21 May – 29 June 2013

Joey Frank

We are in the gallery, it is 2 AM and the show is still not up.

I am supposed to write the text to accompany the show that I still haven’t seen, or better to say, seen and/or listened to.

Joey Frank is very slow. The invitation was also late, but if this show was to be done by another artist that had a week in the gallery we’d be done by yesterday. Since I have nothing to write about the show that is opening in some hours, and since the need to fill the space of a page is overpowering me, I will describe what I have seen.

I met Joey in New York at his first big show titled “Closets” that was pretty monumental and huge at a part of the city that nobody really goes to look at art; in Red Hook, Brooklyn where he lives. The show was an installation that was comprised of many; one was about a monument to 9/11 made of burning incenses in the shape of long thin rectangulars, one other contained a beautiful slide show with a woman under a tree and the voice of himself singing a song, another one was about peeping into the front side of a car where the carton cut out of a woman was being shaped and painted. Another Closet had an interactive installation with a Madonna and a child carved out of maybe styrofoam and an interactive projection with scenes of Robert De Niro’s Taxi Driver. What made me excited about Joey’s certainty on the meaning of art was two gigantic cut out figures, a man and a woman, made of cardboard that he ended up hanging from the ceiling floating in the middle of the space, that looked like cheap 80s jazzy cartoons and to someone like me that has a soft spot for the austerity of conceptual practices felt pretty trashy. But I was like, it cannot be, I’m missing something here. So my conversations with Joey went on.

Two years ago I invited him in Istanbul to do a piece for the Constellations show and he decided to do a performance. That was a failure. He decided to consume some muscle relaxing, hallucinogenic thing right before the opening that made the 15 minute piece so slow, people were leaving; I could see the powerful ideas in it though, it just didn’t happen. The piece was about time and recording and re-enacting a prerecorded piece sang by Captain Beefheart. On several trips to New York I kept on visiting him in Red Hook; partially because I love knowing someone so obsessed with astrology and birthdays and can talk about it philosophically and mainly because I really love the way he associates history and cosmology with cinema and all sorts of pop culture. He co-produced a very strange documentary about plastic surgery, frog agriculture and kidnappings in Brazil, titled Manda Bala. It won the best documentary prize at Sundance; very strange and beautiful.

Four hours later.

The show is almost up. Some final touches are yet to be done but we are almost there. Things are clearer now. It’s all about time.

The idea behind this exhibition, or to say the inspiration, was a record Joey showed me back in January, that he did for a group show in a gallery in NYC. It was a vinyl record that underneath was a watercolor he had made of two men, dandy like figures dancing hugged. The record was spinning and the sound that was coming of it was a radio sound recorded on the vinyl. I loved it and proposed we do an exhibition just with records in Istanbul in May. The piece he made for the gallery is spread in three rooms, the first two silent rooms with the records spinning and the third room that the viewer can choose which room record constellation to listen to. The three records in each room are playing simultaneously, the one on top of each other and there is no synch; each room represents a song, both by Bruce Springsteen. The watercolors are clearly referring about time. The possibilities are endless. Sounds of a crying dog overlapping with a recording from Pasolini’s Salò and a beautiful organ playing, Joey’s voice talking to the dog, a song sang by a soprano echoes in the space as she disappears through the scratching sound of the old record.

Looping constantly, the clock ticking, the day breaks.

The ebru drawings on black and white prints from photos that Frank took in a clinic, an ultrasound and a surgical table reflect that chance element that the exhibition is all about. The finger on the railway pointing constantly somewhere else; turning and turning.

The astrological birthday chart diptych is split in two rooms; one signed by Immanuel Kant with only one man’s birthday marked on it, that of the greatest defender of authorship, John Stuart Mill. The second painting that Joey signs contains in a year the birth dates of many great men and women. The line of Sandy adds another element to the painterly of the marker pen.

I do understand why it took us so long to finish installation; experiencing time for Joey is a state of being. Even if he had all the time in the world to prepare for this, I would still be writing this now.


Sylvia Kouvali