David Byrne’s Tight Spot
The Pace Gallery/The High Line
Thursday, September 15
Better than: A designer pop-up shop.
In just about any other context, David Byrne’s Tight Spot would be breathtaking. Installed under the High Line tracks on 25th Street, just west of 10th Avenue, it is hard to imagine a more universal and malleable symbol than Byrne’s giant inflatable globe. Squashed and straining between train-track support beams in a space recently taken over by the Pace Gallery empire, Byrne’s exaggerated Earth is rather impressive and elegant as is. But during its unveiling last night, its reach seemed slightly less than global, despite the subject matter, and almost devoid of emotion.
On the first notably autumnal evening of the year, Tight Spot seemed to play with the idea that every last space of the city must be filled with people and galleries and pop-up shops and faux-speakeasies masquerading as taco stands where noise-pop bands might play acoustically during fashion industry events and, like, global culture. And with a table of Pellegrino at the ready and the Chelsea art world circus spilling out onto the sidewalk amid just another Thursday splattered with openings, conceptual food trucks lining the block, Byrne’s piece and the gallery crowd seemed to do more than simply symbolize the overcrowding and info-noise. Less than a hundred yards away, Pace opened a group show, Social Media, featuring a few of Byrne’s fake iPhone apps. A giant Twitter feed scrolled up the gallery wall nearest the street. And a few feet beyond that, another gallery and another opening, this one showing contemporary abstract expressionist Melissa Meyer. The space under the High Line seemed more suited for art openings than art.
Tight Spot made sound, too, occasionally sending bursts of over-saturated rumble (Byrne’s voice, layered) suggesting a ghost-train on the High Line. Gallery attendants stood by. The globe itself was almost all ocean, with Byrne’s beloved Brazil near the center, and New York (and all of Manhattan) tucked very far into one of the planet’s uppermost corners. Despite its public-seeming locale, Tight Spot’s hours for the two weeks of its installation (through October 1st) will remain the fairly regular 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Besides recommending attendance at an hour when it is most likely to be as empty as Byrne’s artist rendering, one can only hope Byrne will take Tight Spot on the road. Or at least somewhere very far from Chelsea between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
A decade ago, the one-time Talking Head and perhaps-still-reigning mayor of hep New York created The New Sins for the Valencia Biennial. Designed (with Dave Eggers) as a Spanish/English religious text, Byrne had the small book distributed anonymously in hotel room drawers, like Bibles. Though conceived specifically with the space at 508 W. 25th Street in mind, Tight Spot deserves a similar fate, a fleet of globes deployed about the boroughs and beyond, inflating in unlikely and aesthetically pleasing nooks, ready to rumble, haunt, and be discovered accidentally in places not loaded with so much baggage.
Critical bias: Was very hungry and not in the mood to pay $6 for dumplings.
Overheard: (via two older ladies on an art crawl) “This is by David Byrne, the musician.” “Oh, that’s why. Is he the one with the whatchamacallit?” “Yeah, that’s the one.”
Random notebook dump: Chelsea surreal and Dubai-like, a mall of 21st century abstraction. Food trucks claiming allegiance to Rem Koolhaas.
Set list: uuuuuuuuuuuubbbbbllllllllllllhhhhhhhhhhhhhgggggggggguurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (repeat at intervals)