Cry cry laugh laugh
Artist Cary Leibowitz offers equal opportunity for both
Take a quick look 'round the show 'Faggy Faggy Boom Boom' at the Soundvision gallery. Your uptight, serious side might well sigh and say, 'The faggy pop art story has become tiresome.'
Your upbeat, frivolous side will observe that New York painter Cary Leibowitz still has a few tricks up his sleeves.
The gallery's main room has 10 new latex-on-wood paintings in hard, bright colors. Each one is painted with the same words: 'faggy faggy boom boom.' Repetition and serial work are this artist's bag, you see. Seems childish, yes Ñ but remember, the catchy little paintings sell for the very grown-up price tag of $1,600 to $2,400.
Give the work a bit of time, and the singsongy words start to bounce back and forth Ñ like a four-square ball at recess. Their comic power dances over touchier themes: being gay; being Jewish; being your own, worst self-loathing, depressive enemy from hell.
Gallery curator T.J. Norris found Leibowitz's efforts annoying Ñ at first. When he saw the artist's work Ñ so flip, so tossed off Ñ at a show in Boston, with gushy declarations such as 'I Love Andy Warhol' and 'I Love Michael Jackson' scrawled on crumpled bits of paper stuffed inside Woolworth-type frames, Norris thought, 'If this is where contemporary art is going, I don't know where I fit in.' Then he got mad and thought: 'How dare he? This is such junk.'
When he cooled down, Norris saw a wallpaper series with cutting little sayings on them. Still later, there was an AIDS tribute piece that he bid on and purchased.
Art moves in mysterious ways, and Norris began to connect with Leibowitz. The artist he once hated he now adores.
Don't miss the gallery's downstairs 'museum shop' area, where Leibowitz's nonslip socks hang, emblazoned with the slogan 'I Can't Do This/I Can't Do That' ($75). A shopkeeper's sign ($125) has the hours filled in Ñ 'Monday: 'sad' a.m. to 'sad' p.m.'
A 'Sad Ain't Bad' plastic shopping bag elicits little more than a smile. In a world with so much
real sad, it makes you wonder why you'd want to clutter it up with so much fake sad.
The Liza Minnelli for President rain poncho (edition of 36) is an absolute gem, though. It's for sale in hot pink and bright yellow ($65). It would be fun to see someone with the panache required to prance down the street in this.
The wastepaper basket ($75) stacked in the window with the words 'Gain! Weight! Now!' is emblazoned with a photo of Leibowitz as a lumpy, miserable kid at his bar mitzvah.
Leibowitz clearly has no trouble laughing at himself. So go ahead Ñ laugh back.