As the streets of New York stand almost entirely empty due to the coronavirus, certain galleries and arts institutions have been making big moves in order to survive while being forced to close their doors to the public. The Whitney Museum of American Art recently laid off a number of temporary workers, and David Zwirner gallery has created a new online platform so that smaller galleries can potentially find larger customer bases for the artists they represent. Artist-run businesses are also finding it necessary to innovate at the speed of light in order to stay afloat. This week, Fort Makers, an artist-run exhibition space and retail studio on Orchard Street, is kicking off CARS, a solo exhibition for the artist Keith Simpson that was meant to take place in-person, but has now been converted into the studio’s first “digital drop.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, all of Simpson’s ceramic automobiles and cacti are viewable and available for purchase on Fort Makers’ website, which is also hosting a stop-motion YouTube video featuring the artist’s sculptures. The gallery also made a CARS-themed Spotify playlist for the occasion. Simpson’s work addresses themes of American nostalgia and memory with a sidelong wit, as the cars the artist has created appear to be melting and decomposing, as though they’ve been exposed to warping agents in the air. “Toy cars are a staple of childhood, and one of the first sites of convergence between the ideas of mechanization and the appeal of fantasy and play,” Fort Makers creative director Nana Spears said in a statement. “In a way, Keith’s pieces—cars that don’t run, toys that can’t be played with—question that instinct. They offer a timely meditation on our tendency to project our escapist desires—from space travel to high school angst—onto objects of technology.”
Given that the studio is known for its immersive installations and sensory innovations when it comes to its space, it’s likely that they’ll come up with even more ways to transfer their signature energy into digital experiences in the near future, especially because the pandemic has made things in the art world so uncertain.
This necessity nicely dovetails with the content of Simpson’s work, and the artist’s genuinely emotional rendering of vehicular technology. Whether we like it or not, we’re all now stuck at home and dependent on our computers for absolutely everything: maybe that means that in a couple of months, pastel ceramic sculptures of laptops will start to crop up in galleries alongside Simpson’s cars.