Thursday, January 04, 2001

Cockfighting Cocktail party

Two slender girls in short shirts gesticulated and hollered profanities and lewd insults at each other across the room from each other. They spoke in Spanish but there were English subtitles. Meanwhile, near the entrance of the starkly white room a man in baggy jockey underpants humped a wall (as seen in a video). Guests sipped white wine and sucked on unfiltered cigarettes as they glanced at the installations while coolly chatting about the winter of art discontent. And where pray tell was such an importantly absurd vignette taking place? Why at the Modern Culture gallery at the Gershwin Hotel of course!

Thursday evening, January 4th, while Silicon Alley netizens were snug in their offices, Barry Neuman was the ring leader at this stimulating event-a showcase of Yoshua Okon's video installation "Cockfight." This piece is a comment on the abuse women take from male construction workers and the like. Yoshua has proved himself as an art force to contend with on a global level. This winter his work gained acclaim in publications like "Bomb," which wrote how Okon "considers humor [as] the only tool for dealing with some of the harsher aspects of his native Mexico City." In the January 2000 issue of Art News Okon said "I created unusual situations exploring social customs and misunderstandings that I document on film...I'm looking for the ambiguous line between fiction and reality, as well as the space between humor and discomfort."

Yoshua's journey to the Gershwin wasn't accidental. He'd met director Barry Neuman at an earlier New York City show and their alliance sparked. Okon invited Barry to curate a show in Mexico and the two met again in Madrid at the Arco show where Barry includes pieces from Electronic Hollywood's founder Jaime Levy.

Both men have a passion for creating a space where alternative artists can showcase their works. In the La Condesa section of Mexico City, Okon and fellow artist Miquel Calderon, cofounded La Panaderia Gallery (Mexican for bakery, in a former bakery) for artists who used unconventional media in a largely conservative art town. Flash Art, in its November - December 2000, issue stated La Panaderia "became noted for its willingness to embrace such marginalized practices by exhibiting the works of young artists working primarily in video, photography and installation." He's created a community of internationally diverse artists with events, cocktail parties and temporary and permanent installations.

And Barry has also created a community of artists, a place for expression of alternative art and had cocktail parties. So as Yoshua heads back to his current residence in LA to finish his masters in Art at UCLA's New Genres graduate program, Barry prepares an exhibit for the Armory's International Fair of New Art. These two gentlemen show us some of the potential for our world and year ahead - experimentation in new mediums and confrontation of existing standards.