Rainbow Connection

New York

Left: A view of “Relāche – The Party.” Right: Yvette Mattern's Global Rainbow, After the Storm. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)

AT 8 PM last Tuesday, I was in a taxi moving through a light rain to the Standard Hotel. Suddenly, the sky lit up. “What’s that?” said the startled driver. “A rainbow?” It was. A rainbow in the dark—namely Global Rainbow, After the Storm, a public artwork made of laser beams by Yvette Mattern, an American artist who lives in Berlin. For three nights, it would shoot thirty miles from the roof of the Standard across Manhattan to the parts of Brooklyn devastated by Hurricane Sandy. “Beautiful,” the driver said.

At the Standard, the Art Production Fund, which facilitated the installation, was toasting Mattern in a ground-floor lounge. “It all happened so fast, in just one week,” said APF cofounder Yvonne Force Villareal. “The best part was that it came with its own funding.” Everything was donated: the work itself, which Mattern is touring on commissions from cities around the world; the $80,000 lasers by Lightwave International; and the rooftop by the hotel. Waves for Water and the New York Foundation for the Arts, nonprofits that had already established channels for donations, welcomed the beacon as a call to action.

As it happened, the Armory Show was hosting a party for Liz Magic Laser that evening in the top-floor Boom Boom Room, where some guests mistook the rainbow for hers. Outside on the roof, there was no confusion. Just astonishment. The lasers zoomed over the city skyline in six divergent straight lines that met at what Villareal observed was “a perfect illustration of the vanishing point.” Viewed from the ground, Mattern said, the curve of the earth made the beams appear to arc. But as the week went on, the beams also seemed to signal the openings of galleries in Chelsea that had been in dry dock since the storm.

Left: Dealer Jeff Poe and artist Carroll Dunham. Right: Artist Yvette Mattern and Yvonne Force Villareal.

On Wednesday night, a smiling Barbara Gladstone presided over a reception for Carroll Dunham, whose new paintings suggest a tree-torn island visited by an especially randy Gauguin. “I was actually thinking about Gauguin,” Dunham admitted. Only here, the body of the female figure flying through several canvases with an upturned rear, pronounced pudenda, and wild black hair, is white. “I was tired of all the pink!” said Dunham of the exposed flesh dominating other recent bodies of his work. “It was starting to look like they were just about pornography. And they’re not.”

Across the street, the Fredericks & Freiser space so recently full of water was now so packed with people celebrating David Humphrey’s first show with the gallery, they obliterated any close view of what looked like a great leap forward in his painting. Thursday night brought Keltie Ferris’s luminous debut with Mitchell-Innes & Nash, on which it seemed half of Bushwick had descended. “Yeah!” said Ferris. “All my friends are here.”

Metro Pictures stretched out with a surpassing, twenty-year retrospective of works by Gary Simmons—chalkboards, drawings, Polaroids, white boxing gloves, gold sneakers, KKK hoods—the whole angry, beautiful, post-black lot. While Whitney curator Carter Foster and artist Robert Longo checked them out, Simmons sat at a table, signing copies of Paradise, a new monograph from Damiani. “Do you need me to write something special?” he asked. I was hoping for poetry, but I thought he would just erase it. On the other hand, if he did I’d go home with more art.

Left: Dealer Barbara Gladstone with collector Jennifer Stockman. Right: Artist Gary Simmons with dealer Helene Winer.

Instead, I went a little farther uptown, to Stage 37, where Performa was holding its postponed benefit gala, titled “Relāche – The Party,” after a multidisciplinary collaboration in 1924 by Erik Satie, Francis Picabia, Rene Clair, and more. The first person I saw was another historic figure—the New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, possibly the most dedicated follower of fashion on the planet. “I love it when people make an effort,” he said of the five hundred guests around us. A healthy percentage had eagerly stepped up to the dress code’s “black and white haute couture.” Some, including Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg and Cindy Sherman, were wearing designs by Maria Cornejo, though National Arts Club curator Stacy Engman turned heads with a Philip Treacy hat that looked like a spray of electrified black hair.

