Richard Anderson, Trinity Bavaria, Lino Bernabe, Gunner Dongieux, Nick Jorgensen, Andrew Straub, Antonia Young
July 14 - 30, 2023
Since the legalization of recreational cannabis in New York City, I haven’t been able to walk five blocks without passing by a smoke shop. The bodega below my old apartment, which once survived selling me a diverse balance of bodega goods: arnold palmers, chop cheeses, cheap weed, now exclusively sells reefer, and reefer paraphernalia – and not very cheap anymore, I might add.
Was this how it was post-prohibition? Were mom-and-pop bootleggers supplanted by big corporate keg tappers? I used to text with a guy named Icebox. Nowadays I walk over patches of artificial turf to browse strains of bud like they’re IPAs at a taproom. Bags now look like ads for Cartoon Network shows (Damn, I should’ve gotten one of those graphic designers to make the exhibition flier…) All this to say, with this once underground burgeoning market now surfacing into full public purview, attitudes, stigmas and connotations are set to change.
With High Concept I set out to do what none had done before me: Open a weed shop in lower Manhattan. No - but I did seek out a new vantage point from which to view the artist/dealer relationship, and additionally, a slower pace of living, a mellowness. At the opening you will find me bouncing from body to body, giving out the good word on the exhibited artists’ intentions and wider practices. But, like the counterboy who chiefs the keef over the glass showdesks, I not only participate in the conceptual framing of artworks to potential collectors, I partake in painting, myself. (I’m noticing how important that last comma is)
At the opening you will witness the literal art of the deal, as our gallery attendant, a representative sent by our sponsor, Private Jet, performs both inflections of ‘the dealer.’ Above him hangs Gunner Dongieux’s Pot Dealer. Above that, hangs a self portrait of another artist/dealer, Nick Jorgensen. Lino Bernabe, once a weed-deliverer for Private Jet (I’m thinking of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in that film Premium Rush) has a complex surrealist drawing from the golden days of the covert cannabis market. Andrew pairs every depiction of Christ in the Met with a Rick & Morty bong. Rick pairs pictures of his toking rig with the endless knot: a symbol that depicts the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth across multiple cultures/religions. Antonia sculpted a neon weed leaf to hang in the Pop Gun marquee, and Trinity puts up a Pop depiction of the good old bathroom bong bubble.
The cards are on the table (and the Private Jet charter flights are under the table). Attempts at covertness have fallen in favor of maximalist flashy marketing schemes. Animated dogs smoke doobies in storefronts. Weed pens and Laffy Taffy share the same flavors. My local vendor has a Wheel-of-Fortune promo thing going on outside, and my conceptual art gallery is now a smoke shop.