Introducing the mask
If you came to this site looking for a guide to the fair week keep looking. You will not find any such information here. Instead, what you will find are honest reactions to the work and events that we have already experienced. Some may be happening tomorrow, but this is not our concern. What is our concern is to embrace the immediacy and inherent superficiality of our chosen medium to disseminate short, fast, sometimes ill-considered thoughts from a vaguely anonymous source. Part of this endeavor now includes first hand accounts of the community from behind a re-appropriated Halloween mask.
In FriendsWithYou’s Design District offices and boutique on the second floor of the Melin Building (corner of NE 39th Street and 2nd Ave) bright primary colors and elementary shapes dominate the exhibition Building Blocks and point to the usual happy, inclusive origins, but there is something palpably less-naive-than-we-have-come-to-expect from their approach and contribution to contemporary visual art to date, a shift toward something that betrays the simplicity evoked by the exhibition’s title.
Their work has always played with superstition and pareidolia, and their characters continue to serve as mirrors to the viewer, Waldorf-like catalysts for imagination, memories or self realization through play, but the proclaimed appreciation for the benign spiritual dimension that defined their process, at least until 2008, is somehow less present here.
Their aesthetic has always fallen into a vaguely Asian bracket. For better or worse this pressures the need for distinction amidst the sea of samey kawaii/anime related art/products. As they continue to work hard on that front this might be a moot point, but for the first time we saw other artists in their work, and the more we looked the more we saw.
They continue to tap into the child-like innocence thing very well – previously with a convincingly scribbled mock-incompetent aesthetic and now with more polished, almost edible creations – but this latest body of work definitely feels more grown up than elemental, as if their graphic sensibilities are hardening from their experiences with factory finished forms of steel and latex.
Our question is – because we pose questions here not point fingers – that while employing cute faced things when toying with the idea of the multiple has admittedly made for some stunning work does it seem to anyone else that the intention of this direction, in spite of the pair’s consistent ability to successfully broadcast themselves, is a predominantly commercial one masked by corporate pathos? OR do the apparent references simply point to a reverence for the Art, not just the Art World, inherent in FriendsWithYou?
After pondering this for a moment and concluding nothing is so black and white, especially in their colorful, make-believe universe, we moved down the road to check out the eagerly anticipated Rainbow City installation from FriendsWithYou, Paper magazine and Aol, hosted by Shephard Fairey and the special performance by N*E*R*D with Pharrell Williams and DJ Mia Moretti.
When it became apparent that being on the guest list still meant you had to queue for hours we hit up a few venues opposite event.
In Swamp Space, a couple of kissing booths are working to help raise funds for the local Design and Architecture Senior High school (DASH). Manned largely by hopeful young men we were lucky enough to catch the Principal of DASH, Stacy Mancuso in a three way clinch with gallery owner Oliver Sanchez and a mystery woman. As ever Swamp Space is littered with artistic gems, treasured remnants of bygone days and their artists past.
Next door in a shared studio space, Miami’s food artist Jason Hedges was serving up gruel in a gallery style setting. Less informal gatherings than installations or performances, although they are beautifully considered, Hedges’ exhibitions are equal parts informed experience, history lesson and if not always to everyone’s taste, at least consistently well prepared. A subtle element of showmanship is always affected, but the spectacle one perceives is often purely a reaction, an interesting twist of our evolution that methods once necessary for our survival are now novel. Whether the artist himself is a reactionary foodie who believes we should all return to the status quo ante is, like his recipes, as yet unknown.
In the end we never did get into Rainbow City. By the time the queue began to show signs of dying down the majority of our party had gone home to put their disappointed kids to bed, the rest remained only to be told that maximum occupancy levels had been reached. Its not surprising that being from Miami and/or knowing the organizers counts for nothing when trying to get into events like these during fair week, nor is anyone really to blame, but it does suck[.]
This post was contributed by Thomas Hollingworth.