High Art

New York

Left: A jug band playing at the opening. Right: Artists Roy Stanfield and Gedi Sibony.

No Gavin Brown-organized event would feel quite complete without the impression that it might at any moment degenerate into chaos, but the opening of “Drunk vs. Stoned 2” (the first installment took place in April 2004) heralded its dizzily euphoric spirit via a press release that was later retracted, to be replaced by an almost-identical new one. (I never figured out what was wrong with the first one.) A group exhibition produced in collaboration with Milwaukee’s General Store gallery, “Drunk vs. Stoned 2” purports to explore the two different altered states named in its title as metaphors for two different approaches to the production and appreciation of art. “The lowered inhibitions and impulsive decisions of ‘drunk,’” rambled the revised blurb, “stand in stark contrast to the heightened sensitivity and methodical meandering of ‘stoned.’”

Meandering methodically through Brown’s West Village gallery after a couple of starter beers and a margarita—but no drugs—on the Artforum roof terrace (a rare treat), I discovered not just a lively, freewheeling summer show, but an old-time saloon complete with swinging timber doors, thrift-store décor, and an enthusiastic jug band. If most gallery openings are thinly disguised piss-ups buoyed by freeloading artists, students, and, uh, critics, the launch of “Drunk vs. Stoned 2” at least made no bones about the focus (or lack thereof) of most attendees. But having braved ninety-degree heat, didn’t we deserve our free beer? And wine? And tequila? And bourbon?

Sure enough, a selective poll revealed “drunk” to be the preferred state of most of those present, and the one most accurately reflective of the opening’s character in general. The majority of the art, however, seemed to fall into the “stoned” camp. A sampling of names on the checklist—Jim Shaw, Chris Johanson, R. Crumb, Paul Noble, Dearraindrop—confirmed that the absorption in obsessive detail and predilection for inconclusive “what if?” musings characteristic of baked brains was well represented. But boozers were hardly neglected: The central placement of Pruitt & Early’s monumental beer-can-and-bumper-sticker construction Sculpture for Teenage Boys (Miller Pyramid, 13 High), 1990, announced that all too clearly.

Left: Foxy Production director Michael Gillespie. Middle: The crowd spills out of the gallery. Right: The camouflaged squad car.

Flitting between gallery and street corner, I found Foxy Production director Michael Gillespie, one of several New York gallerists anticipating new digs next season, taking a break from real estate headaches while painter brothers (and exhibition cocurators) Scott and Tyson Reeder prepared for a different sort of move—savoring their last few hours of freedom before becoming willing prisoners in the gallery’s upstairs space for a month-long no-exit residency. Nicole Klagsbrun director Lisa Cooley and artist Scott Calhoun demonstrated their best “drunk” and “stoned” expressions for me, while artists Gedi Sibony and Roy Stanfield discussed the prime ages for each kind of substance abuse, concluding that “stoned is for your twenties, drunk is for life.” Also spotted enjoying a tipple, or just basking in the evening sun, were Daniel Reich, Janice Guy, the Whitney’s Chrissie Iles, and White Columns director Matthew Higgs.

After the opening proper, a party, complete with smoke-belching BBQ, convened on the roof terrace. Jittery staff notwithstanding, all went smoothly until, at about half-past ten, two cops, clad in Hawaiian and Yankees shirts (respectively), arrived and ordered everyone out. Reportedly, someone had committed the heinous act of beaning one of them with a hot dog, though this sounded suspiciously like an excuse. Perhaps the discussion of the opening on several general interest blogs had rung alarm bells in advance (taken out of context, that title does begin to seem a little risky). Had there been complaints? Reports varied and rumors flew, but the sight of a squad car (cunningly camouflaged as a yellow cab) outside the gallery was a sobering one indeed.