Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, on Greenwich Street in New York, is looking more like a garage these days than a gallery. All the doors and windows have been removed and their casement grids leaned against the walls, leaving the space open to fitful late-winter weather. There are tables and chairs loosely arranged in the front room, remainders of the opening March 5. Scrawled on the walls in spray-paint lettering is the giant graffito, “FEAR EATS THE SOUL.” Referring to the 1974 Fassbinder movie Ali, Fear Eats the Soul—as well as the general tenor of our times—this is the title of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s latest show with Gavin Brown, his first at the gallery since 2008.
Everything in the show refers to earlier exhibitions by the artist in New York over the past 20 years. The look and pacing are those of ordinary life, the career-long preoccupation of this latter-day Situationist. The feeling is somewhat melancholic, like being inside a Jasper Johns grisaille.
INSTALLATION VIEW. COURTESY GAVIN BROWN’S ENTERPRISE.
A couple of makeshift plywood offices have been constructed. They allude to the “apartments” Tiravanija built in galleries (including Brown’s) in the late ’90s, where he would set up his life temporarily. In one, the artist has opened a T-shirt factory. There someone is screenprinting black lettering on white shirts and selling them for $20 apiece. Choose your text from a bunch lining the room. I’m feeling pissed off about Wisconsin, so I selected “RICH PEOPLE BEWARE.” You can also get “NO ONE KNOWS I’M A LESBIAN” and “I’VE GOT DOUGHNUTS AT HOME,” among others, depending on your mood.
Brown sits in the other office most hours (he was not there when A.i.A. visited), surrounded by chrome-glazed ceramic casts of objects—VCR tapes and a bed, a wok and a Brillo box, etc.—from “Andy Warhol,” a 1992 Tiravanija show at Brown’s first, scruffier venue on Broome Street. And the artist is cooking again, now and then, like in the old days: some Saturday evenings you can get roast pig, prepared by Tiravanija on the premises.
Around the corner, on Leroy Street, above a small doorway, the “SOUP” part of a white neon sign that reads “NO SOUP” is lit. Open the door and you find yourself in a big kitchen with a long bench against the wall. There, on Wednesdays through Fridays, 10 to 6, until Apr. 16, someone will serve you a bowl of soup for free (donations welcome). Yesterday, when we went, it was delicious chicken tortilla soup with generous chunks of chicken, corn and cilantro, a dollop of sour cream and fresh-squeezed lime. This was the invention of Glori Linares, the head of Tiravanija’s studio. She was serving the soup, and looked fairly pleased with herself-as well she might, since there were plenty of compliments issuing from the smattering of lunch-crowd guests.
The night of the opening the soup was Gavin Brown’s Cock-A-Leekie potato-leek, which will reappear next week. Another week, Tiravanija himself will stir up a Thai recipe.
“Have some more,” urged Danny Baez, another Tiravanija assistant, but we were satisfied and headed back to our own jobs in better spirits than when we arrived.
(You can find out what’s on the menu at soupnosoup.com, where the cooks have also generously posted their recipes.
“Fear Eats the Soul” is on view through Apr. 16. Tiravanija is opening another exhibition called “Murder and Mayhem,” a collaborative sound installation with Nico Dockx, at 1301PE in Los Angeles, on March 18.)