The Rider Project in front of Matthew Marks Gallery in Chelsea.

"Rider Project 2004" NYArts Magazine Vol.10 (January/February 2005) N.1/2.

            Chelsea is so institutionalized it's scary. Shows all have this whitebread, polished, superficiality that is all image and no ingenuity, all slickness and no soul. (If I hear another asshole say that painting is about surface more than anything else I'm going to scream.)The great concrete and whitewall fortresses of aesthetics are cold, alienating, and filled with snotty assholes; secretive, exclusionary, and just plain mean in most cases.
            But we know this. It's been like this for years. It's just weird that so many of us accept it. We play along without questioning it. I guess the power of conformity and belonging reign. What are we afraid of? Looking uncool? Bucking the system because it may lead to embarrassment or rejection? Or worst yet, are we afraid of not getting an invitation to the after party? Is anybody unconcerned with image enough to be truly creatively free. It's fucking ridiculous. As my friend Brian says, "Will somebody please throw a pie!"
            Seriously, fuck Art Forum, fuck Williamsburg and most of all fuck Chelsea; that tarpit for the rich, self important, narcissistic, and shallow. Money and fashion have never formed a more rancid absence of life than they have in the current capital of the art market. And never has bucking it's systems (both social and aesthetic) been more urgent or necessary.
            Well, maybe I am being a bit extreme. But a less volatile version of this attitude was part of what inspired the Rider Project.
            Devised by art collective Art-Anon's creative director Michele Gambetta, the idea was simple: Make a gallery in the back of a truck and tour around Williamsburg, the East Village, and Chelsea to get exposure for work that galleries won't show. It forms a dialogue and thus a form of social sculpture in the vein of Joseph Beuys.
            Last year it was called "Ch-Ch-Changes" after the Bowie tune. The work dealt with the transient, the ephemeral, the evolutionary. I was a part of it. It was a hell of a lot of work and a hell of a lot of fun. We brought people from all walks of life in to see art they wouldn't have seen otherwise. We alienated alot of gallerists too.
            The ultra image conscious thought it a bother and a bore (They always do though don't they?) "How dare those tasteless commoners park that...that...that thing on our street!" Whatever. It wasn't for the snobs. It was for everybody.
            All playa hatin' aside, this year The Rider Gallery, while still creatively directed by Gambetta, was curated by Asya Geisberg and Irys Schenker under the title and theme of "The Cell." Microscopic, multiplicitious, bordered by walls and filled with parts I've long forgotten from high school biology class (Mitochondria rings a bell somehow) cell are the building blocks of organic material. But they're also holding rooms for prisoners and secret associations of terrorists. Batteries are sometimes called cells (like DuraCELL) etc. etc. So ruminating on the meanings of a complicated word I entered the back of the truck to see what interpretations were offered.
            What I first noticed was that over all it was cleaner in presentation and more thoughtfully linked to the theme than the Ch-Ch-Changes show. There was a variety of approaches to the theme that neither veered wildly off target nor remained too confined to the obvious connotations.
            Eun Young Choi's "Silver Cloud" first caught my eye. It was composed of a carefully shaped piece of silver acetate covered in a variety of small stickers. They formed patterns of color and texture that were billowy and floral. Upon closer inspection they were stickers one sees in drug stores along side the birthday cards, post-it pads, and sharpies. I liked the way they were used to reference the multiplicity of cells living together with one another in a whimsical, poppy way.
            A striking departure from previous work was Art Anon's director Michele Gambetta's piece "In Deep". It looked like a magnification of molten chocolate and blood. Truly rich and haunting at the same time one was left wondering whether the appetite should be aroused or repelled. Asya Geisberg's photos of saltwater flats titled "Badwater II." formed a nice anhydrous juxtapostion to the borderless ooze of Gambetta's work. The reality of cells as divisions of geological territory was of primary evidence in this work as well. Taking Asya's tie in to the theme and twisting it from the geological into the geopolitical was "Map 4" by Laura Parker. Her reconstructions of borders using old maps as fodder gave the show the political association it needed to carry us through election time.
            While all the work brought it's own significance to the Cell show (and thus bears mentioning) I was left in the end wondering what was more important here: the work in this well presented show or the DIY spirit from which it arose?
            Is the audacity neccessary to take on such an ambitious and thankless project in the face of all that I railed against above the piece or are the individual works in the truck the work to be analyzed? If the "Piece" as the whole truck and it's positioning as a populist uprising sort of Trojan Horse of art AND the individual efforts of these unknown struggling artists BOTH is the answer then I am left with a problem: The individual works are more or less executed in traditional media that fits too comfortably with accepted standards of presentation.
            Is this the "termite art" that Jerry Saltz hates so much? Maybe. Are they conforming too much to the white walled sterility of Chelsea's Galleries? Again Maybe. But "The Cell" being a step beyond the rough start The Rider Gallery had in "Ch-Ch-Changes"points the project in a different direction for the future. A challenge no doubt already being addressed by the hardworking artists involved in Art-Anon. So long as it keeps creating social sculpture that is an intelligent and defiant barb in the Art World's blemishless hide it will have served it's purpose regardless.

For more information on The Rider Project please visit art-anon.org.