East Meets West in Wes Lang’s Show at Half Gallery

Wes Lang, “Now I See My World Has Only Just Begun,” 2012. (Courtesy Half Gallery)

Last night Half Gallery opened its show of works by Wes Lang, “Here Comes Sunshine,” which featured drawings and silkscreens with a tattoo aesthetic and the Tao Te Ching.

There may have been some of those faithful to the Tao, but the crowd outside the tiny Lower East Side space seemed to be more on the tattoo side of things, with plenty of leather and skull-themed jewelry. There weren’t as many motorcycles out front as you might have thought, though co-owner Bill Power’s teal Vespa was parked across the street.

“For me it’s all about the Tao,” Mr. Lang said not far from the doorway where Clayton Patterson had just taken his picture. “It’s all about repetition and saying the same thing differently and contradicting itself, working in different styles but saying the same thing.”

If you don’t believe that a tattoo aesthetic and Taoism are compatible, consider Mr. Lang’s Vietnam veteran Zippo, which reads:  “I’m an alcoholic. In case of emergency, get me a beer.”

Inside, the mediums shift from paper to Plexiglas. Most of the drawings of bare-breasted women tended to be on or behind a reflective surface, with the grimmer works on some kind of paper. These boast phrases that Mr. Lang said he’d written right from the Tao Te Ching. That definitely seemed to be the case for one phrase, “the greater good,” which popped up in one place. Others were more in the spirit of the book, like repeated occurrences of the phrase “borrowed time.” “C’est la fuckin’ vie,” is also probably not in there but was not out of place, nestled in the corner of one of the works.

Just in front of this one, Nate Lowman could be overheard recommending Connecticut to a foreign-looking fellow with a massive auburn beard and thick glasses. “It’s so close! It’s like oop,” he made an inverted J with his arm and hand, “and it’s so fancy.”

Director Erin Goldberger has no tattoos because of her Jewish relatives, though she’s long fantasized about a skull on her ankle. “Maybe when I’m old and everyone’s dead,” she said wistfully.

A bald man headed from the back where beer had been dispensed. “This ain’t no Marlborough Gallery!” he told a friend, aghast. “They’re out of beer!”

Emergency! Mr. Lang ordered a run shortly after that.

East Meets West in Wes Lang’s Show at Half Gallery