The Great Escape

Paige K. Bradley at the opening of the 3rd New Museum Triennial

Left: Artist Frank Benson with Juliana. Right: Artist and New Museum Triennial cocurator Ryan Trecartin with New Museum Triennial cocurator Lauren Cornell. (Photo: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com)

“TO BE AN ARTIST is incredibly downwardly mobile. You could ruin your career,” says K8 Hardy in the “What-the-fuck-ennial” segment of comedian-artist Casey Jane Ellison’s talk show “Touching the Art.” “And you should, try to ruin your career.” Premiering on YouTube a few days before the opening of the Third New Museum Triennial, Ellison’s show speculates that “all of art is just for insane people, like, exclusively.” Which sounds about right, though these days don’t we wish it were a little more ruined, a little more insane? Curated by former Rhizome director Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin, emblematic star of that first, “Younger than Jesus” triennial, this year’s exhibition includes fifty-one artists from over twenty-five countries and is titled “Surround Audience,” articulating a contemporary mode of being where technology influences our daily lives to such a degree that it extends or morphs or slightens our merely human bodies.

At Tuesday morning’s preview, Cornell held forth on the range of media covered—purportedly all of them, including a TV show (Ellison), an advertising campaign (K-Hole), and a public shower (DIS). She also touched on the show’s themes—colonialism, exploitation, racial profiling, constant connection’s effect on people and art, water, surveillance, escape, display—before directing our attention to the performance soon to take place “on the concrete slab outside.” Who could resist that sell? Most did. Trecartin, whom the museum has dubbed an “iconic” artist—transubstantiating the wunderkind into patron saint—also spoke, noting that the show began with thinking about language and poetry and expanded to consider people who might circulate in the art world but who also use it as a “jumping-off point” for activities that don’t traditionally take place in a museum.

Left: New Museum director Lisa Philips with artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Brendan Fernandes. Right: Nadine Zeidler, artist Oliver Laric, and Lauren Cornell. (Photos: Madison McGaw/BFAnyc.com)

Funny how institutions so reliably structure programming around fantasies of escape and rebellion. Everyone already in wants a way out and everyone on the outskirts wants a way in. And judging by the nearly four thousand people who crowded the museum’s galleries that night, it would seem the hastiest escape is toward a center all dressed up in the margin’s mohair and slitted clothes. “I’ve never seen so many people at a museum opening. It’s not like this in Europe,” said triennial artist Shelly Nadashi, who’d escaped from Belgium. Many attendees seemed to be working more than one job/look, from the artist/performer boychild to artist/auction-house specialist Candyass to artist/musician Michael Stipe—now sporting a septum piercing (which I fully endorse).

A high-strung buzz permeated, and the art responded with attitude. Words made impact, most memorably in Lisa Holzer’s poem-paintings in the lobby and Juliana Huxtable’s photographs—two emblazoned with texts that could demolish you with their anguished/delighted collapsing of binaries. The latter were juxtaposed with Frank Benson’s 3-D printed sculpture of her reclining like the fiercest goddess and coated with metallic automotive paints. I also loved Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s collages and Verena Dengler’s sprawling installation of weavings, self-portraits, and gestural abstractions that included an emptied nail polish bottle labeled IDENTITY set atop a clawed, wall-mounted relief sculpture. Glad someone was able to fix that slippery creature. People couldn’t stop talking about Oliver Laric’s six-minute video depicting surreal metamorphoses of appropriated cartoons, mostly from anime like Sailor Moon or Akira. On the third floor, Josh Kline made Teletubbies political, their bellies broadcasting ex-cops’ recitations of outraged social media feeds.

Left: Collectors Shelley Fox Aarons and Phil Aarons with Daniel Steegmann Mangrané's Phantom. (Photo: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com) Right: James Viscardi, Nick Kennedy, and artist Rachel Lord. (Photo: Madison McGaw/BFAnyc.com)

If a triennial opened and no one could Instagram the night, would it really address late cybercapitalism’s absorption into our bodies? The endless scroll persisted well into the afterparty at the Top of the Standard, where every ten minutes or so a new strain of guests from the opening, or not, were flushed in. We were surrounded, though it was unclear who was the audience and who were the performers, our slashed and hyphenated identities jockeying for position only to collide in a mess at the open bar. Artist Rachel Lord sported unofficial fashion sponsors Eckhaus Latta. Ellison confessed that “Touching the Art” was looking for a new home from its current perch at Ovation TV. Trecartin’s b/f Anthony Valdez manned the DJ booth (he’d learned to play en route from LA). Jeffrey Deitch and Lisa Phillips jostled for territory with charter members of the XTAPUSSY/Spectrum crowds, NYC clubland veterans all. Huxtable, Raul de Nieves, Jacolby Satterwhite, and other young and restless epicureans built an afterafterparty from scratch at Home Sweet Home on the Lower East Side. “Well I guess it’s another night in the art world doing something,” tweeted local wit/painter Sam McKinniss, as dry as the dead of winter air outside, and I took a plate of steak and bread—they both tasted like blood. We were surrounded. The question was whether we needed, or wanted, to escape.

Left: Artist Casey Jane Ellison, musician Mykki Blanco, and artist Leilah Weinraub. Right: Artist Raul de Nieves with designer Telfar Clemens. (Photos: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com)

Left: David Toro, Lauren Boyle, Solomon Chase, and Marco Roso of DIS. (Photo: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com) Right: Artist Aslı Çavuşoğlu.

Left: Artist Basim Magdy. Right: High Line Art curator Cecilia Alemani with New Museum associate director Massimiliano Gioni. (Photos: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com)

Left: Helga Christoffersen with artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Right: Artists Wu Tsang and boychild. (Photos: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com)

Left: Dealer Andrea Rosen (left). Right: Dealer Jeffrey Deitch. (Photos: Madison McGaw/BFAnyc.com)

Left: Artist niv Acosta with Yessenia Acosta. (Photo: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com) Right: Artist and auction-house specialist Cary Leibowitz. (Photo: Madison McGaw/BFAnyc.com)