“This is the biggest dumb idea I’ve ever had,” Andrew Ohanesian told me late one night over Budweisers at Pierogi gallery’s massive auxiliary space, The Boiler Room, in North Williamsburg. “There’s nothing I hate more than a good idea.” Ohanesian often selects “really stupid” ideas for his art that are, in reality, incredibly complex and expensive to realize. For his two-month-long solo engagement with Pierogi opening this Friday, he has made his most outlandish project to date. “House Party” (2012) is a fully functional and furnished one-story suburban home built inside the gallery for one purpose: to host a house party. And believe me, Ohanesian’s parties are legendary.
Depending on New York Fire Department’s ruling on the certificate of occupancy, visitors may or may not have to sign a waiver to enter the space. However, if you do get in, you will enjoy a functional bathroom and kitchen with plumbing (as well as, thankfully, ventilation), a working stove (including an oven hood), dishwasher, fridge (complete with water dispenser), garbage disposal, 94,000 BTUs of AC cooling power, dish cable, and wifi.
“I basically blew my savings for grad school on this piece. Fuck grad school.”
Such a project could not be completed by one man alone. The $25,000 cost of the project was split between the artist and the gallery, and was the largest budget Ohanesian has ever had, indicating the incredible faith (and risk) taken by artist and co-owner/director of Pierogi, Joe Amrhein. Late one afternoon at Pearl’s in Bushwick, Ohanesian remarked on the cost of this massive project, “I basically blew my savings for grad school on this piece. Fuck grad school.”
A team of professionals worked alongside Ohanesian to execute the project. Ohanesian’s project manager, artist Tescia Seufferlein, was with him every step of the way. Additionally, he employed artist Don Pablo Pedro for “research and development,” and architect Daniel Laburu, who created the CAD drawing and fly-through (posted below), as well as Jason Feer (electrical), Rob Swainston (plumbing), and Josh Holtsford (foreman).
Ohanesian is perhaps the most ambitious and eccentric emerging artist in Brooklyn today. His installations create not just realistic but actually real environments built within exhibition spaces. He transformed the slender basement gallery Famous Accountants into a jetway in 2010, and visitors traversing that piece literally felt like as though they were boarding an airplane as they walked to the rear of the gallery. Ohanesian also turned the entrance of English Kills art gallery into a refrigerated beverage stockroom commonly found in bodegas through which viewers had to enter the gallery.
His most powerful piece to date, which was exhibited at ARCH Collective in Bushwick, with Winkleman Gallery at SEVEN Miami 2010, with English Kills Art Gallery at SCOPE New York 2010, and finally at an actual church, St. John the Baptist, in Bushwick again for Holy BOS during Bushwick Open Studios 2012, is “Mandies” (2010), a fully functional miniature beer bar in the form of a two-person confessional (naturally, it only serves Budweiser).
As the subprime mortgage crisis continues to distort the US housing market and as foreclosures across America continue to follow, Ohanesian’s project seems staunchly apolitical — it’s just interested in the party. As think-pieces like Christopher K. Ho’s “The Clinton Crew” locate our generation’s political, social, and moral compass somewhere between civic duty and ethical responsibility declaring that we are “fundamentally, if not fully, decent,” an artist such as Ohanesian provides an almost perfect counterpoint. It’s all about the blowout.
Andrew Ohanesian’s “House Party” opens at Pierogi’s Boiler Room on on Friday, September 14. See a fly-through of the structure above.