By CLARE GEMIMA, June 2023
Producing critical text for Artnet, (also known as mocking some new affluent endeavor of the art-rich) Kenny Schachter energetically provides more clues to his work the more he writes, all the while leveraging a convoluted sense of personal distance from his gossipy and crass journalistic hot-takes. Shameless, seductive, and sickening. Similar sensations will certainly ensue from visiting Slow Food, Schachter’s solo exhibition currently on view at Lower East Side’s NFT Gallery. Three non-fungible-token centric bodies of work are spotlighted — naturally everlasting as much as they’re misunderstood by the gallery’s young staff.
Pop Principles: The Art Game happens to be by far the most entertaining, pitting traditional art world characters Jerry Saltz, Larry Gagosian and Yayoi Kusama against the ‘crypto team’, made up of Beeple, Rafik Anadol, and Osinachi (Prince Jacon Osinachi Igwe). These characters recur in a video teaser made for the game, animating peculiar scenes where characters resist each other's real-world reputations. An aggressive Larry Gagosian spiral throws wads of cash at Jerry Saltz from across the Guggenheim’s rotunda, and in another scene, Yayoi Kusama vandalizes the very same architecture with her bespoke, black dots. Defacing the museum in her signature style, Schachter’s audiences get to imagine the 94 year old artist rebel against one of the many institutions massively profiting from her own institutionalization. Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Swiss art curator, serves as a neutral player both digitally and physically, and exists alongside several other players in colorful resin sculpture form – not life size, but hauntingly close enough. Several characters, such as Jerry Saltz, can be “sculpturized” upon request, and I believe this is the case for Paris Hilton too. Considering how heavily the artist critiques the obnoxiously expensive vacuum that today’s art-market stands as, it seems only appropriate to mint or sculpt Jeff Koons next, an artist that mysteriously turned up on one of Schachter’s swift and bizarre instagram stories recently.
Openbook is an open-access, never-ending publication that audience members are invited to contribute to. The gallery’s back-space operates as the project’s participatory portal, but is adorned with cringey art world collages, and tessellated deep-fake imagery. Walking into the space to see Larry Gagosian photoshopped as a baby in a diaper only made me want to immediately exit. This part of the show went straight over my head, and completely triggered my gag reflex. Looser, orbiting works also accompany the gallery space, such as Sad Clown, What a gas, and my personal favorite, Missionary Position, a hand knitted tapestry of Mother Teresa. Schachter’s appreciation for a novel of the same title written by renowned writer Christoper Hitchens eviscerates the ‘cult’ lead by the otherwise praised martyr, and poses the argument that her mission was a well disguised megalomaniacal operative that purely served the wealthy. Hitchens believed this groups of people largely resisted measures to end poverty at all, and instead fraternized with tyrants and white-collar criminals throughout the world for their own financial interests. Mother Teresa’s exploitation of impoverished people in her missionary zeal to increase adherence to Christianity feels just as smokey and mirror-y as both the crypto, and more traditional art eco-systems of today — at least from Schachter’s 30 years in the industry (and counting) perspective.
The most domineering work in Slow Food is Swift Thief, a 9 x 7 fiberglass, steel, 3D-printed plastic and acrylic dinosaur skeleton, which sports a bobble-head face of Schachter’s own. The work’s influence derives from situations similar to a recent Sotheby’s auction that sold a 77-million-year-old Gorgosaurus skeleton for $6.1 million to an unknown collector. Many of these auctions have caused outcry for scientists and paleontologists globally, who fear these types of archaeological marvels are becoming nothing more than toys for the ultra-rich.
Upon being assigned this show to write about, I was nervous that Schachter would go through his old messages and discover I’d slid into his DMS at the height of COVID to call him some kind of ‘c’ word, and describe his art practice with a just as bad ‘s’ word. Especially lucky for me, however, according to Schachter’s most recent article for Artnet, an unnamed gallery argued against the artwork he felt was the most successful in his own show (which I speculate to be this fake velociraptor), and claimed that it was in fact ‘bad’. Similar artistic feedback ironically provides Schachter with more entertaining digital content to compose recursively, and merely fuels the artist’s continuously archaic, and critical pursuits.
Slow Food will run at The NFT Gallery until June 17, 2023.
For more information about Kenny Schachter and the exhibition, visit:
Clare Gemima contributes art criticism to The Brooklyn Rail, Contemporary HUM, and other international art journals with a particular focus on immigrant painters and sculptors who have moved their practice to New York. She is currently a visual artist mentee in the New York Foundation of Art’s 2023 Immigrant mentorship program.view all articles from this author