Last night, a livery cab crawled down Grand Street, gingerly avoiding the Chuck Taylor’d toes of a hipster horde numbering in the high hundreds that had congregated outside Deitch Projects to see Swoon’s first solo show. The driver rolled down his window, bemused. “What’s going on here?”
“Free beer! Free grass!” chorused a pair of lanky gentlemen on the curb. All around them, revelers sipped steadily from beers swaddled in brown paper.
Inside the gallery, Swoon—a local street artist who recently sold some work to MoMA, and whom the Transom knows as, ahem, Caledonia—had wheat-pasted her delicate drawings and cut-paper portraits to the walls. Others were suspended, ghost-like, on fine filaments from the ceiling. A fanciful fire escape dangled a line of paper laundry. A tangle of urban detritus—corrugated tin, doors ripped from frames, splintered wood—were anointed with portraits of city-dwellers which, in turn, had tiny, immaculate cityscapes formed inside them.
It was poignant, though packed to the rafters. And as we stumbled out, we reflected thus: you can take the art out of the street.
But it’s way, way, way harder to take the street out of the art.
Back on the sidewalk, strange rumblings emanated from a parked Penske van. The back door rolled up with a sudden clatter, revealing a bassist, a drummer, and wall-to-wall speakers inside. Using old telephone booth handsets as microphones, a band called Japanther rambled and raged and struck up a deafening din. Guerilla RAAAAWWWK!
The street seethed with bodies. Just before the night went all fuzzy, the last thing we saw was Swoon—arms extended, ebullient, in paint-splattered jeans—crowd-surfing past. But no one was in the gallery at all.
Photo: Eliot Shepard