Cabin Fever

New York

Left: Jeffrey Uslip. Right: Larry Mantello and Glenn Ligon.

I was not overly keen on visiting the opening of “Log Cabin” at Artists Space, because the wind was whooshing and Manhattan was cold, getting colder. There was a terrific scrum at the entrance to the elevator, and I had to wonder if the icy gang upstairs would have their wits about them. If we were to spend the rest of evening muffled in layers, bashing into each other, well, it wouldn’t be much of a party. But it was, actually, a lovely party. Curator Jeffrey Uslip has arrayed a jamboree of visual attack tactics against neocon homophobia and the suppression of contemporary queer lexicons. “It’s essential for me that the exhibition is centered on diverse artistic practices rather than on a divisive, didactic approach toward the Republican Party,” he told me. Without embedded polemics, or indeed a narrative arc, the works provoked and pulled us around the room in a long, dizzy waltz. Though the show, mostly great and thirty-four artists strong, crossed generations from recent Columbia MFA grads (Matt Keegan, Christy Gast) to certified avatars (Glenn Ligon, AA Bronson), there was no hierarchy and no anchor. You could trip from Paul Pfeiffer’s either dumb or very abstruse projection of a wasp nest to Slava Mogutin and Brian Kenny’s either very stiff or pointed Pork Me Sport Piss sculpture. Bronson, surveying the scene with a smile, held court next to three monitors showing himself and a similarly bearded Nayland Blake smeared with goo, making out. There were a lot of guru beards in attendance. Over the course of the night I saw at least eight versions of those tangled salt-and-pepper wedges, from junior efforts (keep at it, cub!) to grizzly record breakers. I saw an orphaned vinyl deerstalker cap passed across the gallery to three different people, then returned to its happy owner’s head. A gray wool beanie similarly migrated to the top of Scott Treleaven’s video monitor, hung out as an ersatz installation for twenty minutes, then vanished—quick, cute visual poetry.

I caught sight of a chap in fluorescent Moon Boots and a gorgeous wispy, white, very familiar camelhair overcoat. It was Terence Koh, just back from a residency in Belgium, who had made my favorite work in the show: Twenty-nine framed eight-by-ten-inch portrait photos in a line on the floor with neat circular swirls of chocolate obscuring the faces. Koh reappeared outside as I was leaving. “Yo, is that a Dries [Van Noten] coat?” I hollered at him, twice, in my best South Philly accent. I thought he might enjoy this. He didn’t even look at me, shouted “I gotta go!” and scampered across the street with his friends to a waiting taxicab. No one needed fashion that night. Though I have a cropped version of that coat in fab black oiled cotton that we could have talked about.

Left: Becky Smith and Elizabeth Dee. Right: Matt Keegan.