their imagery from a free online archive of 3D models. The original authors of the models are credited alongside the collaborators and assistants who contributed. The content of the pictures ranged from a plane crash to a planter filled with exotic flowers, to a man suspended by a crane in front of a green screen. The drawings resemble set designs and or prop diagrams for a movie, each an episode unto themselves.
The show at Art in General shares formal components with the Sara Meltzer gallery; a unifying wall treatment, a series of drawings produced by multiple authors; an eye-catching sculpture in the center of the space. Instead of a linear and controlled time-based experience for viewers, multiple temporalities and ideas are available at once. The artists wheat-pasted the back gallery with print-outs of manifestos from sources ranging the political canon: Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, to fashion news, “Karl Lagerfeld Delivers His Fashion Manifesto,” and PROW’s own manifesto, which highlights their inclusiveness: “interventionist without hubris, and entertainment without a laugh track.”
A series of black drawings are layered over the historical documents and depict historic figures in very public death scenes. Lenin, Mao, and Che lay in state beside a represented Cobain’s suicide. Drawings duties were divvied up by Rostovsky and Westphalen, who respectively have clean and sketchy styles. There’s an interesting triangulation of public space, the artist’s mediated but singular pronouncedly singular interpretation, and the romantic hero. The artists also resist a hierarchy of icons and ideas that tests the notions of meritocracy.