Out of the Frying Pan

New York

Left: Artist Cory Arcangel. (Photo: Slater Bradley) Right: Performer in Xavier Cha's Body Drama. (Photo: Lauren Devine/Opening Ceremony)

THERE WAS A CAMERA pointed right at her. She moaned as she writhed in vain to escape its lens. What a relief not to be on paparazzi duty. It was Xavier Cha’s Body Drama at the Whitney Museum last Wednesday. As the performer—who wore a sideways tripod as shoulder harness—stumbled circles around the crowded first-floor gallery, spectators scattered to make room. At least, most of them did. Ryan Trecartin was there, and his entourage of cast members and friends would occasionally poke into the camera’s field and preen. “That’s just what they do,” a friend said.

Later they joined Cha for her party at the Carlyle—that’s just what they do—but I went to Grand Central Station for a dinner, hosted by Team Gallery, celebrating yet another show at the Whitney, Cory Arcangel’s “Pro Tools.” “I used to spend a lot of time here,” said Whitney director Adam Weinberg as he descended to the dining concourse. “I was a commutah!” Junior’s and Two Boots Pizza looked tempting, but the destination was the Oyster Bar, a tiled cavern in the station’s depths. The venue, grand and central as it was, felt casual as any seaside picnic table where one slurps oysters and rips open lobster carapaces. The demographics of the 120 guests might have had something to do with it; the Whitney’s chief curator Donna De Salvo and collector Eileen Cohen noted with approval that almost no one but they had gray hair. “This dinner is in honor of the man who made self-playing—actually self-losing—video games into museum material,” said José Freire, Team’s owner, after silencing the room for his toast. “The kind of artist who would throw a rave for a cat.” Conversation was interrupted again after dessert, this time by a fierce rumble far too brief to be a passing train. “It’s dynamite,” a gleeful waiter explained. “They’re blowing up the LIRR!”

Left: Whitney Museum director Adam Weinberg (far right). Right: Dealer Kelly Taxter with artist Xavier Cha and David Riley. (Photos: © socialshutterbug.com)

The next night I went to Chelsea, for the season’s final big burst of openings. My first stop, “A form is simply something which allows something else to be transported from one site to another” at Murray Guy, heralded a trend: Galleries are eschewing the tradition of the summer show as stable-jumble or curation-by-keyword (e.g., “art and hats!”) in favor of emulating ambitious nonprofits in the Midwest. Anton Kern offered a solo exhibition of John Bock, who built a curio cabinet as a theater for his stylization of silent-film sensationalism. Some brigand was torturing a maiden; her bodice gave way under the friction of ropes constricting her midsection. “That’s what pirates do,” a man told his small son. “Time to go to the next place!” It’s apparently been a while since I’ve been to Chelsea, and I was amazed by the proliferation of toddlers, strollers, and wheelchairs. It made navigation especially fraught at Casey Kaplan, which drew throngs with a taco truck on the sidewalk and a mariachi band just inside the door. Thickets of shins threatened ceramic floor pieces by Eduardo Sarabia, who wore dark sunglasses as he greeted guests. Across the street at Anna Kustera, the dozen-deep line to the front desk deterred me from picking up a checklist, and I squeezed my way outside before determining which of the drawings in “B-B-B-BAD” was by serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

The boustrophedonic path of Chelsea deposited me at the Piers, where Tanya Bonakdar, Andrew Kreps, Anton Kern, and Friedrich Petzel were cohosting a party on the decks of the Frying Pan. “You need a blue ticket,” said the bar’s hostess, who stood guard at the top of the dock. She held a clipboard—and I have no doubt that my name was on the attached list—but instead of consulting it she clutched it to her chest and hid it under beveled forearms. So I went to Julius in the West Village to mingle with the queers arriving from Museum 52, which had presented an exhibition of Leidy Churchman, Nicole Eisenman, and Celeste Dupuy-Spencer. Then, for parallelism’s sake, I returned to the hospitality of Team, which chose to mark two new shows (three guys at Grand, four guys at Wooster) with karaoke at Winnie’s. Art bros belted out Frank Sinatra and Pat Benatar. It was summer and they were intoxicated. Somewhere, their art was being shown. I sang some Roy Orbison and called it a night.

Brian Droitcour

Left: Artist Donald Urquhart at Winnie's. Right: Lauren Devine at Cory Arcangel's “Pro Tools.” (Photo: Morgan Rehbock/Opening Ceremony)

Left: Choreographer Layla Childs. Right: Artist Ulrike Müller and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston curator Dean Daderko. (Photos: Celeste Dupuy-Spencer)