Breakfast, Readymade: Claire Fontaine and the Jewish Museum at Café Grumpy

'Tears' (2013).

‘Tears,’ 2013. (Courtesy the artist and Jewish Museum)

Art types and insomniacs gathered at Café Grumpy in Chelsea Monday for a 7 a.m. artists talk between Fulvia Carnevale and James Thornhill, the artists who work under the name Claire Fontaine. It was the fourth in a new series of artist talks hosted by the Jewish Museum called “AM at the JM”—essentially, the same type of artists talks you might get after work with the crucial difference being that this was before work.

“Coffee is free,” cooed the museum’s ambitious and newly hired deputy director, Jens Hoffmann, like everybody hadn’t bought a giant mug the second they walked in.

Despite the early hour, Claire Fontaine, which just installed an Ellis Island-inspired neon-sign project at the museum, went philosophical in a hurry.

“All of us are forced to be readymade artists in a way,” Ms. Carnevale said, adding, “We are all of us in a way a part of a generalized creative process in society.”

She bemoaned that these days it is not enough for artists to make straightforward figurative work; the artist’s job is to prod the psyche.

“Curators need to smooth the angles for obvious reasons, so they can keep their job,” Ms. Carnevale said. “If people go to a bridge after they see a show and start hopping off like lemmings, they might lose their job.”

“If I could recreate that scenario,” Mr. Hoffmann interjected, to laughs, “I’d be willing to put my job on the line.”

“We need more people like you, Jens,” Ms. Carnevale said with irony.

Everything was kind of tense! The person acting craziest at that time, though, was the couple’s baby, who had just learned to walk and delighted in walking up to the caffeinating audience members to hand them his shoe.

“Oh, we left his toys at home,” Ms. Carnevale said. “Now he only has his shoes to play with.”

This was followed by a brief discussion of the Kanye West album Yeezus.—Dan Duray

Breakfast, Readymade: Claire Fontaine and the Jewish Museum at Café Grumpy