Art Lovers New York: Trippin’ Down Memory Lane with Billy Grant

All photos courtesy & copyright Nancy Smith  

By NANCY SMITH, August 2023 

BILLY GRANT (above), the youngest member of the art collective,  Dearraindrop, at the opening of their wild, free-falling, multi-media show: ‘Riddle of the Sphinx’, which ran June 25 - August 7, 2004 at Deitch Projects on Wooster St. Baby-faced Billy was something like 18, and heed my words all you young moms out there: Do not dress your baby boys in little mini-me business suits, unless you want them to show up like this, at all future family formal occasions. 

JOE GRILLO, the leader of the pack. As you can see the ‘Riddle of the Sphinx’ walls were densely covered, like one big, crazy wild, pulsing, installation collage. There were also free-standing sculptures,  including golden-hued, life-size teepees,  swaths of brilliantly-hued, fast moving video, diverse hangout areas, and even beds, which were profusely covered with layer-upon-layer of signature Dearraindrop boldly patched quilts, very much like Joe’s own custom attire. Collage was the name of their game, no matter the medium. In fact, Dearraindrop got their velocity-powered start with a gloriously ‘rebel’ patchwork quilt, which they made for Scott Hug’s scene-changing, and most fabulous ‘K48 Teenage Rebel (the Bedroom Show)’, which took place at John Connelly Presents, in Chelsea,  Dec 4, 2002 —Feb 15, 2003. Just to show you how fast things moved back then; within a short year or so later, Dearraindrop were playing full-on fast and furious, in Deitch’s huge, mainstream gallery space.

LAURA GRANT,  Billy’s big sister, and Joe’s girlfriend at the time, rounded out the threesome. She produced a lot of their custom clothing, and probably was the ‘infra-structure' brains behind the quilts. Though it was said Joe also liked to throw down those patches, and with great zest, too. He was said to have gotten his love of stitching on patches, from his early days in the Boy Scouts, before he (surprise, surprise ) got kicked out. Dearraindrop dropped into the NYC scene from Virginia, peaked almost overnight with ‘Riddle of the Sphinx’, drifted briefly around a newly popping, though not sustained, contemporary art scene in Norway, and then by 2010 was just a mirage.  

JEFFREY DEITCH showed up to the ‘Riddle of the Sphinx’ opening resplendent in a Dearraindrop customized, white Prada suit, quite appropriate as Dearraindrop actually began as a one-of-a-kind clothing line.  “A multimedia installation by the collective Dearraindrop  filled the gallery . . transforming the space into a mythical, psychedelic fun house. Massive sculptures such as a Teepee village and a giant sphinx took over the space, creating a hyperreal surfeit of imagery glowing in neon and black light. Dearraindrop’s new video work . . ” (that would be Billy), “beaming from the mouth of the giant sphinx, set the tone . . with it’s  amphetamine-paced dystopian psychedelia, which could be described as ‘melts in your mind not in your head.’ ” ~Deitch Projects  

Detail, ‘Riddle of the Sphinx’. Dearraindrop shocked everyone, but also caught on fire because they so boldly encapsulated the heady new visual imagery, an emerging emphasis on DIY, and the far-flung, but passionate mindset of the early 2000 / Millennial era, when artists didn’t have practices,  they had flame-outs!!  I don’t know about you, but when I saw that cute, little blue tweety bird, replaced by a scary one-dimensional, and gothic ‘X’,  it felt like . .  a massacre of the entire human imagination. Looking back to all that early 2000-10 craziness, I just wanted to shout: dear, dear Dearraindrop, won’t you please Dewdropinn, again? WM 


Nancy Smith


Nancy Smith is an artist, and the publisher of


Portrait by Taylor McKimens



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