In Art News
Snow at Western Bridge and Skirmishes at the Henry
It has been snowing at Western Bridge since September 20, when Jordan Wolfson's dark-brown Porsche wore just a light dusting, and looked like it might just carry on and drive right out of the dark gallery. Now it's buried under a snowbank. The car lights are still on, though, and when it's quiet, you can hear the sound of a man's voice—Lenny Bruce, it turns out, from his famed 1961 Carnegie Hall performance.
New York was under so much snow that night that Bruce barely made it to the hall from his hotel. He was astonished to see that the place was sold out. Eventually, censors would come to harass him—shutting him down in every town, repeatedly arresting him for obscenity—but for this freezing night, he was on fire. He went on for more than two hours, ending after 2:00 a.m. with a series of unplanned confessions, coming magically close to his audience.
Currently, across Seattle at the Henry Art Gallery, there's a retrospective of the artist Kim Jones. A timeline of his art and life includes an early photograph of him at marine training camp in 1966—which happens to be the year that Bruce overdosed. The following year, Jones went to war. Ten years after that, he was smearing his body with mud, wearing a lattice of sticks on his back, and walking around as a living sculpture with distorting pantyhose pulled over his face.
When I think of Jones, it's not the Mudman that comes immediately to mind. It's his delicate explosions of sticks, shaped like stars or spiders and held together in the center by bellies of black electrical tape. They seem to multiply, like the layers Jones kept adding over many years to his paintings. In a new installation, rows of stick stars cover the floor of a small, dark room, lined up alongside plastic rats like a scuttling, advancing army. They block the entrances.
As a child, Jones invented a system of "war drawings." Dark and light tanks drawn in pencil would get into "skirmishes." They'd move around and then, depending on who won that battle, maybe get erased for good. He still makes and shows them. They will never be finished.
These two installations at Western Bridge and the Henry have, I suppose, accretion and the '60s in common, but otherwise they're unrelated. I don't know why, but when I think of one, I think of the other.