Stephen O’Malley


Posted: Jul 13, 2007


No Context
By Zach Baron
from Village Voice 12th July

In a tiny room just south of Chinatown that serves as the exhibition space for James Fuentes LLC, twelve knives are jammed into a wall. To their right is a grid of framed drawings—actually the same drawing, repeated twelve times. The series of portraits is called “Young Bob Dylan” (2007), and they are all by Brian DeGraw, who as his day job spends nights onstage with his band, Gang Gang Dance. The knife arrangement is titled “Love Comes in X's like marking ‘em out instead of #’s. I also can't give any love 'cause everyone is dead or I can do this to your house.,” (2007), and a second look shows that the knives on the wall form the shape of a heart.

“Love Comes in X’s” is by Lizzi Bougatsos, who fronts Gang Gang Dance. At the Boredom's 77BOADRUM installation last Saturday, Bougatsos and another GGD member, Tim Dewit, could be seen DJing and playing drums in the wilds of Brooklyn’s Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park. The band’s last release was not a CD but a DVD—a video shot and edited by DeGraw and entitled Retina Riddim.

Dilettantes or otherwise? Looking on at 77BOADRUM was BARR’s Brendan Fowler, who also works as a curator, and as editor for the ANP Quarterly, an arts and music mag. Playing drums a few spots down from Bougatsos was the artist and DJ Spencer Sweeney. Not, maybe, his normal thing but then again, it wasn’t really anyone’s. Call this territory no man's land: a kind of bleed between one art world and another, cloudy but definitely demarcated. And it goes both ways.

Chelsea's Gladstone Gallery is currently filled with the faux-chorale chant and “evacuating” low-end of Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley, soundtrack to the fourth major installation he’s collaborated on with the artist Banks Violette. At Gladstone, Violette’s salt and resin casts of soundproofing, speaker parts, and cables form a decaying visual corollary to O’Malley’s elemental drones. Both share space with clanking nitrogen refrigeration tanks, their pipes pumping smoke out from behind wall-length, shattered mirrors. It is the sort of nightmarish church of florescent tubes and broken glass that might have O’Malley and his crew for acolytes, and indeed, Sunn O)))-like subaudible frequencies clog the air in an already unsettled space.

Churches aren’t new to Violette. His untitled 2005 Whitney show recreated a burned-out church in salt, and had Thorns’ Snorre Ruch create a motion-sensitive wall of noise to aurally map the sorrowful terrain. February of this year, vaguely terrified, I ate mixed nuts and drank red wine in Ruch’s Trondheim, Norway apartment as he vouched for Violette’s fascination with Norwegian Black Metal and its excesses. There is no more reliable word about this stuff than his.

Violette has more work at Team Gallery, and both shows will run through August 17th. At MoMA, there’s “Automatic Update,” where as artist Cory Arcangel’s bio puts it, “technology and art ride together on a tidal wave of imagination.” Well, OK: catch Arcangel’s collabo with Providence animation demons and noise artists Paper Rad there on July 24th.

So what's it all about? Nothing really—the blend between a and b is inescapable in this city, New York, where hustles multiply by the dozens. Still, as far as hustles go, theirs—GGD, O’Malley, Violette, and their like-minded, in-between peers—ain’t bad.

Lizzi Bougatsos at 77BOADRUM. Photo by Rebecca Smeyne