Reviewed: Affair at the Jupiter
Friday-Sunday Sept. 14-16
Affairs you had four years ago are inevitably hotter than the affair you are having today—there is a blush and burnish in hindsight, a patina that makes the grass seem greener on the other side of the temporal hill. This is the same quandary you bump up against every time you attend an annual event: the Cascade AIDS Project Auction, the Red Dress Party, Burning Man, Art Basel Miami Beach, etc. You compare previous years' events the same way you compare previous years' lovers.
Such is the case with the Affair at the Jupiter Hotel
, whose fourth annual outing ended two days ago (Sunday, Sept. 16), seemingly more with a whimper than a bang. There seemed to be two main factors contributing to this less-than-torrid Affair. The first and most important was a comparatively anemic caliber of art itself. The amateurish, scrawly 20/30-something Williamsburg style has reached a critical density and sucked the lion's share of the art world down a black hole. This lowly gruel gives ammunition to those who see contemporary art as “something my 6-year-old kid could do,” and it was this brand of art that clogged the Jupiter's arteries like a Doug Fir cheeseburger.
The second factor was an organizational one. On opening night (Friday, Sept. 14), the Affair opened with a $50-per-head preview from 6-9 pm. After that, the place shut down. Last year and the year before, there was a $10-per-head afterparty in the Jupiter's courtyard as the exhibitions continued to stay open. This cheaper event could actually be attended by poor folk like, y'know, artists—you know, the people who make the art that is being sold!!! This lack of hoi polloi created what felt like sparser attendance than on previous opening nights. This being said, all the gallery owners I spoke with on Saturday and Sunday said they had sold respectable or more-than-respectable amounts of art during the fair's run—and as much as we all love a good party, the point of an art fair, we must reluctantly concede, is to sell art.
If I seem unimpressed with the Affair overall, I should hasten to point out the many highlights among the exhibitors' offerings. Portland's own Pulliam Deffenbaugh
was perhaps the best exhibitor in the entire fair, with brand new, smokin'-hot work from Brenden Clenaghen
, Matthew Picton
, and Anna Fidler
Brenden Clenaghen's work
Albuquerque's Richard Levy Gallery
featured pixilated stills from surveillance videos, while Chicago's 65GRAND
had one of the best examples of jolie laide
I've ever seen: Untitled (Rat)
, a gorgeously lit, beautifully colored photograph of a dead rat.
(Chicago) did their bathroom up in gay-themed porn art, including an untitled mixed-media collage by Dutes Miller which illustrates the always handy ability to flex one's erection while simultaneously spreading one's butthole.
The Gay Porn bathroom
(Portland) featured Israeli glass artist Dafna Kaffeman's spiky sea anemone-like sculptures, while Tilt (Portland)
showed a sense of whimsy with Kevin Yates' Tinkerbell-sized Queen Mattress. Modern Culture
(New York) rolled out the rock'n'roll guns with Roberta Bayley's white-hot photos from the height of Bondie's and Iggy Popp's careers, while PDX (Portland) saved its trump card, a gorgeous James Lavadour, for the watercloset. Mark Woolley (Portland) made a strong showing with Nicholas Typaldos' wrestling imagery, punctuated with flamboyant faux orchids, while Laura Russo (Portland) trooped out her stars, Mel Katz, Lucinda Parker, and Tom Cramer.
(San Francisco) proved that a Latin American-themed art space does not have to rely on garish, quasi-quaint folklorica—case in point, Columbian painter Leonardo Pineda's Bicicleta Azul
(Blue Bicycle), which channeled Jean-Michel Basquiat without aping the late artist's brash iconography. At Pentimenti
(Philadelphia), Judy Gelles juxtaposed beach cottages in Melbourne, Australia, with beach trailer parks in Melbourne, Florida, to witty effect.
Leonardo Pineda's Bicicleta Azul
Reed College's Cooley Gallery
outfitted its space in tacky chinoiserie (fake cherry trees, brocade pillows, fringed lanterns) to accompany its filmed presentation of the Dim Sum Puppet Opera Company's hilarious parody of photographer Gregory Crewdson. The absurdist puppet show reminded me of Blinglab's absurdist play at last year's TBA Festival, The Untold Adventures of Lewis and Clark
This year's special project at the Affair was an exhibition of drawings by freak folkie Devendra Banhart
. The drawings are unremarkable—Banhart is a musician, not a visual artist, after all—but they are every bit as good as comparable drawings in the fair by people who are visual artists.
(Portland), Casey Watson's untitled skull painting is adhered to the bathroom mirror, creating the effect of looking in the mirror and seeing a skull. My favorite work from the whole shebang was an untitled print at Duchess Gallery
(Chicago) by Brooklyn-based Jamisen Ogg,
who tints photos of mid-Century homes in improbable fluorescent colors.
The event's most welcome breath of fresh air was not part of the Affair proper at all; it was a room rented in a different quadrant of the Jupiter by local art impresario Patrick Rock
, who is perhaps best known for his inflatable hot dog at Jeff Jahn's 2005 show, Fresh Trouble
. Rock was sitting outside his room waving people inside, where an exhibition of underground Chinese art awaited—intriguing, if lowbrow, pieces smuggled into the U.S. in the suitcase of a traveling curator. Rock's quirky persona and heterogeneous curatorial élan, coupled with a gift for scene-setting, recall the heydays of Haze Gallery's Jack Shimko and Gallery 500's Justin Oswald, both of whom knew how to marry content and buzz. Here's hoping Rock's eponymous art space, Rocks Box
, will fulfill the promise it now holds. As to the Affair itself—it titilated more than satisfied, but as the saying goes, “Same time next year...”
(Last photo: Left to right—Vanessa Calvert, Molly Vidor, Patrick Abbey, and Patrick Rock. All photos by Richard Speer)