Party Monster

David Rimanelli on Leigh Bowery at Perry Rubenstein

New York

Left: Eric Ditmar, Nicola Bowery, Boy George,Traver Raines, Richie Rich, and Aimee Phillips. Right: Crystal. (All photos: Patrick McMullan/PMc)

“Useless Man,” an exhibition devoted to the late Leigh Bowery— featuring two films by Charles Atlas of the six-foot-six Bowery madly cavorting and numerous photographs by Fergus Greer, capturing his moods, whimsies, and full-body rubber outfits—opens at Perry Rubenstein in Chelsea. Definitely looks like an up-note for the coming season, given the rather staid and predictable offerings in New York lately. Bowery, legendary avant-garde drag queen, club diva, Lucian Freud model, and lead performer in the groovy beyond-underground band Minty, went to his great reward on December 31, 1994; as the Rubenstein show demonstrates, he hasn’t been forgotten. Scores of creatively dressed and coiffed scenesters showed up, among others Boy George, wearing a pink button reading “Sassy.” Several Bowery acolytes and/or intimates sported prosthetic latex glitter eye- and lip-enhancements, very much in the Bowery spirit—and hats, let’s not forget the kooky-club-kid hats. Thelma Golden looked art-world chic, dressed in head-to-toe black, but she caught a whiff of the fetish-fashion vibe, wearing knee-high black patent-leather boots. For the most part, one didn’t know anybody, although one did recognize archival club trash dating back at least to the early '80s glory days of Pyramid. Ghost-faced and raven-haired Larissa was there, as well as David Yarritu, more evidence of the party-must-go-on diehards of days gone by (and probably tomorrow). Overall, the opening had something of a Paper magazine tone. Not your average Barbara Gladstone event.

I strolled down Twenty-third Street to Daniel Reich, who was perversely hosting a January 8 New Year’s party at his gallery: Hey, let’s get wasted every Saturday night and blame it on New Year’s. Cute young crowd inside. I remarked to Daniel that it was awfully nice of Andrea Rosen to lend those Felix Gonzalez-Torres Christmas light sculptures to enliven the decor. “Oh, they were very, very expensive,” Daniel assured me. Ran into artist Kathe Burkhart—a great exhibition of her “Liz Taylor Series” closed that very day at Mitchell Algus Gallery—wearing some fuzzy-furry black overcoat and a lot of artfully applied purple-black makeup. We chatted about the Bowery show, and I said I couldn’t get a good look at any of the works for all the bouffant hairdos and novelty headgear, just flashes of pink and yellow and lips and ass. “What did you expect,” Kathe remarked. “It’s a big old faggot all dressed up with nowhere to go. He can’t get out of the gallery, darling, he’s six feet under!”

“Dinner” was at ultrapassé Lot 61, which seemed appropriate, because all the art one remembers from the joint’s fifteen minutes—Damien Hirst spot paintings, Sean Landers’s logorrhetic text paintings, Rudolf Stingel’s orange wall carpeting—was gone, and the place resembled a random nightclub, anywhere and any time. It felt slightly depressing, but I stayed too long anyway.

Left: Lucy Sexton (holding Annabel Daldry), Fergus Greer, Nicola Bowery, and Charles Atlas. Middle: Perry Rubenstein and M. Aparition. Right: Thelma Golden.

Left: The crowd at Daniel Reich Gallery. Right: Daniel Reich (on left) and friends.