The artist Beverly Semmes wondered what would happen when serious artists contemplated a culturally-marginal object (a bong, for example) and decided to invite a group of her peers to do just that. This show is about testing the limits of art and craft, public and private, high and low, and going with the flow. It features many pieces made specifically for the exhibition as well as existing works, chosen by the artists themselves.
Among the works on view are Elaine Reichek’s embroidered reinterpretation of a famous painting by Magritte; a pipe created by Ann Chu, inspired by the “lucky cat,” whose raised beckoning paw brings good fortune and customers, and Michael Joo’s Double-Barreled MSG Inhaler, consisting of two seven-foot polycarbonate tubes, connected by a crudely-fashioned oxygen mask that protrude from fifty-pound containers of monosodium glutamate. With a needle, a glass, and a copy of Catcher in the Rye, Byron Kim commemorates a significant moment from his past and the necessity of improvising while on the road. Aura Rosenberg pays homage to the literary history of intoxication with a “stash box” made from a hollowed out edition of Walter Benjamin’s On Hashish (concealing an exquisitely tiny pipe). John Miller’s altered covers of What Color is Your Parachute, A Separate Peace, Sensible Self-Help, and books by Rush Limbaugh and John Dewey feature images of bongs. Allen Ruppersberg presents books from his Remainders series including 1966 Was a Good Year, 1967 Was Fabulous. Liz Larner contributes “an impeccably stoned smile” of cast porcelain. Arlene Schechet’s piece is inspired by a puff of smoke.
Also on view are works by Curtis Mitchell, made by pouring household chemicals onto photosensitive paper; Ann Agee’s ashtray inspired by a sex education manual; a huge roughly hewn wooden “bowl” by Ursula von Rydingsvard; Beverly Semmes’s Icicle Pipe, made of hand-sculptured crystal; ceramic pieces by Nicole Cherubini, Arnie Zimmerman, and Charles Long, and other works in a variety of mediums.
Beverly Semmes’s artistic career has included solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries throughout the world. The Bong Show is her first curatorial project.