Monday, November 27, 2006

Arts: Who Needs Chelsea? Secret Robot Rules

The inner sanctum of Secret Project Robot.

By Najva Soleimani & Photographed by Monica Uszerowicz

      Where are you if there is a mirror on the bed with a rolled up dollar bill and a random man asking if there is “any cocaine” to go with it? You’re not in a drugged out Langer’s apartment. You’re on the waterfront in Wlliamsburg, at 210 Kent Avenue, home to the art gallery Secret Project Robot.
      The mirror, the bed and the dollar bill are all part of the House Show, an exhibition created by six artists who collaborated to make what one observer called an “awesome” faux apartment. The show, curated by the artist J. Mikal Davis, includes everything from a living room containing a couch you can draw on to a filthy bedroom featuring photos thrown on a mattress and lewd paintings on the walls.
      The other half of the Secret Project Robot space is an exhibit entitled Welcome To The Masters, which displays work by Chris Uphues, Jason Robert Bell, and Arthur Jones. Uphues stacked and painted liquor boxes to look like a drunk robot, and Bell used stilts to create a wall-sized Simpsons painting. Jones, a graphic designer at Dirty Found Magazine, set up a slideshow of naughty pictures and passed out surveys about sexual preferences.
      In keeping with their eclectic aesthetic, the artists/curators of Welcome To The Masters planned to offer rice-krispy treats and pork rinds for the opening on November 18th. Of course, the artists had eaten all of the treats by the time the guests arrived—a not-so-surprising turn of events at this unconventional gallery.
      Secret Project Robot was started two years ago by Rachel Nelson and Eric (known only by his first name), when they were searching for a cheap studio/venue for their own art. They say the place is intended to “let people do whatever they want.”
      With its cozy store designed by artists and hosting insane installations, Eric says Secret Project Robot doesn’t exist by the “you have to sell” principal of other galleries. He firmly believes in art unhindered by commercial prospects—in other words, art for art’s sake.
      Uphues says it’s great to “come up with an offbeat idea and actually have a venue to show it in.” Eric mentioned he had no idea what the “three monkeys” were going to do with the space, but that’s part of the fun of having artists curate their own shows.
      Davis, artist/curator in the House Show, said he had a few nervous breakdowns making his pieces and putting the gallery together. When he heard the criticism “I can do that” about his exhibit, he was unflustered. “If they can, they should,” Davis replied. “That’s what got me painting.”
      “I’m so glad this place exists,” Davis says of Secret Project Robot. “We don’t have to go to Chelsea anymore.”

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