Will the Real Spencer Sweeney Stand Up?
Who is the real Spencer Sweeney? Left or right? (All text and photos by Susan M. Kirschbaum)
“He looks like an idiot.” Said my friend, when I pointed to the artist of the evening at Gavin Brown’s gallery: Spencer Sweeney, in psychedelic frames and magician’s topper.
“Why would you say that?” I asked the friend, also a painter of great merit.
He shrugged. “I used to dress up like that too as a teenager, but not now…” His voice tapered off.
But I kinda liked that (now thirtysomething) Spencer –who first burst on the scene with drawings and raucous parties at Passerby –dressed up like some freaky alter ego of the past or the future.
Perhaps because he had only just arrived in New York for a few days “furlough” from a residence in Berlin that will last until summer and needed to spring back last Sunday ( the day after his opening), Spencer and the exhibit itself felt like time travel. I could hear the imaginary conductor shouting, “Get on that train boys and girls! We’re about to ascend the rainbows.”
“How’s Berlin?” I asked him.
Despite rumors of the German city as the current creative visual arts vortex, Spencer told me it didn’t possess the “sizzle” of New York.
“So, what’s your favorite painting?”
His black frame did a semi-circle. “My gallerist didn’t hang it up.” He laughed. “But I like this one,” he said, pointing to the one in front of which he posed for my lens.
As he greeted more friends from his gritty days as a darling of Vice Magazine a decade ago, I could see Spencer’s face, or at the very least, his aura in each piece on the walls. Skinny kids dipped into the metal buckets of Heineken beer, while a guy plucked an electric mandolin in the corner.
“I never knew there was such a thing as an electric mandolin.” Said my friend.
EXACTLY. In Spencer Sweeney’s world , it’s plausible.
(Spencer Sweeney, Egyptian Diving Board, Part II, until April 24th, at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, 620 Greenwich Street, at Leroy)