William Powhida, Relational Wall, 2009, watercolor, 40 x 60 inches. Image via: Schroeder and Romero
A testament to the migration of cliche online behavioral norms to the offline world, William Powhida presents an uncensored portrait of the art world from a fictious Thai jail cell, circa September – December 2009 at Schroeder Romero. If you’re part of this community, the show is literally like staring into the sun: you can’t turn away. Hand drawn notebook pages with text on the art world fill the gallery, many of which contain jewels of insider knowledge and reflections on the art world. I spent a good half hour looking at Powida’s, Relational Wall, an annotated watercolor painting depicting virtually every art celebrity in town. “I like to party”, reads the text under Alexis Hubshman of the Scope fair, while dealer Jeffery Deitch sits at the center of the piece. As those in the scene already know, this version of the future isn’t all that different than it is today, but then social economies rarely transform themselves so completely over the course of six months.
On a related note, the exhibition’s press release necessarily references art scholar Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Art, a term identifying works based upon the inter-human relations which they represent, produce or prompt. While appropriate, my hope is that an academic with a better understanding of online culture updates these theories for the fine art world. Powhida’s work may reflect the development of complex social networks lessening our interest in privacy but his mirror is hardly unique. It’s simply one more product in the giant Facebook economy. And even within said marketplace, the idea that this kind of personal information has any lasting or substantive value has been questioned.
Editor’s note: Thanks to artists William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton for including Art Fag City as one of three remaining art publications in NYC in 2012. ArtForum and Gallery Guide were also named.