Swoon, Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, Deitch Studios 4-40 44th Drive, September 7 - October 19, 2008, Photo credit: Kristy Leibowitz courtesy of Deitch Projects, New York
Deitch is world famous for it's exciting exhibitions and large scale projects. This is my interview with Andrea Cashman the director of Deitch about some of the projects occuring at this powerhouse of the international art world.
Noah Becker: Deitch has a number of exciting exhibitions coming up. Tell us a bit about the Rock On Mars Steven Sprouse exhibition?
Steven Sprouse had a huge impact not only on fashion, but drew from and inspired the New York Downtown scene in the 1980’s and early 90’s. The exhibition highlights his retro-sixties, futuristic and punk fashion designs, furniture designs and also some really amazing paintings he made in the studio, like “Iggy on the Cross,” a giant silkscreen on canvas painting of a crucified Iggy Pop. During his lifetime Sprouse worked with creative visionaries like Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry and Billy Idol, collaborated with Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs, and continues also to inspire underground artists, musicians and designers. The cross contamination between high and low, punk rock and popular culture create a unique energy in his work. Immediately recognizable is the silkscreen on canvas face of a sneering Sid Vicious, but in another silk-screen “Pink Guitar Boy,” a friend of mine recognized the subject as a fellow former St. Marks punk called Spike, who ended up being murdered in jail. It’s a great piece.
NB: What are some aspects of the Liz Renay show we should be looking forward to that are not listed in the press material?
Liz Renay was a reality TV star before there was reality TV. She really wrote her own life into a soap opera. Unlike Paris Hilton who is famous for being famous, she was deeply involved in the arts: burlesque, film, television, writing. Renay has been a tremendous inspiration to Burlesque performers and drag queens- she has a huge range of identities and creative body of work from which to draw. A group of fantastic Liz Renay look-alikes showed up at the opening, dressed up as Liz from various periods of her life. We also did a tribute party at Santos Party House with a look-alike contest and burlesque performances. It’s always fascinating when an artist who has passed away, like Sprouse or Renay, is still relevant and inspirational to contemporary subculture.
NB: The Keith Haring show in Long Island City is a monumental exhibition. Could you give our readers a few anecdotes about the difficulty associated with mounting something of this scale?
Our art handler’s could really answer this one best. Keith had originally painted The Ten Commandments
for a Museum show at the CAPC, Bordeaux in 1985. He ordered ten 25-foot high tablets to fill the archways of the museum. Fortunately, 24 years later, our Deitch Studios space in LIC is large enough and grand enough to really display the work the way it should be. Obviously when you have pieces of such art historical importance in such a large scale, it’s very stressful to try to get things up within a limited time frame, there was a lot of really careful monitoring by our staff on this one, and the effect is very powerful.
NB: Swoon's show with Deitch caused quite a stir in the art world. The concept was ambitious with many journalists eager to write about the event. I'm certain that it was a problematic project for a gallery director to get everything happening at the right time. What was it like from your office? It sounded like a major military operation with many challenges.
The most interesting thing about the orchestration of a Swoon exhibition, is the community she gathers around her to help her with her projects. Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea
was the result of a year of design and construction and the combined efforts of seventy- five collaborators, working under Swoon’s direction. After Swoon and her friends built seven boats from scrap wood and other discarded materials, a crew of forty people sailed the seven home-made boats down the Hudson, which were then docked in front of Deitch Studios on the East River in Long Island City. There were then three nights of performances on the boats by the crew. Of course it takes a large amount of co-ordination for this all to happen on our end, but it really couldn’t happen without the help of the tremendous community Swoon has created.
NB: Are the collectors around now with the international economic downturn? How is the scene being affected by this climate? How is this going to affect the type of work that you present?
There is certainly an impact on the market right now, but we still have a base of collectors who are interested in buying art. It’s smart for them to add to their collections now when price negotiations are a little more open, and waiting lists for the hot artists aren’t as long. There has always been the idea that hard times make better art and I think to a certain degree this is true. DIY approaches and innovative collaborative projects can come out of this. Also, with the necessary pairing down of production costs, the downturn can force artists to experiment with new materials. Work becomes more direct, there aren’t as many conceptual or gestural shortcuts or superfluities.
NB: When did you start at Deitch and what were you involved with prior to your appointment as director at the gallery?
I started at Deitch in 2004 following my graduation from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Bard is fortunate to have the Marieluise Hessel Collection at the Center for Curatorial Studies on its campus, so I was exposed to some really interesting contemporary art there. Most of my friends at Bard were studio artists so there was a lot of late night hanging out in the studio buildings: making the work, drinking beer and just talking. I think this is probably of equal value to visits to museums and Chelsea Galleries of which we also did quite a bit.
NB: Do you have a favorite artist or exhibition from Deitch or elsewhere?
We have worked with Tim Noble and Sue Webster who are a British husband and wife team- their work has certain sensibilities that really interest me. It’s very gritty and flippant, and at the same time completely romantic. I’m also really looking forward to this summer- when we will be exhibiting an incarnation of Jonah Freeman’s and Justin Lowe’s Hello Meth Lab,
a project that was originally in Marfa Texas and then exhibited at Art Basel Miami Beach. It blew me away in Miami, and I think it’s a really important and radical continuation of a sort of American Gothic tradition.