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Founders Day: Jack Smith and the Work of Reinvention


Andreas Grimm New York
530 West 25th Street, 2nd floor, 212-352-2388
July 8 - August 18, 2005
Reception: Thursday, July 7, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Jack Smith Yolanda La Pinguina, c. 1974 Mixed Media Approx. 22×10 x 30 inches Dimensions are variable and do not include stanchion Courtesy Plaster Foundation

Founders Day is a response to the ongoing legacy of pioneering filmmaker, performer, and visual artist Jack Smith. Jonathan Berger, a young artist and the curator of the show, grew up in the circle of people who surrounded Jack Smith in the late 70s and early 80s. This proximity, and his personal relationship with many of the artists, gave Berger an entrée into their processes and ideals From this, he has assembled something very different from a survey, but perhaps truer to the spirit of the work of Jack Smith himself: idiosyncratic, iconoclastic, a little bit worshipful, and focused on artists making use of any and all available materials to create worlds that respond to personal obsessions, ideals and dreams.

Franko B is best known for his stark, blood-loss performances. His work is essentially about redefining beauty through the celebration of one’s body and blood. In Founders Day, B, who has performed at the Tate Modern, London and the Palais des Beaux-Artes, Brussels, presents a group of discarded objects brandished with a red heart or cross, symbols for him of abandonment, rescue and survival.

Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman will be reassuming their extremist cabaret terrorist post-punk drag personæ Kiki and Herb for the first time in New York since their sold-out show at Carnegie Hall in 2004. Capitalizing on the subversive power of witty bastardizations of pop culture, Kiki and Herb will be presenting a performance on the night of the opening, July 7.

Paula Court, known for her sharp, comprehensive portrayals of experimental theater, presents images from Reza Abdoh’s Quotations from a Ruined City. During his short and highly productive career between the mid 80’s and mid 90’s, Abdoh mixed pop culture with frenetic delivery of poetic texts to create extremely visual, physically and emotionally exhausting theatrical works which filtered the everyday through his own heightened and conflicted worldview.

Vaginal Davis’ work encompasses drag, performance art, music, writing, experimental filmmaking, acting, and painting. In 2001, Davis began making what she describes as “available-ist” paintings, using household items (mostly make-up) smeared on cardboard with q-tips and applicators, that are a continuation of her experimental careerism, prolific private art practice and very real self-made celebrity.

James Hampton’s monumental sculpture The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly is enscribed with the words “where there is no vision the people perish.” This outsider artist’s masterwork is comprised of discarded junk completely surfaced with gold and silver foil. Intended to be an educational or prophetic tool for what he believed was the inevitable Second Coming of Christ, the work is now in the Collection of the Smithsonian Museum. There is no information about the Unknown Photographer, featured in the show, who captured Hampton in front of his work.

Peter Hujar’s gorgeous photographic record of downtown New York in the 70’s and 80’s is made all the more poignant by the deaths of so many of its most vibrant icons. Presented here is his photograph of Ethyl Eichelberger as Nefertiti. During the 1980’s, Eichelberger wrote and performed in nearly 40 plays, many based on the lives of the great women in history. Turning freaks into fighters, and using theater to transform the present and reclaim the past, Eichelberger herself became the great lady of that moment.

Athanasius Kircher was born around 1601. He studied Hebrew, Syrian, Egyptian hieroglyphics, pyrotechnics, mechanics, magnetics, malaria and the plague. His all-consuming passion for understanding the machinery of existence led him, in his 35 major publised works, to invent it. Included in the show is a first edition of Kircher’s largest work, the three-volume Å’dipus Ægyptiacus, filled with detailed descriptions and engravings of his ideas of the workings of the universe.

Lewis Klahr’s collage-animated filmmaking uses arcane pop-culture symbology from the 1950s and early 60s. Composed of materials used to make his films, the three collages presented here excavate and build stories and cycles from this lost or overlooked imagery. Klahr, whose work has been shown at the MoMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art, has been awarded grants from the NEA and Creative Capital.

Dasha Shishkin’s complex and mesmerizing drawings and paintings often depict crowds or populations where things have gone awry. Shishkin presents a ceiling drawing based on a favorite theme of Jack Smith’s: The Sinking of Atlantis. The gallery stars as the bottom of the ocean. Shishkin’s work is currently on view at the Kunsthalle Hamburg and PS1, New York.

Katharina Sieverding and Klaus Mettig have long confronted issues of individual frailty, political disruption and personal identity in their work. Presented here are two photographs of Jack Smith-one with Smith performing, the other with him being helped into costume by Katharina-taken during Smith’s extended stay with the couple in Düsseldorf (before they shipped him off to Sigmar Polke’s ranch owing to his violent fits.)

Jack Smith is represented in the show by his beloved Yolanda, La Pinguina, a foot-tall penguin statue, clad in a showgirl outfit, created by Smith as a companion and muse (á la Maria Montez.) A “product of the Hollywood system” Yolanda functioned as the ambassador of Smith’s world. Matt Saunders contributes a painting on mylar and mirror of Smith’s first star, Mario Montez, from his film Normal Love, installed at penguin eye level, so that La Pinquina may contemplate her predecessor.

Photo provided by the gallery.
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