William Powhida at Schroeder Romero
Jan VAN WOENSEL
I spent approximately 45 concentrated minutes at Schroeder Romero’s gallery, and I have to admit that for the past couple of days, I didn’t know what to think about the works by artist William Powhida. During my visit, Lisa, the gallery attendant, politely asked me whether I had any questions about the artworks, but I didn’t have any questions. Since she noticed there was no smile on my face, at all, she couldn’t help asking me whether I found the art funny or not. I replied saying that I am too tired to smile, and that I didn’t yet know whether the art presented here is funny. Maybe it is just boring. Maybe boring is the new, new thing.
Doubting what to write about William Powhida’s solo exhibition titled “This is a Work of Fiction”, I started browsing the Internet. Luckily for me, the “truth” about this new talent in town is to be found on the artist’s fancy-looking website. “William Powhida (b. 1976, New York) is a GENIUS artist and BRILLIANT critic living and working in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Powhida wants to join the upper middle class, and desperately wants you to care about his work. This is all true. Seriously, he is awesome and you should meet him sometime for drinks. He may not be able to pay, but he is an excellent conversationalist.” His self-written press release continues proclaiming the need to be noticed: “It’s REALLY important that Shamim and Roberta drop by. I mean, otherwise what’s the point? I can’t keep sitting around my studio getting drunk and yelling at my assistants forever, can I? I need some affirmation of my BRILLIANCE like a Times review or a Biennial nod. While I have probably just doomed myself to insignificance by ASKING for those things, aren’t they the very indicators of success?” For the exhibition titled “This is a Work of Fiction”, the artist cleverly uses (or needs) the magical powers of fiction to get away with his obsessive critiques, exaggerations, caricatures and audacious self-heroism. Quite predictable, the object of critique is, unfortunately, the New York art scene, and its protagonists. The exaggerations are, unfortunately, focused on the cliché gossips of the New York art scene. The star of the story is, unfortunately, an alter ego of the artist: an arrogant looking, horny for money and booze, break-through artist. The drawings and paintings show aesthetically appealing portraits of Jerry Saltz, the Village Voice art critic; Leo Koenig, the top gallery guy; Zach Feuer, another top gallery guy; Banks Violette, Terence Koh, Mary Boone, David Hunt and, of course, Larry Gagosian and Paris Hilton.
I think that Powhida is another fine example of how emerging artists struggle to survive in New York. They often try to find the right pitch to get noticed by the art scene. However, I find it rather sad that a young artist devotes his entire body of work to spotlighting an uninteresting, selected elite of New York art people, just to point to the fact that they, and William Powhida, are interesting. When in fact they aren’t. Ironically, that is the only plot. So, is that really funny?
(Editor's Note: For more about William Powhida see Andrew Simmons interview with the artist here:http://whitehotmagazine.com/whitehot_articles.cfm?id=487)
Since Powhida’s main source of inspiration is the art gang of New York, I will feed his anger and help in instigating his reactionary behavior, by symbolically ending my devoted attention to his work in this text. I’d rather write about something I truly like, instead of continuing to find more reasons that prove the exhibition “This is a Work of Fiction” isn’t such a big deal, at all. An actual big deal in New York City is the fact that Mayor Bloomberg welcomes contemporary art in his highly secured, hyper-designed, smoke-free building in midtown for the past two years. Obviously, there are always many pros and cons about corporate art, however, this specific art program deserves your attention. In collaboration with Art in General, a not-for-profit in Lower Manhattan, Bloomberg invites curators who invite artists to work on temporary exhibitions in his headquarters. The fourth exhibition opened on Tuesday, May 22nd and is titled “HORIZON, About Travel and Melancholy”, featuring artworks by Vanessa Albury, Stephan Apicella-Hitchcock, Paulus Kapteyn, Eric Van Hove and Sufjan Stevens. HORIZON is an exhibition that focuses on exteriors, on the undefined elsewhere, on the absence of people and places, and on the way artists, both metaphorically and physically, wander through imagined and real landscapes. Sometimes, people, objects or places that we long for are out of reach, leaving us with nothing more than our imaginations to create scenarios and situations in which these affections are brought to life. HORIZON attempts to prove that while memory is incapable of matching an original experience, it invokes new thoughts and inspirations. The artworks in this exhibition are conceptually situated in the gap between the conceptual here and now, and the imagined elsewhere. Throughout the summer, Art in General organizes private tours.
Whereas William Powhida’s imagined scenarios are vapid and lifeless, the artists in HORIZON present imaginative and intriguing fictional scenarios that correspond to contemporary life issues that reach beyond the elite art world of one city.
(Edited by Vanessa Albury)
THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION
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Jan Van Woensel is an independent curator, art critic and musician based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the curatorial advisor of Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer and curator of Studio Philippe Vandenberg. Van Woensel is professor at CCA, dept of Curatorial Practice in San Francisco; Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles; and NYU, dept of Art and Art Professions in New York. Office Jan Van Woensel, a team of assistant curators supervised by Van Woensel, works with international clients such as private collectors, art galleries and artists on exhibitions. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org http://icpabackstage.blogspot.com
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