If you want to see who’s fighting in the art world, visit the Freight + Volume gallery on West 24th Street and walk straight to the back.
The work, whose title translates as “war of all against all,” is part of a group show called “The Decline and Fall of the Art World, Part I: The One-Percenters,” through September 7 (Part II, “The Other 99%,” opens September 12).
Powhida and Townsend describe Bellum as more earnest than their prior collaboration, Art Basel Miami Beach Hooverville, a hilarious Boschian rendering of the fair scene as a sordid shantytown. When Hooverville premiered at New York’s Pulse Fair in 2010, critic Jerry Saltz (who is in it) described it as “a great big art world stink bomb.”
“We were thinking about the value systems that underlie each of the different practices,” says Powhida. “What people gravitate toward specific kinds of work.”
Adherents of Social Practice, Relational Aesthetics, video-game art, and lots of other kinds of art-making appear in Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes, but they don’t exactly get along.
The art world of Bellum is a brutal, bacchanalian landscape, patrolled by the ghosts of Modernism and MakerBot robot armies. Abstraction and figuration engage in brutal combat. The Bruce High Quality Foundation performs Animal Farm while one of its members is eaten by a dragon. Internet trolls ravage the Critical Refugee Encampment, where Artnet is burning down. Richard Serra makes an appearance as a Golem, and Jeffrey Deitch apparently does not survive.
An arcane “legend,” written on the drawing in the style of olde manuscripts, identifies the Virtual New Media Universe, The Aesthetishop, and the other imaginary battlefronts of these endless art-world wars.
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All images in slide show: Details from William Powhida and Jade Townsend, Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes, 2012, graphite on paper. Photos courtesy the artists and Freight + Volume.