Mariah Robertson Guild & Greyshkul / Manhattan

March 9, 2009

As an editor at Flash Art I should say this: I should not contradict the magazine, which a while ago published a news item on this website announcing that Guild & Greyshkul is closing. Guild & Greyshkul is not closing. The gallery, which over the last five years has been one of the most interesting and energetic places in New York, a barometer of a certain type of art — Crafting Modernity I like to call this type of attitude —, is not closing! I like to think that Guild & Greyshkul is just becoming something different, a ghostly comrade of our life, a presence that is buzzing around, a sort of magneto that is still attracting folks who love (a certain type of undeniably good) Art.

Jamie Eisenstein, Garth Weiser, Aaron Young and Ohad Meromi started their career at Guild & Greyshkul before entering a more ‘institutional’ situation. Amazing artists like Lisi Raskin (keep your radar on her!), Ernesto Caivano (who was ironically represented by Guild & Greyshkul and White Cube!!), Ryan Johnson and Halsey Rodman were still with them. Yes, with them: Anya Kielar, Johannes and Sara VanDerBeek. The fact that they are gallery owners and accomplished artists may complicate things — the only thing wrong for these people is that they are amazing artists (FYI: Kielar is apparently without representation and I strongly recommend every dealer on this planet to check out her astonishing work) and also good gallerists. Yes, I say good gallerists because to me the difference between being a gallerist and being a dealer is very clear: a dealer is driven to sell art no matter what it is, a gallerist has a vision, and Guild & Greyshkul has (not had!) a vision in their mind. The inability of keeping both the business and their career at the same level is the official reason for their decision to close the space on Wooster Street.

If I was a museum curator, which I guess will never happen, I would approach my committee, convincing them to leave just one room of the museum to continue their amazing program. The show they did of Stan VanDerBeek (Johannes and Sara are managing her father’s estate) was the most amazing show of the past year, something I should have seen in a museum.

Now that I’m done with this rambling speech I can go on describing the reason for this report: Mariah Robertson’s performance at Guild & Greyshkul. I arrived at the gallery strangely on time (the day before I met Jordan Wolfson outside the gallery and after many words after words I missed half of the gallery video lounge organized again by Robertson); I had been to the Mass with a friend and I was so eager to see Mariah Robertson’s final act that I convinced her to make a rush from Grace Church to the gallery. Surrounded by a display conceived for the last 3 days of the gallery — a sort of mixture between a Merzbau, and creepy art fair booth, an anachronistic picture gallery and Gertrude Stein’s salon — the night started with a series of readings by poet Jibade-Khalil Huffman. It was good, although everyone understood it was just an appetizer. After this, Mariah Robertson came to the middle of the gallery, dressed like a nasty porn-style high-school teacher. With her whispering phone-sex voice, she started an insane dissertation about the structure of our brain, helping herself with a projector that reminded me of the aforementioned show by Stan VanDerBeek.

Totally messed up and aware of the impossibility of being serious, the artist continued her crazy soliloquy, keeping the loop with a celebration of the art of Trisha Donnelly, which was a good way to divide the audience in two parts: those who understand better what Mariah Robertson is making with her art (check the work on the gallery website), and those who were ever more puzzled by such a situation. Interrupted by a kind of ‘performance within the performance,’ artist and writer Tyler Coburn appeared on stage declaring to have been a victim of Robertson’s practice (again check the work and you will see). The show continued in a sort of brik-a-brak cabaret — Female Dada, or Voltaire Beauty, some would say — where a couple of tap dancers surrounded the artist while she dressed up as a big oyster, singing a series of nonsense declarations that I think would have been highly appreciated by Piero della Francesca.

Despite the fact that it seemed nothing more crazy than this could happen that night, I’m pretty sure that the majority of the audience was aware of the grand finale to come: all of a sudden Mariah-Oyster-Robertson opened a hidden trapdoor that connects the space with the basement and an army of naked men with animal masks (Why? check the work and you will understand) came out of the blue and started a half-disgusting and half-ridiculous parade through the packed gallery space, which ended up being just a party; the celebration of something that hopefully we will never forget.

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