If you're touring the Lower East Side gallery scene this weekend, don't be surprised if you come across novelist Richard Price making the rounds as well, trailed by a film crew. He'll be revisiting the setting of his gripping bestseller Lush Life, which is not only being made into a film — Miramax Films and producer Scott Rudin acquired screen rights shortly after the 2008 book was published — but has also become the occasion of an art exhibition, and an unusual one at that. And while Price will only be making his video (to be aired eventually on the show's site), the gallery-spanning event will last for several weeks over the summer.
In what one could call a novel approach to curating, Franklin Evans and Omar Lopez Chahoud have assembled some 60 artists for a show that takes place in nine downtown galleries — Sue Scott, On Stellar Rays, Invisible Exports, Lehmann Maupin, Y Gallery, Collette Blanchard, Salon 94, Scaramouche, and Eleven Rivington — with each venue corresponding to a chapter in Price's book. Set on the dingy streets of the Lower East Side in the wake of September 11, Lush Life is the riveting story of a murder investigation that wraps in a full array of the neighborhood's denizens, as well as an account of the accelerated gentrification taking place in the area at that time. So fast was the gentrification, in fact, that the book took place before all the galleries moved in.
Evans says he and Chahoud had been thinking for a while about how to do a collective exhibition on the Lower East Side, and they became interested in "how the galleries cross paths with other lifestyles" in the neighborhood. The art crowd is "a new community in neighborhood so dense with multiple communities both present and historical," he says. "The book talks so much about these communities, and how they only interact when there is a crisis event." They made the connection with Price through the owners of Invisible Exports, one of whom has friends in the publishing industry.
How will the art pick up on the book's themes and events? Sometimes, the correspondences will be pretty direct. The first chapter of Lush Life, "Whistle," centers on an apparition of the Virgin Mary that appears in a bodega's freezer case. So Sue Scott, proximate to where that scene was set, will show a video by Judi Werthein depicting a similar apparition in Seville, Spain.
Other artists in the show include Chakaia Booker, Christoph Draeger, Joanne Greenbaum, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Mario Ybarra Jr., Matthew Weinstein, Patty Chang, Paul Pagk, Pedro Barbeito, Rashid Johnson, Robert Lazzarini, Robert Melee, and Scott Hug.
On Sunday, Price will be accompanied by the curators, who are making a video to be posted on the exhibition's Web site, and veteran New York tour guide Zack Aarons. The earliest of the individual gallery shows opens on June 17 (see details below), and there will be a collective opening on July 8. That means there's still time to read the book, so if you haven't already, get cracking.
Sue Scott Gallery
"Chapter One: Whistle"
June 17 – August 1
On Stellar Rays
"Chapter Two: Liar"
June 23 – August 1
"Chapter Three: First Bird (A Few Butterflies)"
June 25 – August 6
"Chapter Four: Let It Die"
July 8 – August 13
"Chapter Five: Want Cards"
July 8 – July 25
Collette Blanchard Gallery
"Chapter Six: The Devil You Know"
July 8 – August 13
"Chapter Seven: Wolf Tickets"
June 24 – July 30
"Chapter Eight: 17 Plus 25 Is 32"
July 8 – August 7
"Chapter Nine: She'll Be Apples"
July 15 – August 13