Bursting on the Rome art scene like a giant rave, New York Minute: 60 Artists on the New York Scene drew thousands of visitors on opening night and has continued to pack in a curious crowd. Presented at MACRO Future, a former slaughterhouse in the hip Testaccio neighborhood of Rome, New York Minute is a massive, energetic show, curated by renegade Deitch Projects director Kathy Grayson and organized by the adventurous DEPART Foundation.
Exploring street punk, wild figuration, and new abstraction, the artists in this colorful show represent a new generation of creative minds, responding to the world around them in rapid and unpredictable ways. The street punks include Ryan McGinley, Aurel Schmidt, Terence Koh, and the late Dash Snow; wild figuration is represented by Jim Drain, Katherine Bernhardt, and Tomoo Gokita, among others; and the new abstract works range from Rosson Crow’s haunting, corrupted interiors to Ara Peterson’s remix of op art.
The show explodes in MACRO’s two enormous buildings. Ara Peterson and Jim Drain’s collaborative and colorful pinwheels greet visitors at the entrance of one of the structures, while Assume Vivid Astro Focus collaborative pieces create another kind of energetic minefield that has to be maneuvered in the other building’s entryway. Deeper within the show, Barry McGee has constructed a seemingly pregnant wall of torn up typography that propels power back into the gallery and runs head on into a maze of small, framed geometric paintings. Likewise, Martha Friedman confounds viewers with an installation of giant, multi-colored rubber bands that run from the floor to ceiling.
Photography and video are woven throughout the exhibition. Dash Snow has a big grid of blown up Polaroids that reflect the wild lifestyle that ended his days too soon; Le Tigre rocker JD Samson shows the 12 photos from her Lesbian Calendar 2003; and Cory Arcangel exhibits one of his Photoshop Gradient works, for which the extended title gives the exact instructions for how to make the print. Meanwhile, video standouts include Ben Jones of Paper Rad fame, Takeshi Murata, and Michael-Bell Smith, whose digital transformation of a city at night offers fresh possibilities for seeing urban life.
Ara Peterson / Jim Drain, Pinwheels 1-35, 2004-2005, Mixed media, Dimensions variable, Courtesy Deitch Projects, New York
However, the predominant mediums that these artists are manipulating to their own ends are painting and sculpture. Dearraindrop has a masterful pair of imaginary paintings, where Mr. Clean, cartoon characters, and floating eyeballs share the terrain; Valerie Hagerty pumps new life into Mark Rothko’s work with a slashed version of one of his coveted paintings; and Brian Belott makes cats more mystical than they already are by adding clocks to their eyes in his Plexiglas paintings. Gang Gang Dance’s Lizzi Bougatsos take the prize for grittiest sculpture with her addition of rubber penises to a the heads of a couple in a street crossing sign, while Terence Koh wins hands down for most ambiguous with a bronze self-portrait in a seated Buddha position in front of a swastika made from toy soldiers.
Shows within the show include a photo installation from Tim Barber’s Tinyvices project and Aaron Bondaroff’s O.H.W.O.W. pop up shop with fanzines, artist books, t-shirts, posters, and other ephemera by this extended community of artists. The band A.R.E. Weapons performed to an enthusiastic crowd at the opening, followed by artist and Santos Party House partner Spencer Sweeney’s crazy DJ set.
Lively, edgy, spirited, and comprehensive, New York Minute packages the energy of the New York art scene of the past decade and releases it in a way that still keeps it fresh and vital, and most importantly for the new audience in Rome, or any other city around the world, inspiring.
New York Minute: 60 Artists on the New York Scene, which is accompanied by a catalogue published by O.H.W.O.W., continues at MACRO Future in Rome through November 1. View photos from the opening at Art in America’s The Scene.