The arts are fascinating and compelling in part because the membrane separating art from the “rest of life” is so permeable. In Jacksonville, a city that struggles to maintain private galleries and art spaces, that permeability is especially important because it makes room for independent spaces like Space 42, a recently cleaned up warehouse in Riverside, to open its doors. The space and the idea behind it—arts incubator—have much promise.
It is a hopeful beacon.
On April 28, Space 42 inaugurated the space with the work of Michael Alan. Alan, an NYC-based artist stages live drawing events. For this April night, it was hosted in conjunction with a show of Alan’s small works.
Upon entering the building (after paying a $20.00 entry fee), the first thing to notice was the scent of spray paint hanging in the air—that delightful chemical promise of a migraine. Visitors milled around as paint and detritus covered models moved slowly on a de facto stage area; one playing a makeshift didjeridu in front of a wall that seemed as if it had been spray-painted to ape the organic nature of years of graffiti. Turgid music sounded in the space and the overall effect was one of the “art scene” in a movie that perhaps took cues from “Wolf of Wall Street.” It felt contrived with overtones of cupidity.
The idea, as clues suggest, was that this was to be a drawing marathon, and in fact some people did bring their drawing materials with them. But the real take away is (one guesses) that Alan stages these events, which through obfuscating the models’ figures (male and female), he is able to then further mediate these forms in his own works. Observing the drawings he had on display including Darth Vader in Me, it seems that he prints out still images from these events, and then in a style that recalls early, early Basquiat (when Basquiat was actively riffing on Peter Max) noodles, doodles, and collages on and around them. The images combined with the event seem like an attempt to conjure the Dash Snow days of NYC-yore (indeed more than one person at the Space 42 event mentioned “Hamster Nest,” Snow’s collaborative installation at 76 Grand Street in 2007). As if through a pointed mining of youth culture married to a tableau vivant Alan can invoke the punk/party spirit of the ’80s. There’s also the uncomfortable performative aspect to it all: drawing in front of one’s peers is a pretty standard part of any art career, especially a career that has—at any point—touched down in art school. However, to then cast a wider next via the promise of a kind of absurdist involvement (by way of ogling) for viewers smacks of ham-fisted theatricality and a willingness to exploit the mythos of art-making without any real risk for the artist.
And that’s the crux of the matter: art-making and the spaces that support them tread in the realms of risk and vulnerability. So here’s to the promise of an art space that embraces the unknown, even if sometimes it feels like an art school project.
To see the show, contact Space 42, 2670 Phyllis Street: firstname.lastname@example.org.