Manhattan’s latest (and likely largest) new pop-up art space has just taken up residence in a Tribeca loft — an unlikely location for such a fresh-faced project. The 4,500-square-foot TEMP gallery, occupying a 15-foot-tall, brick-walled first floor as well as a similarly sized basement at 57 Walker Street, is the brainchild of recent New York University graduates Alex Ahn and Ari Lipkis (previous co-presidents of NYU’s Fine Arts Society). The pair described their new venture as “an incubator for young artists and curators,” a lofty goal that should prime high expectations for visitors if the curatorial programming can measure up.
TEMP’s first exhibition, Working on It, which opened last Saturday night, collects the work of 12 emerging artists who reflect “the attitudes, ideas, and spirit of today’s 20-something generation,” as the gallery’s website puts it. In essence, it’s a slightly voyeuristic, entertaining look at the state of being both young and an artist. The exhibition, curated by Ahn and Lipkis, doesn’t have a particularly new conceit (there isn’t much older than pinning down a new generation), but youth is a theme always worth revisiting. The art on view is energy-riddled, the product of an intensely interdisciplinary moment, but disciplined this showcase is not.
The evening of the opening, a crowd of students, artists, and elder art-world stalwarts (plus a smattering of parents) packed the first floor and slowly trickled down into the basement, where DJ Shayne Olivier (affiliated with the artsy music duo GHE20 G0TH1K) spun an abstract collage of pleasingly dark beats. The spirit of the room ran high throughout the event, and the art on the walls kept pace with the party, particularly Wilson Parry’s “Social Circle,” a series of Plexiglas strips arrayed in a spiral painted with brushy renditions of raucous party-goers. Laura Hudson’s ambient “Art Opening” paintings, with their human figures gazing off into blank space, echoed the density of the crowd.
Worth spending more time with were Dean Levin’s So series, a collection of acrylic disks printed with slangy phrases in clouds of diaphanous, 1980s rainbow color: “So Sick!” “So Chill!” “So Tight!” Matthew Morrocco’s “Palimpsest” presented an unassuming, earnest, and hilarious video collage of the artist primping and voguing for his own camera. Working on It still retains some of those unsubtle, cliché signifiers of youth: nudity, sex, and blood, present in the hipster lifestyle porn of Sandy Kim’s photography, shown in a wall-spanning grid. If you already don’t like Ryan McGinley, you’re going to hate these snapshots of perpetually lost boys and perpetually topless girls.
If an alien were to land in Manhattan and judge the entire twenty-something generation of artists by TEMP’s showcase, the outlook would not be good. There is a range of artistic practices on display, but the strategies remain superficial and feel limited to a particular group of hip, young urbanites. TEMP (so named because it’s uncertain how long they will have the space) is continuing its programming with a show from Portuguese curator Joao Simoes and a collaboration with Independent Curators International. Hopefully the next exhibitions will retain the restless energy of Working on It but add a wider variety of voices pursuing more coherent artistic paths.
Working on It is open at TEMP gallery through October 14 at 57 Walker Street in New York. See more photos of the exhibition below.