Diary

Everything Is Everything

Left: Artist Hanna Liden with Art Production Fund directors Doreen Remen and Casey Fremont. (Photo: Michael Wilson) Right: White Columns director Matthew Higgs with MoMA chief curator of media and performance Stuart Comer. (Except where noted, all photos: Javier Barrera)

AS THE ESTABLISHED New York art world decamps to the Hamptons and beyond, crowds at the season’s concluding events tend to be smaller, noticeably younger, and, arguably, more carefree; when the carnival leaves town, the pressure’s off. What degree of rigor can one realistically demand when the dog days hit and any given destination is rated by the efficacy of its air-conditioning? The recent launch of Everything, a suite of public sculptures by Stockholm-born, New York–based artist Hanna Liden, organized by Art Production Fund, didn’t even have the luxury of an indoor location, so there was a pervading sense that whatever happened—or didn’t—was good enough.

Arriving at the work’s waterfront location in Hudson River Park (the other part of the work is in Ruth Wittenberg Plaza in the Village), I was confronted by a restless pack of minidressed women, all of them in the employ of the project’s cosmetics-firm sponsor, Kiehl’s, but scant others aside from the APF’s Doreen Remen, Yvonne Force Villareal, and Casey Fremont. Liden herself was conspicuous in black jeans and shirt; even the several toddlers in excited attendance looked dressier. Everything, an Oldenbergian order of titanic bagels (some of them stacked to form makeshift vases), is lighthearted and selfie-ready. A drizzle of black spray paint (intended as a tribute to urban grime) notwithstanding, it was already being embraced (and sat on, and mock-bitten) by passersby.

A few nights later, another not-for-profit institution, White Columns, presented its inaugural Summer Party, attracting an exponentially larger crowd. But while the gallery’s A/C was working just fine, the fact that the awkwardly proportioned space was partially carpeted, necessitating the removal of shoes, introduced its own species of discomfort. While some opted to stake a claim for the duration, choreographer Jen Rosenblit enrobed herself in one particularly decorative rug and paraded around in it.

Left: Bill Arning, director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and artist Lisa Beck. Right: Dealer Jack Hanley and artist Spencer Sweeney.

An hour or two passed, during which I clocked artist, musician, and club owner Spencer Sweeney, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston director Bill Arning, MoMA chief curator Stuart Comer, Artist’s Institute director Jenny Jaskey, and dealer Jack Hanley. Finally, as the scrappy bar ran dry, Higgs seized his moment and took to the mic to announce a sequence of five five-minute readings. “If anyone wants to talk,” he suggested in a schoolmasterly tone, “they should go outside” (adding swiftly, as if to avoid sounding like too much of a buzzkill, “It’s a really lovely evening”). What followed was never less than captivating, even if sometimes in the manner of a car crash. Things really got going with Giovanna Olmos, a diminutive ball of verbal and physical energy not averse to standing on one leg shouting “OCTOPUSS! OCTOPUSS!” or jabbing her finger at various audience members while passing one of two all-too-familiar judgments: “LIKE!”; “UNLIKE!”

“And this is my second weasel poem, written yesterday.” Jocelyn Spaar, declaiming with great speed and variation from a gaudily plastic-clad phone, was equally unpredictable. She may have looked demure, and eschewed Olmos’s dada dance moves, but it was no easier to guess her next line, the words pouring out in an unceasing torrent, any stumbles or hesitations integrated into the flow. Following Spaar was the initially unassuming Felix Bernstein. Seated at a laptop, he read a few lines then burst without warning into loud, passionate, and frankly alarming song, finally storming off to looks of admiration from some quarters, bemusement from others. As we reeled, Higgs jumped in to call time: “That’s it!” And so it was.

Left: Artist and poet Jocelyn Spaar. Right: Artists Lucky DeBellevue and Ricci Albenda.

Left: Writers Marisa Solomon and Jonathan Liebembuk. Right: Artist Tatiana Kronberg and White Columns deputy director and curator Erin Somerville.

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