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January 2011, Profile: Con Artist

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Pablo Power and Brian Shevlin at Con Artist
Courtesty, Con Artist and the photographer

 

Con Artist
119 Ludlow Street
New York, NY 10002

 

 

It had been tempting to detox from Chelsea every once in a while and wander Downtown, until 2010 when Chelsea spawns attached themselves to nearly every LES street from Christie to Essex and spores to Delancey. Yet Chelsea’s expansion hardly boosted the average art enthusiast’s morale. Rather, most New Yorkers without the means to purchase a $300,000 painting, continued to fancy Jeffery Deitch’s antics—even after no free drinks were served. New York’s obsessive idolatry of Deitch only devastated the art world more after he traded SoHo and Long Island City for 90210.

 


Bernd Nader at Con Artist
Courtesy, the artists and Con Artist

 

New York’s art scene remains volatile. Chelsea remains stale, showing artists who surely attract affluent clientele. The Upper East Side never changes, but at least one bumps into quirky characters worth mentioning. Even Downtown seems deserted after Deitch’s departure. Commenting on the art market crash may be unnecessary seeing as nearly every market has taken a similar plunge, but the fewer patrons and purchasers of art unfurls massive damage to all New York galleries, in turn substantially impeding artistic progress. Specifically, frugality hurts artists who aren’t backed by a Blue Chip name. New York’s rent still skyrockets, making it difficult to find an affordable studio that fits an easel. There have even been rumblings that the contemporary art of Los Angeles may finally surpass that of New York.

 

Yet 2011 has just begun, and every new year prompts resolution. After documented gentrification, it appears that the LES is poised to reclaim its neighborhood with a collection of artist friendly spaces encouraging talented artists to regenerate the “gallery.” Presumably, even tanned Mr. Deitch would be proud.


Con Artist, a collective run by Brian Shevlin born and raised, coincidentally, in California, has been successfully sustained since April 27, 2010, despite competition. Posted in the basement level at 119 Ludlow Street, Con Artist is comprised of a boutique selling member’s merchandise and hosts “Gallery Nights” on Wednesday while the rest of the week the backroom is used by members as workshop. Unlike most collectives, which tend to exclude outside artists and strangers, Con Artist welcomes the community from 4:00 PM until 12:00 AM. Shevlin’s concept is derived from years of waiting tables and bartending while dreaming of enough time and money to complete tentative projects. His experience has paid off; his management acumen supports the collective’s business strategy. With 25 members, he hopes to acquire enough funding to relocate into a larger, multi-leveled building including: an “art gym” workspace (with quality equipment and material); a full retail store; an art gallery; and a “Members Only” library supplying office spaces, WiFi and other resources, as well as a coffee and/or cappuccino machine. In time, he wishes to open collectives around the world.


Con Artist Boutique. Courtesy, Con Artist


 

Yet Con Artist doesn’t exist to produce revenue. Currently the workshop doubles as a gallery and exhibits an artist bi-monthly or monthly. Shevlin encourages artists to experiment, and often displays museum-esque works that may not be intended for sale. Each Wednesday from 8:00 PM until 2:00 AM, Con Artist invites literally any interested party to crack open PBR cans and interact with the exhibited artist. Barney’s buyers, street writers and notable New Yorkers partake in serious (and sometimes topless) aesthetic discourse. Of course, local DJs, performance artists, such as Sally Golan of “Naked Parties,” and bands perform emitting those old-school Downtown vibes from the 90’s. Sometimes the hungry nimble on the art work. Bernd Naber, a survivor from the conceptual art period, munched on one of Leah Foster’s 10,000 cupcakes, which then hung at Webster Hall.

January’s exhibition features Pablo Power, who has installed one of his first free-standing sculptures related to his current series. Power has produced paintings merging text, photography, painting and found objects shown at the likes of Re:Form School and the Ace Hotel. Though Pablo isn’t a member of the Con Artist collective, he creates work that correlates with the concept behind it. Tagging Miami to New York during his youth has influenced him to incessantly practice script and to photograph ephemeral images of buildings and people who haunt the borders of major cities, where graffiti rules the street. Running parallel with Con Artist’s goal to create a home for determined artists, Power constructs an artistic turf out of wooden panels that are used in his paintings. Power’s installation references his struggle to find his own space—akin to so many artists who use building façades or postal labels.

 

Allegedly comparable to Alleged Gallery, located on the same block ten years ago, due to similar installation practices and its collection of “street art.” Con Artist is more than a street art showcase and most-certainly does not espouse the banal grimy scene unjustly equated with Downtown. Con Artist provides a communal location, where myriad creators from native New Yorkers to new arrivals actualize dreams and develop collaborations, such as Chris Mendoza’s graphics on Kanako Miyamoto’s hand-crafted wallets featured in New York Magazine’s shopping list. The open environment generates the exchange of ideas and eliminates competitions that sometimes arise between artists. Since conception the retail store has accrued a majority of member’s works, offering collectors a spectrum of moderately-priced art. Shevlin has compared collecting art to getting tattoos, a personal and addictive experience. It shouldn’t be restricted to only high-rolling collectors. Con Artist may be the only art business not interested in conning the consumer.

 


Performance Night at Con Artist
Courtesy, the artists and Con Artist



Sally Golan at Con Artist

Courtesy, Con Artist


Image courtesy, Con Artist



Image courtesy, Con Artist



Image courtesy, Con Artist

Megan Garwood

Megan M. Garwood graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, receiving a Bachelor of Arts concentrating in the History of Modern Art with a minor in Ethical Analysis and Morality. Once in New York City she paid her dues as a gallery girl, first at Bjorn Ressle Fine Art and next at Marlborough Chelsea. For the past three years she has worked as an Arts and Culture freelance writer for multiple international publications. Each morning she still asks herself if she feels more like a urinal than a work of art, only because “R.Mutt” is scrawled across her left shoulder.

Contact: mmgarwoo@gmail.com
Portfolio: http://meganmgarwood.blogspot.com/

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