BOMB’s the Way: The Art and Culture Magazine Throws its Annual Gala

“Everyone is wearing black,” a reveler remarked at the BOMB magazine gala. “There is still a downtown!” Truly, the band

“Everyone is wearing black,” a reveler remarked at the BOMB magazine gala. “There is still a downtown!”

Truly, the band of bon chic bon genre artists, patrons and gallerists assembled at Capitale Monday evening all appeared in shades of sable. Black jackets, black cocktail dresses, black eye-liner and black ties streamed into the room, punctuated by wan, porcelain faces. The group’s chatter  soon reached a dull roar, and guests did their best to shout and drawl simultaneously. “I don’t really think they’re crypto-fascists, do you?” someone asked. We did not catch the subject of her inquiry.

Christened in 1981, BOMB magazine has enjoyed three decades of blessings from artists of both wide and marginal renown, the art world’s papal personae and choir-boys alike. While the full spectrum of BOMB devotees appeared at the gala, the vast majority were noteworthy members of the contemporary art scene. Marina Abramovic, Klaus Biesenbach, Dorothy Lichtenstein and Tim Nye all greeted their coal-clad friends and enjoyed the array of comfort-food canapés.

Various paintings and sculptures, donated by artists and galleries for a silent auction, were scattered throughout the room. Our personal favorite, bar none, was an apparently kitchen-made concoction by B. Wurtz, crafted from a Citarella Tupperware (once filled, in all likelihood, with a truffled goose fat marinade), a piece of wire and small wooden cylinder resembling a toiler paper roll.

Having enjoyed a mini ham-and-cheese sandwich, The Observer spoke to Betsy Sussler, BOMB editor-cum-matriarch. “I thought it was going to ‘bomb’ in the first couple of issues,” she said, explaining the quarterly’s inauspicious title. “What I didn’t understand was the groundswell of artists who really, really loved the idea.”

Still, the handle has not come without difficulty. Mayhem erupted after a box of magazines, with the ominous return address label, was sent to the Smithsonian. “People at the Smithsonian called the fire department because they thought it was a bomb. But we all said, ‘Would we have put it on the box if it were?’” Still, however, she doesn’t expect bomb-squads or naysayers to dismantle the publication anytime soon. “It delivers the artists voice,” she said. “And that can last generations and generations.”

Richard Serra, one of the evening’s honorees stood quietly amongst the crowd, a glass of cold water in his hand. A longtime friend of Ms. Sussler, Mr. Serra noted the unique space BOMB has occupied for the past thirty years. “I think it provides a venue for a multiplicity of media, that are unavailable in other formats. So whether its architecture or poetry or literature or film, or interviews, they not only cover unexpected youth, but they cover people that you would not be aware of,” he said slowly, deliberately.

Although BOMB helps him stay abreast of emerging trends and art personalities, Mr. Serra has little interest in many other mainstays of the contemporary art realm. Art fair season has long since lost its appeal, he explained. “I don’t pay attention to that. When I started making art there wasn’t a cultural industry, and now there’s a cultural industry that’s worldwide, and billions of dollars,” he said. “And I don’t go to those events.” Still, he doesn’t oppose the concept of art fairs, walks, tours and parties, he prefers his singular, steely zen. “Its not my interest,” he said with a wizened shrug. “I’m not trying to be cynical,” he added quickly.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum and the other side of the room, Eric Fischl shook hands and chatted loudly, clearly comfortable in the cocktail milieu. With his hair tousled and his oxford shirt half tucked into his jeans, he was indeed at ease.  We asked Mr. Fischl what recent art trends he finds most vexing. “Probably all the art that is like art made by children. Like the pre-pubescent adolescent jokey type stuff: Toys, dolls. It’s time to grow up. That’s where I’m at,” he said, with a beer-on-the-beach intonation.

Soon, guests were ushered into the main dining space, flanked by gilded Corinthian columns and two full bars. Honorees were toasted by friends and contemporaries over a first course of yellowfin tuna sashimi. Taking the stage for her introduction of Mr. Biesenbach, Patti Smith was welcomed with a warm ovation. “If you’re applauding my glasses, the frames are from Germany,” she began. Theresa Rebeck presented her close friend Marsha Norman with a bomb-shaped award, while Hal Foster saluted Mr. Serra.

After a course of stuffed leg of lamb, guests made their way back into the foyer for dessert and final auction bids. James Franco materialized from the twilight Chinatown ether and entered the vaulted, vaunted room. Serendipitously finding him adjacent to the B. Wurtz piece, we asked him what he thought of the sculpture (which had by this time reached a high bid of $4,100.) “Don’t ask me that,” he said, heaving a disinterested sigh. Well, fine.

What was the most outrageous thing Mr. Franco had seen recently, we wondered. “That’s a weird question,” he grumbled, proceeding no further. He was, however, eager to discuss his most recent art project. “I’m doing a big show in L.A at the MOCA, called rebel,” he recited. “It’s inspired by the Nicholas Ray movie, the James Dean movie, rebel without a cause.” Whether he is a rebel and what his cause may be the, world might never know, as he chose not to answer our question. Instead, he asked us if we had seen HBO’s Girls.

As the evening was coming to a close, guests nibbled cannoli, brownies, lemon bites and chocolate peanut butter squares as they scribbled their final bids on the auction artwork.  Coffee (black) concluded the evening. Mr. Biesenbach, Mr. Franco and Ms. Smith left together, a triad of noirish sang-froid disappearing into the still-young night.

BOMB’s the Way: The Art and Culture Magazine Throws its Annual Gala