A little more than a year ago, more than a half-dozen intrepid art dealers proved that the high-priced mega-mall known as the Chelsea art district was more hospitable and affordable than many thought. Colonizing a series of grungy loading docks on the north side of West 27th Street (in an immense building that had once been home to The Tunnel nightclub), these galleries carved out small, comfy ground-floor spaces. For fans of these galleries, like me, a first flush of excitement about these dealers vying for greater visibility was soon followed by the realization that each of these galleries had to now reinforce and define their pre-existing identities so as avoid the too-easy, potentially deadly rubric, 27th Street Galleries. Happily, this is happening. Watching the ups and downs of this process is getting exciting.
Picking one of these galleries at random, rather than by pecking order, consider the current OK show at Foxy Production, a gallery fast confirming that it has an eye for notably original artists like Sterling Ruby, Chris Moukarbel, Ester Partegas, Michael Bell-Smith, and the collective known as Paper Rad, among others. “Networked Nature,” the nicely weird, somewhat generic group exhibition now on view was curated by Rhizome, a collective that claims the exhibition “explores the representation of nature though the perspective of networked culture.”
Although that sounds vague and tautological to me, the show still manages to intrigue. Among the standouts, there’s the inflating-deflating starfish ceiling sculpture (a bit too reminiscent of Sarah Sze) by the nevertheless very talented Shih Chieh Huang; “Photosynthesis Robot,” two houseplants riding atop a cart, by the collective known as Futurefarmers, who say the piece is a “possible perpetual motion machine driven by phototropism.” Also nice is Gail Wright’s time-lapse video of a dyed slime mold, as well as the so-called “self-contained survival capsules for living plants” by Phillip Ross. Then there’s Steven Vitello’s houseplant with little speakers. Listen carefully and you’ll discern snippets of that frightening exchange accidentally recorded at a recent conference of world leaders in which our president—interrupting Tony Blair’s sober attempts to discuss the war between Israel and Lebanon—needles the British prime minister about whether or not he liked the sweater he sent him for Christmas. Now that’s weird nature.