Scene & Herd

Our Gay Apparel

New York

Left: P.S. 1 director Alanna Heiss with P.S. 1 project director Jelena Kristic. Right: Artist Spencer Sweeney. (All photos: David Velasco)

Arriving at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center on Thursday evening with unanticipated promptness, my companion and I were present to witness the building’s gates swing open in the grand style of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The fact that no one present held a golden ticket, and that the only eccentric guru sure to be on hand was museum director Alanna Heiss, didn’t stop the modest crowd from making a modest bum's rush to gain admission. They were evidently looking forward to the latest installment of PopRally, a series of events conceived by the Museum of Modern Art and its Long Island City affiliate with “young New Yorkers” in mind. On this evening’s bill were the opening of a group exhibition, “Altered, Stitched and Gathered,” and musical turns by Spencer Sweeney and the Jewish, Jah Division, and, uh, Spencer Sweeney again.

Waiting in the café for the first band to take the (makeshift) stage, we indulged in some people-watching. With Eli Sudbrack, aka assume vivid astro focus, and friends holding court, the dominant style was predictably campy, though not markedly “younger” than any other comparable gig at the museum. As the room filled to capacity, we clocked a masked man dressed only in well-stuffed underpants, brand-new Reeboks, and socks emblazoned with the legend SUCK MY DICK. It was the Jewish’s drummer, and his appearance heralded the start of their set. Insistently championing their bass player and supposed muse—a leather-clad bear known as Smokey whose only comment (made in reference to his initial encounter with the band) was a beyond-understated “I thought what you dudes were doing was kinda gay”—the otherwise nerdishly outfitted ensemble launched into “He Likes Me,” following it up with “Be Gay.” Pauses between songs were enthusiastically plugged with in-jokes and bong hits.

Left: Monica Zwirner with dealer David Zwirner. Right: MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach with collector Julia Stoschek.

After half a dozen songs, we’d had our fill of this malarkey and headed upstairs for a tour of the exhibition. Organized by P.S. 1 curatorial assistants Christopher Y. Lew, Erica Papernik, and Elna Svenle, under the direction of Jelena Kristic, “Altered, Stitched and Gathered” filled several third-floor galleries with diverse work gathered under a rather nebulous thematic umbrella (something to do with the transformation of the familiar). Among pieces by Cornelia Parker, Emily Jacir, Tom Friedman, and Shinique Smith was the concluding part of Sharon Hayes’s ten-hour performance My Fellow Americans, 1981–88. Seated at a desk against an orange backdrop, Hayes finished her reading of all thirty-six of Ronald Reagan’s official “Address to the Nation” speeches. But while the Gipper has his kitsch—and arguably camp—associations, the work still felt incongruously straitlaced on an otherwise flamboyant occasion.

After a chat with painter Ellen Altfest and a parting nod to MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach, we hopped the subway back to Manhattan for a dinner in honor of Glasgow-based artist Michael Fullerton, whose show “Get Over Yourself” had opened at Greene Naftali Gallery in Chelsea earlier that evening. Hunting for the venue, Centro Espanol La Nacional, aka the Spanish Benevolent Society, we realized that we’d walked straight past it at least once, expecting a flashy theme restaurant rather than what turned out to be more along the unpretentious lines of a workingmen’s club. Once inside, we squeezed up to a packed long table, dug into a mound of paella, and caught up with gallerist Andrew Kreps and his new director, Liz Mulholland. Later, on the way out, we complimented the artist on both his work and his distinguished head of long, white-tufted dark hair only to have Counter Gallery founder Carl Freedman immediately attempt to sell it to us as one of his enterprise’s limited editions. A tempting offer, but we had no time to haggle—David Zwirner gallery’s holiday party, the final stop on our itinerary, was reportedly in full swing.

After a much-needed espresso-and-pastry break, we cabbed it to subterranean Nolita watering hole Double Happiness only to find a gathering in what felt like its concluding phase. The DJ was spinning Madonna; the crowd was small, obviously close, and too drunk to do anything but jump up and down. In spite of some “interesting” fashion choices, it was an office party indistinguishable from any other. We didn’t stay long but decamped, via an unintentionally roundabout route, for the DJ collective Touch of Class’s holiday party at an unnamed venue on Centre Street (“Look for the silver door”). Packed and jumping, it was everything that where we’d just left was not. And as the two amazons making out frantically on the dance floor might have agreed if they could only have been prized apart, it was one that P.S. 1’s city kids would have loved.

Left: Tim Goossens with Eli Sudbrack of assume vivid astro focus. Right: A reveler at David Zwirner's holiday party.

Left: Artist Serkan Özkaya. Right: Artist William Downs.

Left: Artist Sharon Hayes. Right: Creative apparel.