SUMMER IN NEW YORK IS DISMAL. It turns your face into a pus farm, the air is rich with the scent of garbage cooking on the sidewalks, and my friends’ lengthy trips to Montauk or Morocco remind me of what everyone else seems to have and I don’t.
Thankfully, others approach the season with a spirit of generosity—specifically Vanessa Carlos, Simone Subal, and Nicole Russo, the organizers of Condo New York, “a large-scale collaborative exhibition of international galleries” (as per Condo’s website) that sidesteps the enervating costs and madness of the art-fair circuit and promotes collaborative models of distributing and exhibiting new art via galleries hosting other galleries. Carlos started the first iteration of the event in London last year, and now it’s New York’s turn, with sixteen spaces throughout the Lower East Side, SoHo, and Chelsea showcasing twenty galleries from cities such as Vienna, Glasgow, Los Angeles, and Dublin. (Of course, Condo wasn’t the only game in town during the pre–July Fourth weekend blitz. Other temptations included Janiva Ellis’s debut at 47 Canal, Jack McGrath’s “Visual Notes for an Upside-Down World” at P.P.O.W., and a tight group of Alvin Baltrop prints selected by Douglas Crimp for Galerie Buchholz on the Upper East Side.)
I met the inimitable sculptresses Elisabeth Kley and Libby Rothfeld on Thursday at Bridget Donahue, where a suite of silk-skinned vixens by 1970s Japanese airbrush maestro/commercial illustrator Harumi Yamaguchi were hanging on boudoir-pink walls in Donahue’s backroom. Yamaguchi came to the gallery through Stephan Tanbin Sastawidjaja, proprietor of London’s Project Native Informant. (Artforum’s Kate Sutton brilliantly described one work from Yamaguchi’s show at PNI a few months ago as “a semisapphic tangle of limbs in a cashmere-sweatered collision.”) We then popped over to Subal’s, where she had work from Tanya Leighton (of Berlin) and Gregor Staiger (of Zurich). In Subal’s small antechamber were Aleksandra Domanović’s sculptures of box-bodied figures with buff arms and Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s dainty, Victorian-style oil portraits of bats (the Dracula kind) and dragonflies.
But the hosts doing the most were the ones giving over the entirety of their spaces to their guests. Case in point: Simon Preston Gallery’s exhibition from São Paulo’s Galeria Jaqueline Martins and Guatemala City’s Proyectos Ultravioleta. My posse gagged over the late artist Hudinilson Jr.’s pair of tenebrous oil paintings of masked and headless figures from 1978—a poisonous concoction of midwestern surrealist Gertrude Abercrombie, Pierre Klossowski, and Aubrey Beardsley. Gavin Brown’s Grand Street outpost had Mexico City’s Labor do its thing via “Las ruinas circulares” (The Circular Ruins), a group offering of sculptures, paintings, drawings, and a video, A World Undone [Protolith], 2012, by Nicholas Mangan: an evanescent, abstract work of stardusted particles gently gliding through space.
We ended our evening on Delancey Street at the divine Mitchell Algus Gallery, where Paris’s High Art was serving. Artist Dan Burkhart was there. He talked to us about his shiny, creepy, yolk-colored sculpture Imperial Monitor, 2014, a bust of a crowned man with a lantern jaw and chubby caruncles, which apparently came to him in a dream. Algus showed me two cast polyester resin sculptures by Nancy Arlen, the former drummer for the No Wave band Mars, who died in 2006. One looked like a pointy, psychedelically hued child’s water wing designed by a sadist (Martian, 1981); the other, Glass Cat, 1981, a translucent digestive canal with crumbling bits of bezoar trapped within. The dealer regaled Elisabeth and me with tales of Arlen’s hardscrabble life and misanthropy. I told him that I found Glass Cat terrifying because it looked like something a very sick body would expel right before it died. He winced a little—but he didn’t say I was wrong.