Talking Trash

New York

Left: Dealers Cory Nomura and Andrea Rosen. Right: Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer and Vogue's Stella Greenspan. (All photos: Esther Michel)

TRYING TO SQUEEZE into an elevator next to a bone-thin, mangy white dog right out of the landscape of Julien Donkey Boy seemed utterly apropos in anticipation of “Shadow Fux,” the first collaborative exhibition by New York downtown staples Rita Ackermann and Harmony Korine. The combination of Ackermann’s gritty, multilayered painting and filmmaker Korine’s ever-expanding cast of off-the-grid characters made a perfect pairing at last Tuesday’s opening.

Though the two have been casually collaborating since meeting seventeen years ago in (then still artist-friendly) SoHo, they had been looking for a space in which to show their large-scale paintings and works on paper, made over the past year during Ackermann’s trips down to Nashville and Korine’s up to New York. By 6:30 PM, the Swiss Institute was filled with young fans dressed in early-’90s uniforms of plaid, leather, and knit caps. The crowd seemed especially riveted by the compilation of deleted scenes from Korine’s most recent feature film, Trash Humpers. (The film served as the starting point for the “Shadow Fux” works.) Shot on VHS to approximate an especially dysfunctional home movie, Korine’s camera follows a group of overstimulated “elderly” men (really, young men wearing old-man masks) who are seen crying into the naked bosoms of bemused women in a motel room, vigorously shaking dildos, and rhythmically humping stuffed animals. Korine himself was of course among the clan, who slept under highways and wandered parking lots in the environs of Nashville to get the best, most unsettling footage.

The audience was largely attentive to the sinister display, the silence interrupted only by some older guy (appropriately attired in a long trench coat) who yelled “Give ’em some Viagra and let ’em rip!” on his way out. As the opening wore on, I noticed the absence of prominent faces (including the artists’). It turned out that a line of a hundred people was stuck outside on Broadway, and the Swiss Institute’s Piper Marshall had to repeatedly scramble down three stories of steps to retrieve the guests. Eventually, the poster children of downtown—both new and old—were assembled: Aaron Bondaroff, Nate Lowman, Ari Marcopoulos, Terry Richardson, Aurel Schmidt, and Olivier Zahm among them. But almost as soon as they arrived, the crowd began to decamp to the dinner cohosted by the Swiss Institute and Ackermann’s longtime gallery, Andrea Rosen, at another downtown stalwart, Indochine, now lauding itself for twenty-five years of continued service to artists and their storied parties.

Left: Artist Emanuel Rossetti, the Swiss Institute's Piper Marshall, and artists Fabian Marti and Liz Wendelbo. Right: Artist Christopher Wool (left).

I grabbed a corner booth with Marshall and Printed Matter’s new executive director, Cat Krudy. We were joined by artists Fabian Marti and Emanuel Rossetti, who together with artist Piero Golia started THE DOR, an online library of scanned, rare art books touring Zurich, Venice, and now New York in the Swiss Institute’s Reading Room. THE DOR’s installation, with its clean lines and heightened sense of order, was an über-Swiss counterpoint to the chaotic Americana next door; not much else was included other than an imposing book scanner and poster-size prints of a few of the dozens of books already included in their library. “We spent most of our time here obsessing over the table,” explained Rossetti. Marti added wryly, “We added two plants for a human touch.” Around us, tables of supporters now included Rosen herself, dealer James Fuentes, curators Matthew Higgs and Shamim Momin, and artists Josephine Meckseper and Josh Smith. Richardson and Zahm arrived fashionably late, of course—halfway through the dinner—leaving them no choice but to have an intimate candlelit dinner for two smack in the center of the room. Swiss Institute director Gianni Jetzer gamely migrated from table to table, taking iPhone photos of each group with an eye toward creating more instances of memorable downtown iconography.

The restless Korine spoke excitedly about his latest projects, including a film with hyperactive South African rap-raver Die Antwoord and a zine with Bill Saylor debuting at The Journal’s NADA booth in Miami. “I want to do everything!” he exclaimed. “I want to write a romance novel!” Could Trash Humpers survive the transition to pulp fiction? By midnight, the next logical step was to head to the afterparty at the newly reopened Don Hill’s, but the general consensus was one of skepticism. No one had been there since the ’90s or college (whichever came last), and most everyone seemed reluctant to relive some vaguely embarrassing behavior once practiced there. Haven’t we earned our stripes already?

Lumi Tan

Left: Rachel Chandler and Olivier Zahm. Right: Artists Terry Richardson and Aurel Schmidt.