Sweet Toof at Factory Fresh

Sweet Toof's piece in Factory Fresh's courtyard.

Last Friday I got to check out the opening of Sweet Toof’s new show, Dark Horse, at Factory Fresh in Bushwick. (Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive early enough to get one of the paper Sweet Toof smiles mounted on popsicle-sticks, which were given to the first visitors.) The gallery was transformed, inside and out, by large and small oil paintings, hanging woodcuts, and painted walls in the gallery’s courtyard.

A woodcut in the front room.

Sweet Toof’s oil paintings were dramatic in a different way than his walls, like some strange version of the Old Masters, with bony horses and dogs and nobly-dressed skeletons all outfitted in his pearly whites. Some of his large rectangular canvases dominated the interior, but he also had smaller circular canvases grouped in series throughout the space. Skeletons did battle with paint rollers, in groups and one-on-one, sometimes in front of rural backgrounds, other times in some type of apocalyptic-type cityscape.

He played with using pseudo-gilded frames and sparkly paint backgrounds for smaller works, and I have to say, he may be the only artist I know of that can use glitter and horses in the same piece and still have it look amazing. More than that, though, his paintings were the type of thing you can look at for awhile and continue to see more in—aesthetically and art historically speaking, definitely, but also in the sense of morbid, symbolic hilarity.

Sweet Toof's "Hold Your Horses"
Some Factory Fresh Toofpaste.

Factory Fresh even got its own tube of Toofpaste—(artists typically use up most of the wall space in the gallery’s courtyard, but it was the first time I had ever seen anyone incorporate the vent into a piece.) All in all, a great show, and one of my favorites that I’ve seen at the gallery. Dark Horse stays up until May 22nd, and is Sweet Toof’s first solo show stateside, so be sure to check it out.

Photos by Frances Corry

Faust, Fairey, Katsu and Skullphone at Mallick Williams

New York is (slowly) recovering from what one could call its monochromatic season. So as much as I’m ready for all the black and white and grey to be over with, I still ended up catching Mallick Williams‘ grayscale show Hueless a couple days ago before it closes on April 13th. Turns out, in some cases, lack of color isn’t so bad.

Opening just over a month ago, Hueless is a “monochromatic exhibition” with some paradoxical diversity. It’s got black and white and grey, but also silver, cream, brown-black and pretty much every non-pigmented hue in between. With work from Shephard Fairey, Faust, Katsu, Skullphone, and others, the work under color-constraints was (thankfully) more unified than most group shows, and showed off medium/form (there was sculpture, a neon sign, screenprint, paper cut and painting) and content in color’s absence.

There was a requisite Andre the Giant (not for sale, just for show), but the other two pieces from Fairey were among my favorites.

Fairey's "Glass Houses" and "Rise Above Control."
Katsu's "Self Portrait."

Also enjoyed Skullphone’s “Here’s Your Nightmare.” It’s enamel on aluminum, but in person looked sort of like a micro, non-electronic version of his billboards.

Skullphone's piece, photo via Arrested Motion.
"I Want to Go Home" by Distort.
"Tree" paper cut by Nathan Pickett.

Hueless runs through  April 13th, and the gallery opens the color-themed group show Spectrum on April 21st, with pieces from Word to Mother, Erik Otto, and others.

Skullphone photo by Arrested Motion, other photos by Frances Corry.

RETNA’s Hallelujah World Tour Opening, NYC

Last night I had the chance to check out the opening of RETNA’s Hallelujah, presented by Valmorbida (the people behind Richard Hambleton’s show last year) and curated by RVCA’s PM Tenore in a giant pop-up space on Manhattan’s west side. RJ saw the show in the process of being set-up, and the finished product was certainly spectacular (not to mention really crowded. Cue me getting nervous as people bumped into the work). The artist’s glyphic pieces were presented on a series of very large mediums – most were canvas, some were ink on handmade paper, and a few had plaster (I think) letters rising out of the piece itself. Five sculptures in the middle of the room spelled out a monumental RETNA.

What the script on the pieces spelled out, I’m not entirely sure  – but the effect was certainly cryptic, not to mention really beautiful. Others seemed to think so too, as the vast majority of the work had already been sold by the show’s opening. Like a lot of his other stuff, the pieces subsumed the space, covering nearly the entire wall from floor to ceiling, and in the dark of the warehouse, it was completely immersive.

When I could get close enough to a piece to really see it, the intricacy of his process was apparent, with the handmade paper and ink pieces, the textured paint on canvas, or his evolving use of negative space.

The sculptures I mentioned before, particularly their surroundings, were the only parts that may have taken away from the general strength of the show. Scattered around/under/on top of the sculptures were ropes, industrial pallets, and empty paint cans. Whether it was about paying homage to the process, or likely to his more graffiti-oriented beginnings, the props seemed unnatural in the space, particularly in the whole glamorous-company-collaboration context. If anything, it made me want to see his work outside of this setting, or at least caused me to question what it means, and whether its good, bad (or both) to move from street to a show like this.

Hallelujah will be making two more stops, in Venice and London, as it completes its tour. You can check out the New York show at 560 Washington St. in the West Village. Also, if you haven’t seen it, make sure to watch the epic video that accompanies the show.

Photos by Frances Corry