Head of the Class

New York
10.01.14

Left: Jeffrey Deitch. (Photo: Casey Spooner) Right: The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black with a friend. (Photo: David Velasco)


THAT UNFAMILIAR FRESHMAN FEELING sets in annually at the New York Art Book Fair, where, in the corridors of MoMA PS1, it feels as crowded and disorienting as school again. The summer is long in retrospect, and everyone looks older under the lights. “Do you know Dorothy Iannone?” says a girl in a purple backpack to another in Illesteva shades as they survey the octogenarian eroticist’s reprinted oeuvre in the Dome. “No,” says the girl in Illesteva, “but I think we’re like friends on Facebook.”

Downstairs the radio station Know-Wave is airing live-to-Net all weekend, and I’m on Cheap Talk with Piper Marshall, the curator, and two of her artist friends, Rochelle Goldberg and Karin Schneider. Topics include: feminism, climate change, transitional objects, Ratstar Press, the way an iPhone 6 bends under heat. At 6:28 PM, Schneider lights candles for Rosh Hashanah, which started on Wednesday. It’s Friday. By the time I get in an Uber to the New Museum it’s Friday night, and the driver looks at his phone, saying baby, you’re already late.

A few minutes before 8:00 PM, poet du nuit Andrew Durbin finishes reading the slickest and best piece—“You Are My Ducati”—from his new book, Mature Themes (Nightboat), to a packed-full New Museum Theater. The doors reopen, the audience shuffles itself, and Hans Ulrich Obrist slips in behind me as Jacolby Satterwhite’s mostly animated, sometimes live-action video, Reifying Desire 6, begins to play.

Left: Ange and Adi from ThreeASFOUR. Right: Writer Andrew Durbin. (Photos: David Velasco)


Satterwhite is both the main character and most of the characters in the game of the video, the objective of which is to not stop moving, bouncing, squatting, shopping, fucking. The scenery is of change; the landscape, of a land after time. It’s very hot. In one splitting second, as Satterwhite and a partner make sex in several iterative GIFs, we see the partner stop to position his dick, glitchily sticking it in, and the fantasy bursts to reveal something sexy, a feeling so glistening dark that my fingernails dig into my skin. This is why going out is hard: After all the pains you take to cover up, you can’t know when you will be jostled back into your body.

Across the water, another launch is getting into swing, this one for a book it’s tempting to call Immature Themes. In the mid-’90s, Jeffrey Deitch opened his SoHo garage-cum-gallery and became, with his precocious, childlike taste, the art scene’s top idiosyncrat. In 2010 he absconded for Los Angeles and MoCA, only to return in late 2013 with talk of opening, as Linda Yablonsky reported, “a ginormous new space in Red Hook.” So far, no space, but we are in Red Hook, at Pioneer Works, celebrating fifteen years of Deitch’s projects as collated in perhaps the fairest art book of the fall: Live the Art (Rizzoli), which weighs 8.1 pounds and has a blank plastic plate for a cover.

If hunger and plasticity are leitmotifs of Deitch’s career, so too is the champagne populism implied by such a wink at the white cube. In lieu of hierarchical seating, the party boasts two buffet tables with food by Frankies and a long runway, on which the Citizens Band, Santigold, and Total Freedom all perform. Outside, Kembra Pfahler’s merry band of she-devils, dressed in head-to-toe red paint and nothing under, scamper past Deborah Harry and Kehinde Wiley, who between them manage a half-smile at the burlesquish antics. “It’s not that hard to be smart in the art world,” says the young painter Jamian Juliano-Villani, at whose Bed-Stuy studio Deitch recently spent three inquisitive hours. “It’s hard to not be boring in the art world, and this isn’t boring.” Quickly, she adds: “Not that Jeffrey Deitch isn’t smart. He is. He’s really fucking smart.”

Santigold and friends. (Photo: Kristy Leibowitz)


Dustin Yellin, the artist who bought Pioneer Works in 2011, tells me that both the building and the neighborhood have more of a “community feeling,” something he hopes to bring back to the art world. Next to him, Deitch smiles reassuringly, then launches into a disquisition on New York real estate prices and interest rates. A third guy, dressed in chambray and New Balance sneakers, is introduced as “Jeff” and is so nice that I assume he is a young artist’s sugar daddy. He turns out to be Jeff Koons. I turn out to be an Artforum correspondent who doesn’t know what Jeff Koons looks like.

“This could be a party in the 1990s,” observes Visionaire’s Cecilia Dean, who lives five blocks away. “Except with people who were born in the ’90s!” More like in the ’80s, but then again, to seniors in high school the freshmen might as well be kindergarteners. “Everyone I follow on Instagram is here tonight,” sighs one of the new kids, Bertie, a Pomeranian party animal and plus-one to the Hole’s Kathy Grayson. I ask what Bertie’s favorite part was. “Oh, the meatballs,” says Bertie, who must still be celebrating Rosh Hashanah.

Sarah Nicole Prickett

Left: Artists Julian Schnabel and Jeff Koons. Right: Bertie with dealer Kathy Grayson. (Photos: Kristy Leibowitz)


Left: Artist Eli Sudbrack. Right: Casey Spooner (left). (Photos: Kristy Leibowitz)


Left: A performer at the Deitch dinner. Right: Artists Dustin Yellin and Lee Quinones. (Photos: Kristy Leibowitz)