Thursday, October 9, 2014

Schlubs of New York

There are rare nights when Manhattan has a manic, magical charm. Then there are nights like tonight, when Tenth Avenue reeks of discarded ice outside the fish market and the air is shattered by car horns as drivers blast their way into the Lincoln Tunnel. (To be fair, these aren’t New Yorkers—they’re assholes from New Jersey in a big fucking rush to get back to their blighted home turf.)

On such a routine, uncharming evening people in New York look like hell—vacant, tired, badly dressed; a parade of the lame and the halt, the obese and the homeless. Chelsea becomes a badly lit Fellini set.

Hordes of people pour across town, flooding the sidewalks. I fight my way down Tenth through the selfie-taking mob, past a couple of bloody zombies. I start thinking about airport temperature screening for Ebola and what a joke that is. It’s not until I pass another ghoul that the signal rises above the noise and I realize these are not the usual schlubs of Manhattan. These are out of town schlubs dressed up as zombies (and anime princesses and super heroes). I am surrounded by morons exiting Comicon at the Javits Center.

At 28th Street I reach my goal: an opening at the Fred Torres Gallery, billed as an “experiential showcase” that “blends diverse visual and olfactory mediums to explore a full spectrum of the moments and states that cannot fully be defined.” Thus the show’s title, “Liminality: betwixt and between.”

A small group of people mill about on the sidewalk in front of the gallery’s plate glass window. They’re watching perfumer Christopher Brosius on a step ladder hang some laundry on a metal frame. At least that’s what it looks like at first glance. On second glance (and first sniff) he’s hanging a silken sheet printed with a phrase and ever so lightly scented. The 15 knot breeze coming off the Hudson makes it hard to build much olfactory ambience. A silver-haired gentleman is observing the scene while a Asian woman gesticulates and lectures him energetically in German.

CB himself, of course, is wearing boots and a black kilt. His parti-colored hair is braided to his scalp in tight cornrows. He peers myopically through wire-framed aviator frames set with thick lenses. It’s quite a look. [You should talk, Mr. Minus Six Diopters.—Ed.] [Yeah, but I gave up aviators frames in the Eighties—right after kilts.]

Inside the miniscule gallery I gratefully accept a glass of champagne from an attractive young woman with ample and generously displayed cleavage. Reluctantly, I turn away to the art. There are three visual artists, each with his own wall. One is a collection of dark B&W photos of random people in random scenes; the images are untitled and uninterpretable, but all are definitely bleak. On the next wall hang three quasi-representational paintings that are quasi-engaging. On the third wall is a series of color photographs. Some were taken in a semi-finished attic with a female subject who looks lost and ill at ease. Others feature bare male asses. This is the artist examining “the tension between sexuality and intimacy.” Or something.

In the center of the room, on a pedestal draped in white fabric, stands a clear glass Florence flask. No one is paying it any attention. I lean in and sniff—I get notes of dry wood and fresh green leaves. This is CB’s contribution to the show.

The show was organized by an outfit that bills itself as “a full-service curation and experience-design agency specializing in immersive events production.”

Really? I got fully immersed in the champagne and that was about it. I guess if you want to “cultivate an inclusive influencer network augmenting cultural cachet,” then this is the agency for you.

Or you could set up an odorized booth at Comicon.

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