“They all look different but they’re all basically me and facets of my personality. I’ve always drawn old men, even when I was a young kid. I used to go out to the Bowery and draw these old guys. Always done while I’m blitzed. Never touch them straight. I write like that, too. Some things come out of me that would never come out of me straight. Never. The sculptures I would never do any other way but straight. That’s dangerous shit, man.”
We all know of Alan Vega as the voice behind Suicide, the sinister electro punk duo who created some of the most perverted, pioneering and progressive music to have been created during the twentieth century. However it is lesser known that Vega is also a defined fine artist having been practicing within the fine art world for decades. So it is of great excitement to discover that Vega’s first exhibition in a decade in New York is currently on show at Invisible Exports.
Now at the age of 78, discovering Vega’s artistic career can seem overwhelming in its vast experience. Studying under Ad Reinhardt Seligman while at Brooklyn college. After that he then became involved with the activist collective Art Worker’s Coalition, which lobbied aggressively for museum reform and even barricaded MoMA, and with the Project of Living Artists, an anarcho-residency-performance space which emerged from it.
He moved from painting to sculptures assembled from light fixtures and discarded electronic detritus. Critic Simon Reynolds has called the work: “trash-culture shrines from a post-cataclysmic America of the near-future”. Vega staged several legendary shows at OK Harris Gallery, and mounted installations, which Jeffrey Deitch later named “the toughest and most radical art I had ever seen.” It was with that assemblage and ready-made work that Vega inaugurated Barbara Gladstone’s first downtown space in 1983. These sculptures also formed the basis of Collision Drive, a 2002 tribute show at Deitch Projects, as well as Infinite Mercy, a major 2009 retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, Vega continued to make new work, but declined to exhibit it until 2002. The work gathered here is all new, and on view for the first time – an installation of a single example of his signature light-based sculpture (2014) and a series of semi-automatic, diary-like drawings (2014-2015), which he produced nightly. The drawings, depictions of a single mythical man, also form, together, a shifting, serial self-portrait.
Visit this captivating exhibition of a true cultural icon before it closes on the 29th of Marc.
89 Eldridge Street, just south of Grand Street. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-6pm, and by appointment.