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Hell’s Bedroom

IN THE LATE ’60s, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt dealt with the problems posed to a struggling young artist in an East Village walkup (266 E. 4th Street) by hiding parlous plaster and restless roaches under his own fake roaches, tinfoil rats, “lollipop fairies” with Saran Wrap faces, crumpled colored florist foil, and re-iconned botanica saints. (Collaged male icons ripped from the pages of glossy porn bibles showed their faces later.) Fake, baroque candy completely carpeted one floor; twinkle- and color-wheel lights knit it all together. The artist called his work The Summer Palace of Czarina Tatlina (Tatlin, you see, as a big queen) and waited in drag for invited guests to make the two-room tour. Many upright men were searching at the time for ways to dematerialize their art, to shrink its rigid manifestations to nonetheless salable, self-referring ideas. But Lanigan-Schmidt knew that there was

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