My practice shifts frequently. I’ve always wanted to be one of those artists that moves freely from one material to the next with a clear and distinctive style, even while undergoing new material discoveries. I am not sure if I am or ever will be able to feel as free in my movement as I hope to, but my hands will always guide me. I often start thinking of the originality of an object; where it began and how it carries on in its copies. At times I consider performance to be some sort of object concealed in an area that takes up an abstract space. I try to conserve these performances by remaking them in a material way using found objects, glues, aluminums, and cements. Recently I have found a path that has led me to an arduous yet disseminating material, which began amidst the back and forth shifting of myself from artist to bar owner. In March of 2021 I began the process of opening The River. This has lead me towards finding a fundamental element within my work as I translated my knowledge of materiality to the operation of running a bar.
The River sits nestled in the center of Chinatown. The lights do not guide. In fact, the darkness is what lets you know you have arrived. Wood engulfs the space, replacing all of what is missing from the lack of windows or signs of the outside world. Ironically, three full tree trunks are installed with no connection other than the pressure they share as they strain between floor and ceiling. The server, Isabel, runs from back to front and stops at tables with a silver tray in hand–the sound of several martini glasses click against each other already singing drunk woes. It is Monday and “Pink Room” by Angelo Badalamenti plays in the background. Within the music, voices intercept the sound and mesh into one. I overhear my friend talking excitedly about a humorous concept for his next show. A drunken, Cabernet lipped man sits in the opposite corner at the table facing the bar, whispering about debt and dysfunction in the art market. I sit and pour myself a glass of orange wine aside my partner, David who sips Laphroaig 20 year. I continue to listen as music overlaps whispers and they shudder onto each other. The people next to me leave a foggy glass of fingerprints nearing the rim on top of a coaster embossed with the word “River.” I wish for that glass to sit there forever; visited by the ghost of its past-touched, altered and left. I drift off a bit visited by my own ghost.
I recall a visit to Berlin when I was 22. After several nights of dancing for long hours, I dragged my friend to a destination I had heard about through a friend in New York called Paris Bar. I found myself eating a very fatty steak and drinking a French 75 underneath a portrait of Sarah Lucas holding a limp cigarette, aside works by Kippenberger and many other artists. I knew during my first visit there I would always want to posses something that could align my interest in art and restaurants/bars. I consider The River to be this—a place for artists and creatives alike to congregate and pontificate while each of us sit wrapped in a world I try to direct—a surreal undertaking. However, objects take a life of their own. Here is where I understand the confrontation between materiality and sculpture; the chosen components of a piece are placed together, but do not hold. As I shift between roles, I realize I yearn to catch a fleeting glimpse—one where the objects around us reflect each prior moment-forming a sort of memorabilia. Chewed up toothpicks; five or six sit near each other among the black, square tables in the back. A group of tightly leather-laced boys, who I assume must be musicians, talk about a new record. I sit very quietly. I do not talk too much. In fact, I feel uneasy holding a conversation there. The atmosphere carries too much information and each person, unusual and alike, performs a version of themselves-every night a scene inside a film set. One of the possible musicians gets up and asks to play some music in a demanding tone. The music switches over to something more upbeat– “Dance” by ESG. The atmosphere alternates.
Sometimes I never find control of this new, abstract materiality. My attempt to preserve, rehash, and develop space around The River’s movement is frustrated. A very knowledgeable friend who runs a gallery recently referenced Daniel Spoerri, a sculptor, who cleverly preserves the tables where friends and colleagues enjoy meals. He captures the magic possibilities contained within the moments prior to finishing. When I leave the bar and return to my studio, I consider the glass covered in fingerprints, the repetition of moving glass to mouth, the sip left behind, the bartenders’ motion, and the whispers of happenings. I retake control with materials meant to preserve/hold together such as tin foil, and wood glue. And although I imitate the structuring of movement that flows through The River, the process involves abandoning the intent for my materiality, whether the materials be the social atmosphere inside The River or foil that is repeatedly pressed upon foil. I try to grab the shape of minor but lasting significant happenings among those I see that confront the reality of our time. My materiality may be altering and shaping me. Maybe this is a conflict many artists now face as we overindulge in a steady stream of information. The River sits somewhat sealed, but not unlike the objects and moments I hold dearly inside of it, confronted with the uncertainty of its preservation.