New York

“Animals Living in Cities”

Fashion Moda

The attitude toward animals held by the group at Fashion Moda—an authentic alternative space that rejects its description as such—is different from Gianakos’ fetishizing and the Enquirer’s we’re-all-God’s-creatures perspective. “Animals Living in Cities,” a show organized by Christy Rupp for this South Bronx storefront, took as its subject pets and pests, took as its contributors sociologists, zoologists, locals, and visual artists. Fashion Moda has an inclusive view of art, dangerously close to an “everything is everything” permissiveness, but no “space” in Manhattan so acutely characterizes the best and worst aspects of what variously is called “pluralism,” “postmodernism,” or “post-Minimalism.”

Ferociously antihierarchical and anti-judgmental, Fashion Moda firmly believes that art is where you find it, and it is encouraging of everyone’s artistic impulses. There’s no distinction between art by artists and art by the 6th-grade composition class of a nearby grammar school; likewise there’s no distinction here between “good” pets and “bad” pests. Included in the exhibition: Dennis Oppenheim’s documentation of a mosquito bite; Christy Rupp’s installation sculpture of Big Macs fed to cockroaches and mice (each approached the burger and wrapping with a different interest); a Bronx schoolteacher’s photograph of a tilefish in a P.S. toilet; a Monopoly Board for roaches (where roach hotels, not motels, were conspicuous); and superman capes for piglets—to name just a handful of the numerous items on display.

A theme show with limitless variations, “Animals Living in Cities” operates on many levels—all with great lucidity. It argues against “high” and “low” art, preferring to see all contributions as products of the same impulse, and it presents articles by established artists on the same level, carrying the same weight, as offerings by established students, teachers and locals. Is this radical? Conservative? It defies such easy adjectives; the most accurate description is that it’s a direct democracy: everyone who wants can have his or her say. Fashion Moda does not have unqualified support from the New York art community, and as such, does not fit into the conservative mold of having and maintaining status. It argues for eclecticism and antiauthoritarianism, and these two attitudes are what passes for radicalism in the art world, as they do in the larger social milieu.

Carrie Rickey