Egan Frantz at Michael Jon Gallery
Looming across the street from the new location of Michael Jon Gallery are the tall, industrial silos of the McArthur Dairy plant. Me and my entourage arrive in a big black pickup truck for Egan Frantz’ show there, titled Monday and Friday, Tuesday and Friday, Wednesday and Friday, Thursday and Friday, Friday and Friday, on Saturday night.
The subtle, cleanly white deco façade of the gallery, with its big bold building numbers and square glass wall blocks, sticks out among the neighboring warehouses. People mill about in a contemporary art sort of way, and we head inside to find the Gramps pop-up bar that was smartly advertised to types like us.
White-cubed except for the palimpsestic, natural floor, Frantz’ work hangs in the main exhibition space of gallery. It is discernably art for its immediate unknowability: large rectangles of two different types of padding are affixed to the walls. Me and my entourage stand in an empty corner of the gallery and talk about it.
At first we can’t figure out what type of padding it is, materially and utility-speaking. Is it sponge rubber? Foam rubber? Polyurethane or bonded urethane? Polyimide and melamine foam? We agree that it’s definitely not styrofoam, the bigger rectangles that are affixed to the wall with velcro are soft and almost black, and the smaller, painting-looking pieces of foam that hang on top of them are a lighter shade, a deep bluish grey. Going up close to the smaller, lighter foam pieces, we see prints of receipts for the artist’s dry cleaning, superimposed with the image of a ghost. Mundaneness with a splash of cuteness, though all of it is enveloped in mysterious veneer.
We suckle the straws of our delicious dark ‘n’ stormies at an increasing rate, and the gallery turns into a puzzle box. We talk and talk, and ask others their opinion. Domingo Castillo, a local curator, industrial magnate, and avid bocce enthusiast, helps little when he offers: “It’s for sale!”
(I know from cheating that Egan Frantz is interested in things like labor and consumption. I know that he made sculptures of baguettes from the stale baguettes in his kitchen and the epoxy resin I suspect he keeps in his refrigerator. I know he’s got a cheeky sense of humor, mostly from the baguette thing I read about, but me and my entourage cannot find the key, the solution to this visual riddle. What joke was being played on us? In what way and to what extent were we being taken for fools? Lulled into complacency by the first drink or two, our minds soon grew with rage at the thought of being tricked, at the thought that we and the rest of the audience were the butts of an elitist, insider-joke, but more broadly, we were inflamed by the idea that the privilege of late-/postmodern life in a place of plenty entails us three dudes looking at foam padding attached to the wall, and that one of them stupid enough to do it for a living.)
So we decide to throw off the yoke once we have a breakthrough: it is not enough to see the art—appearances are just that. So we talk about the senses that most impart knowledge, and agree overwhelmingly that to truly know one’s subject, the best thing to do—though it is the most intimate and publically obvious of all the sensual executions—is to taste it.
Transubstantiating, we know immediately that the lighter pieces are actually made of Positano Italian marble. We can tell by their al dente densities, their savory, semolina notes.
Alan Gutierrez, who co-directs the gallery alongside founder Michael Jon Radziewicz, then informs us that the darker, bigger padding is actually elevator padding. Bested once again, we press the basement button, and go to sleep on pillows made of stone.
Monday and Friday, Tuesday and Friday, Wednesday and Friday, Thursday and Friday, Friday and Friday
Michael Jon Gallery
255 NE 69 Street