Among Chelsea Galleries’ Summer Shows, Some Add Fire to the Heat

In a summer abundant with group exhibitions, these three might be worth braving the scorcher.
Reading time 5 minutes

“It’s a cruel, cruel summer,” declared an 80s pop hit defining the inertia overtaking city streets during humid spells of detrimental heat. Rooftops, heartbreaks, and tan lines aside, summer signals a suave deceleration for the art world, allowing galleries to flirt with more experimental concepts and broader rosters of artists with witty group exhibitions awaiting those who can brave the afternoon sun in Chelsea. Amongst those fun—but sometimes, lost—exhibition concepts of this summer, three stand out not only with their interconnected approaches to notions of desire and enticement but also with networks of artists and creative trends they represent overall. Evident in all three shows are slick and inviting atmospheres, achieved thanks to their curators’ ability to tap into our post-Internet era, angst-driven yearning for belonging and self-emancipation.

The first exhibition of the bunch is FLAG Art Foundation’s Dime-Store Alchemy, bringing together an ambitious list of artists, who embrace display aesthetics in sculptural forms to question beauty, excess and kitsch. In an exhibition proposing vast representations of commodity, either atop exposed shelves or inside closed cabinets, daring to “go big” steals the scene.

Filling an entire room with objects in various hues of pink, Portia Munson’s immersive Pink Project; Bedroom (1994-2018) includes dildos, beauty products, toys, dresses furniture and more, all manufactured pink, resuming a project Munson started for a New Museum exhibition in the early 90s.

Travels of William Bartram Reconsidered (2008), Mark Dion’s 19th century-inspired wooden vitrine filled with various tchotchke-size alligator miniatures, falls into a surprising harmony with über glossy concepts, such as Nicole Wermers' marble-inlaid baby changing unit Mood Board #1 (2016) or Sophie Calle’s clinical-looking cabinet full of gifts she received on the occasion of her 30th birthday, titled The Birthday Ceremony (1983) (1997).

A few blocks south, Metro Pictures presents Evidence, where an uncanny setting stranded between the aftermath of a dystopian calamity and a pristine high-end boutique greets passersby. Allyson Vieira’s net-covered installation for her paintings of commercial debris (all 2018) is primarily responsible for the intricately-staged atmosphere. These arrow-shaped paintings of melted stereo-foam and shopping bags, hung behind a draping net, both charm and daunt with electric colors and oozing figures. In addition to organizing Evidence, Josh Kline participates in both exhibitions as an artist.

While his mute-colored 3D silicone sculptures of handcuffed cameras at FLAG Foundation seem demure, his use of the same technique at Metro Pictures goes to eerie extents. Realistically-rendered busts of waiters from two American restaurant chains and types of food they regularly serve all sit on tables, testing the viewers’ limits for appetite and disgust.

There, also make sure to note works by two Paul’s: Paul Pfeiffer’s Desiderata (2017-18), in which contestants in TV’s famed quiz show The Price Is Right leap in sheer exuberance in a digitally-altered version with no host or prizes, and Paul Chan’s Dimposium (2016), a version of his nylon-sewn inflatable “breathers,” equally reminiscing erratic roadside car dealer signs and mourners wailing back and forth.


Finally, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery’s Pine Barrens borrows its title from a part of New Jersey known for its infertile and acidic soil, which provides a habitat for orchids and carnivorous plants. Similar to the previous two, this group show encapsulates intertwined contradictions of the zeitgeist in terms of want and apathy or need and vanity.

For proof, look no further than Samara Golden’s Missing Pieces from A Fall of Corners #6 (2015-17), a visitor-greeting dining table, vertically affixed onto the wall to resist gravity and logic. All seems normal on the surface for this decadent dessert table; however, the exhibition requires closer inspection to glimpse its quirky accents. Borna Sammak’s Horse (2018) streams a distorted image of the aforementioned animal on an HD screen shrouded by a red-hued floral growth with elegant details; in Placebo IV (2018), Agnieszka Kurant puts fictional pharmaceutical drugs from cinema inside a cabinet to provoke our narcotic tendencies. Here, Wermers continues her subversion of the domestic chic with Givers & Takers (2016), a hybrid sculpture of two high-end house gadgets: a steel and glass kitchen fan and a hand dryer face each other, balancing a love-and-hate relationship encapsulated by one’s ability to absorb the other’s content. 


Dime-Store Alchemy is open at FLAG Art Foundation through August 17.

Evidence is open at Metro Pictures through August 3.

Pine Barrens is open at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery through July 27.

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