Chelsea, Manhattan, NYC
Last night opened the final show in a series entitled "The Virgins" at Family Business Gallery, a space the size of a glorified closet on West 21st Street in Chelsea. The show was originally titled "It's a Small, Small World", but the title was officially changed to "It's a Clusterf*ck" this past weekend, when an open call for submissions turned into...well, you get it. I stopped by less than half way through the open submissions period to find the gallery closed, and a pile of panties left as an apology offering. The show's curator, Jayson Musson, or better, his alter-ego Hennessy Youngman's Twitter account read "THERE'S NO ROOM IN THAT BITCH...WHEN THERE'S NO ROOM FOR THE LADDER TO HANG SHIT, U GOT PROBS"
Musson's character is, in essence, a remarkably eloquent art critic - just maybe not the type you're used to. Hennessy Youngman appears without fail on his web cam, introduced by a loop of rap music, sporting a gold chain and goofy flat-brimmed hat. In his Art Thoughtz YouTube series, Youngman addresses a range of topics, from relational aesthetics, to post-structuralism, to how to get your work shown (he suggests giving a curator a rose, and received several last night). Adopting an urban vernacular, that Musson does not use in conversation, Youngman delivers biting and smart art criticism, engaging the lay viewer, as not even the most skilled art writers do. Sorry Jerry. As a long time fan of Art Thoughtz, I can attest to the following: they are funny, and surprisingly informative. If you don't believe me, watch the episode in which he compares the late German performance artist Joseph Beuys to the rapper Jay-Z.
Shortly after I arrived last night to a scene rife with hipsters already spilling out onto 21st Street, I found Hennessy Youngman garbed in a drab green jumpsuit and donning a Spiderman flat-brim hat. Youngman was holding two boxes of Domino's pizza a friend in Portland, Oregon had ordered with instructions to deliver to the gallery. I wandered around to see artist and gallery co-owner Maurizio Cattelan arriving on bicycle, artist Marilyn Minter getting a temporary tattoo, and hoards of art nerds, hipsters, cool kids and passersby alike, struggling to take it all in.
I never made it into the gallery - and not for a lack trying. The only element of the evening that remotely resembled an art opening was fishing a PBR out of an ice filled garbage can at the gallery next door - and those went fast. Alternative rap group Spank Rock, friends and "rap heroes" of Musson's from his days at UPenn in Philadelphia showed up to perform in the storefront to a pulsing crowd covering 21st Street. Naeem Juwan, 1/2 of Spank Rock, perhaps summed it up most accurately: "I was invited up here to play at an art gallery...but this feels more like a block party"
In the end, the show was much less about the art that actually made it inside, and much more about the environment it created- an exercise in relational aesthetics. Judging by last nights festivities, and many of his YouTube sensations cresting 100,000 views, it is safe to say that the eyes of the art world, and perhaps the world at large are on Hennessy Youngman. Whether or not his creator, Jayson Musson, can convert this moment into a viable art career is really up to him. No pressure or anything.