New York Bound
The “Fung Wah” Chinese bus from Boston to New York City is cheap. Five hours inside a cramped space with the stench of “not-so-much-a-gas-station-bathroom-but-a-bathroom-regardless” aroma hanging in the air felt like a small price to pay for such a cheap ride. Besides, I was headed to NYC with a purpose. One of my closest friends, Ko Smith, was having his first solo art show in the Big City. This was a huge deal and no over-sized toilet on wheels was about to flush down my excitement in seeing the man’s hard work get recognized.
The Conartist Gallery
My bus made it to New York about 4 hours before the show started. I attempted to kill some time by sightseeing but within 20 minutes I accidently stumbled upon the Conartist gallery at 119 Ludlow Street where Ko’s show was going to take place. Well ok, not really. I accidentally found the right address, just not the right establishment. Instead of a gallery, 119 Ludlow Street appeared to be a hair salon. I started to text Ko to ask about the real location of his show when I noticed the entrance to the hair salon’s basement was wide open. Upon closer look I found a clothing store operating down there. I made my way down and found a portrait of my friend staring at me from the back room. Three thoughts popped in my head, the first was “wow this place sells nice ties”. The second was, this little room behind the clothing store had that “potential to look like a gallery but not right now”-feel. The third was (something I suspected that was probably going to happen and it looks like it’s confirmed), Ko’s gonna ask me to help set up his show.
I went back up the street and found his girlfriend bringing more of his art. Not long after, the artist himself showed up and immediately put us to work. I didn’t mind helping him though. I actually found it delightfully interesting setting up the show. With the music of Cake blasting in the speakers, the labor felt like a “getting stuff done” montage. The show’s title is called “The Latest” and an extra layer of appropriateness was added to that name when we finished setting up just as the first few guests started to arrive.
Looking at the space, after all that moving of furniture and hanging art up, that gallery-feel finally emerged. Bryan (or is it Brian?), an extra hand who cleaned and organized the space and who I also suspected was the owner of the gallery/store, had probably helped set up plenty of other art shows down there in the past. The place looked crisp and the gallery lost its quotation marks.
As for the work, there were a few paintings displayed that I’ve seen before and plenty of drawings that were entirely new. It was about a year ago when I first saw some of the paintings and I remember thinking how his draftsmanship had significantly improved compared to his prior works. This show will be the first time (at least I think it was) that the general public will be able to view them in person.
I’ve always known Ko as a painter so I was surprised to see that the most fascinating gems of the show were his drawings on paper. If I thought his draftsmanship had improved a year ago, I’m almost jealous at the level of skill he has procured since then. The drawings were magnificent. Ghost-like images emerging out of a cloudy or smoky picture plane. They were executed with just the right amount of subtlety and exposure. I can’t say enough praise for these new works.
I find it important to mention that I funded this trip by bartending at another basement located establishment in Boston the night before. I didn’t originally planned on being the bartender at Ko’s show but would soon appoint myself as one. Maybe I was tired or spent too much time inhaling Fung Wah air, but I was feeling rather self-conscious as soon as the show started. Being the bartender helped avoid any social awkwardness that might arise as I just stood there socializing and talking to people when they felt like talking to me and “working” when they don’t. I poured a drink for Elaine Hargrove, a mutual friend who happened to be my freshman year dorm RA. She was working as a bartender in NY and felt it necessary to take an empty cup and stuff it with a dollar bill after I gave her a drink. Soon after everyone I was pouring drinks to were coughing up bills. Now I didn’t really felt comfortable getting tipped, I self-appointed myself as the bartender after all. But when the booze began to dwindle, the tip jar became useful in keeping the “spirits” up. The tip money provided more wine and everyone was happy.
For the amount of people that came and the amount of quality works that were displayed, I would say that this show was a success. I’m glad. As an artist on a similar boat as Ko, I know for a fact that honing and polishing our craft is not the hardest part of this career, the hardest part is making and maintaining it A CAREER. With a New York show under his belt, the direction my friend is heading as an artist looks optimistic. I felt obligated to come to New York to see this show, not only because I was his friend, but because it felt like something I needed to witness, like being present at the start of something big to come…and now I can say bartended it.
texts from the pages of Vic’s journal
written while riding the Fung Wah bus back to Boston. Someone took off their shoes…the bus smells like cheese now.