During cocktails, the twelve-piece Furniture Orchestra, led by conductor Luciano Chessa, ambled through clutches of artists, dealers, and patrons playing Satie. Some wandered onto the mezzanine to pose for instant black-and-white portraits supplied by the photographer, Jonathan Hokklo, while Entr’acte, a short film by Clair, kept the black-and-white images coming on a screen hung from the ceiling.

Once diners were seated, collector Laura Skoler appeared on a catwalk extending from the stage and was immediately engulfed by male dancers in black suits to perform a balletic striptease choreographed by Ryan McNamara. When they were down to their white unitards, a still-clothed McNamara was hoisted into the air by cables that left him suspended there for nearly ninety minutes—a world record for hanging in a harness, he told me later. Plenty of time for him to drop his pants.

Left: Artist Keltie Ferris and dealer Jay Gorney. Right: Artists Sanya Kantarovsky and Liz Magic Laser and High Line Art Program curator Cecilia Alemani.

Dinner was no less challenging. An appetizer of raw carrots, mushroom soil, and snails was set in the center of each table, where diners could help themselves if they were up to it. Large beet coals roasted black followed. This proved resistant to a knife. Next came little pumpkins filled with I don’t know what, though newly appointed Jewish Museum curator Jens Hoffmann, seated to my right, gave it a go. Our little plates—the only size available—were a mess, but no one offered to change them.

Before the waiters brought golden birdcages with lumps of stuffed quail nestled at the bottom and peacock feathers sprouting from the top, Goldberg began her introduction to the evening’s honoree, art historian Milly Glimcher, by posing a question. “Why are we serving food when so many around us are suffering?” Goldberg said. “Because art is essential for survival too.” I love art. But I don’t want it in my food.

The program continued with the presentation of Glimcher’s trophy—a large wooden torpedo by Marianne Vitale that dwarfed the honoree—and a live auction that brought Performa an additional $83,000 to the $450,000 that the sale of tickets had already raised. One artwork on the block was a private dinner for ten to be arranged by Rirkrit Tiravanija. If only he were here.

Left: Artist Ryan McNamara with collector Laura Skoler. Right: Performa founder RoseLee Goldberg.

At last, McNamara was brought down to earth and carried off in a wheelchair; aerialists costumed in polka-dotted unitards performed like pole dancers using only lengths of white sheets. A dance party brought new arrivals in from the street, where I saw one woman emerge from a limousine and prepare to enter by spraying her hands with bright red paint.

“Well,” said dealer Marc Glimcher as he donned his coat, “it wasn’t your grandfather’s gala.”

Friday night, as the art troops packed for Miami Basel, Andrea Rosen reopened her flagship gallery and introduced a new project space down the street with “Cellblock I” and “Cellblock II,” two group exhibitions organized by Robert Hobbs as an absorbing visual essay. Built around the idea and the shape of a jail cell, the show offered paintings, drawings, and sculpture by the likes of Peter Halley, Donald Judd, Marcel Broodthaers, Vito Acconci, Robert Gober, Jackie Winsor, Sterling Ruby, and Ad Reinhardt.

Let them go to Miami, I thought. Let them have their product promotions and flashy parties around the pool. The real action is here, in the galleries, where survivors get their food.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Curator Robert Hobbs. Right: Architect Charles Renfro and National Arts Club curator Stacy Engman.

Left: Dealers Andrea and Marc Glimcher with historian Milly Glimcher. Right: Artist Josiah McElheney.

Left: Artist Marianne Vitale. Right: New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham.

Left: Critic Jerry Saltz and dealer Monica Sprüth. Right: Artist David Humphrey.

Left: Artist Peter Halley. Right: Linda Green with Jewish Museum curator Jens Hoffmann.

Left: Artist Terry Winters with Grace Dunham. Right: Artist Wangechi Mutu.

Left: Artists Sarah Sze and Arlene Schechet. Right: New Museum director Lisa Phillips with curator Hendel Teicher.

Left: Artist Adam Pendleton. Right: Artist Martha Rosler with MoMA curator Sabine Breitwieser.

Left: Writers Brooks Adams and Lisa Liebmann. Right: Byrd Hoffman Foundation director Stephanie French with dealer Armand Bartos.

Left: Artists Alexander Ross and Susan Jennings with their daughter. Right: Artist Dustin Yellin.