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