The Final Brucennial Opens With Beer, Bacon, and Bullish Performance Art

The latest edition of the Brucennial, the Bruce High Quality Foundation's inclusive exhibition, is open in the Meatpacking District.

Z Behl at the 2014 Brucennial.
Z Behl at the 2014 Brucennial. Photo: Sarah Cascone.

A glitzy crowd of over 2,000 people was on hand Thursday night for the opening of the 2014 Brucennial in New York’s Meatpacking District. It is billed as the last edition of the popular event, organized by artist collective the Bruce High Quality Foundation (BHQF) to coincide with the Whitney Biennial every other year since 2008. In an unprecedented change to the exhibition’s inclusive format, the final edition exclusively features work by women artists. Moving forward, the BHQF will focus its energies on its alternative art school, the Bruce High Quality Foundation University in the East Village.

Antonia Marsh at the 2014 Brucennial.

Antonia Marsh at the 2014 Brucennial.
Photo: Sarah Cascone.

Works by 633 female artists are arranged in a visually daunting, floor-to-ceiling, salon-style hanging. As has been the case in Brucennials past, big names such as Laurie Anderson, Barbara Kruger, Judy Chicago, and Jenny Holzer share the spotlight with many more emerging artists. A wide array of media are represented, including video, painting, sculpture and photography, and most are available for purchase. More than 25 pieces were sold during the opening, including a Josephine Meckseper piece that went for $25,000.

Guests in front of work by Laurie Anderson at the 2014 Brucennial.

Guests in front of work by Laurie Anderson at the 2014 Brucennial.
Photo: Sarah Cascone.

This year’s Brucennial has a new home, at 837 Washington Street, and artnet News chatted with building owner Paul Pariser and his wife Erin at the opening. The couple met Vito Schnabel—progeny of Julian Schnabel and the BHQF’s dealer—at Madison Square Garden, where they have neighboring New York Knicks seats. The dealer had an easy time convincing Pariser to inaugurate his newest property with the art show. Already looking forward to the arrival of the Whitney Museum, scheduled to relocate downtown next year, Pariser expects more artistic organizations to be drawn to the high-end retail neighborhood. On opening night he and his wife purchased an irreverent Chloe Wise sculpture: a Star of David made of cooked bacon strips in a kitschy celebration of all things traif.

Chloe Wise at the 2014 Brucennial.

Chloe Wise at the 2014 Brucennial.
Photo: Sarah Cascone.

Unsurprisingly, there are feminist overtones in many of the works on view. Chief among them is Antonia Marsh’s take on Marcel Duchamp‘s iconic urinal readymade, a toilet bowl with the words “Girls Only 2014” scrawled on its side. A suite of portraits featuring Bravo’s Real Housewives, painted in a garish and unflattering photorealistic style by Aliza Stone Howard, seems to pass judgment on Countess LuAnn and her companions for their vanity, while highlighting the ultimate futility of their cosmetic enhancements. Sophia Narrett, meanwhile, is showing a small, colorful, embroidered landscape scene that offers a reminder of how far woman artists have come from the days when their creative pursuits were relegated to the realm of domestic crafts. Its ragged, unfinished edges and off-kilter composition leave no doubt that embroidery has found a place in the contemporary art world.

Anna Adler at the 2014 Brucennial.

Anna Adler at the 2014 Brucennial.
Photo: Sarah Cascone.

The fashionably dressed crowd and overwhelming display covering nearly every square inch of wall space sometimes made it difficult to focus on individual works during Thursday’s opening, but many works cut through the noise. Anna Adler installed a simple air vent that appears at first glance to be part of the space itself, save for the fur protruding from it. In a dramatic photograph by Rachel Rampleman printed on a large canvas, the warm glow from a ceiling fan lighting fixture casts dramatic shadows across a heavily cratered popcorn ceiling, lending a practically sacred air to a dated room. Lisa Levy takes a direct approach to arresting viewers’ attention with a small, dark-pink canvas on which she has painted the words “This is the best piece in the show.”

Guests in front of work by Barbara Kruger at the 2014 Brucennial.

Guests in front of work by Barbara Kruger at the 2014 Brucennial.
Photo: Sarah Cascone.

Without question, however, the opening evening’s biggest conversation piece was Z Behl‘s eye-catching sculptural contraption and performance piece, Birth of the Minotaur—one of the few works on hand whose title is clearly displayed. A crudely constructed, neatly abstract wooden sculpture of a bull stands on a rolling wooden platform, while a nude woman (the artist, perhaps?) stands bent over with her upper body resting inside the bull’s ribcage. On Thursday night everyone seemed determined not to stare directly at her, but she was attended by an equally nude male companion—with a tactfully arranged suede cloth over his crotch—who casually downed Pabst Blue Ribbon while working the crowd. When artnet News offered to fetch the hunched-over performer a beer, she smiled and shook her head as if to say “no thanks,” but seemed focused on the task at hand and disinclined to engage further.

The 2014 Brucennial is on view through April 4 at 837 Washington Street, New York.

Aliza Stone Howard at the 2014 Brucennial.

Aliza Stone Howard at the 2014 Brucennial.
Photo: Sarah Cascone.

Guests at the 2014 Brucennial.

Guests at the 2014 Brucennial.
Photo: Sarah Cascone.

Guests at the 2014 Brucennial.

Guests at the 2014 Brucennial.
Photo: Sarah Cascone.


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