Artists destroy their own work for new exhibit

Gone girl: Artist Kate Teale is creating a wall drawing that she will progressively erase over the course of the exhibition “Destroy, she said.”
The Boiler

See it while you still can.

In the latest exhibition at Williamsburg gallery the Boiler, the destruction of art is not taboo but encouraged. “Destroy, she said,” which opens March 5, features work created and then disfigured by 13 artists. The show explores processes and methods of destruction and asks what is worth saving in an era where nothing is deleted, said one of the show’s curators.

“We’re becoming a culture of pack rats,” said co-curator Saul Anton. “And it implies that we don’t really know how to value anything anymore, we don’t know how to choose, how to edit, to select, and weed out.”

Most of the works being destroyed in the show were preexisting, and will be demolished specifically for the exhibition, another curator said.

“In a certain sense, a work of art is already a fragment, a ruin. This is especially true in the digital age; when art is distributed across a number of actual and virtual platforms,” said co-curator Ethan Spigland.

Each of the show’s artists has their own interpretation of destruction. One will erase a wall drawing, part by part. One has asked actors to remake a year-old performance from memory. Another will project slides for the entirety of the exhibition that will burn from constant light and heat.

One artist pasted a poster littered with images of glazed donuts, bike saddles, and blue high-heels to a door on Bedford Avenue, which he said is now at the mercy the public.

“The inevitable obliteration of the print by graffiti, stickers, vandalism, weather, whatever, is, effectively, the work. It is therefore a work in progress until completely defaced or overwritten,” said Williamsburg artist Jeff Gibson. “It can be quite interesting and confronting to open yourself to anonymous interactions in this way. Some people don’t hold back. It ain’t always pretty, but it is often revealing.”

A life-size decal of the door will be at the gallery as a stand-in for the actual print.

Anton said he hopes visitors to the show will learn that there is no absolute boundary between making and unmaking, creation and destruction.

“Art doesn’t exist simply in the form of objects stored in galleries or museums or homes — but in the language, the conversations, and the dialogues that circulate continuously around them,” he said.

Gibson hopes visitors will have their artistic value systems tested.

“What is art but a rolling argument over iconography, an argument over what we value?” he said. “The destruction of art calls all of that into question.”

The show coincides with the launch of the Foundation for Destroyed Art, an online archive of destroyed art.

“We wanted to create a permanent space in which and for which artists can practice destruction and can destroy their works,” Anton said.

“Destroy, she said” at the Boiler [191 N. 14th St. between Berry Street and Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 599–2144, www.pierogi2000.com]. Opening reception March 6 at 7 pm. Free. Show runs through April 5.

Poster boy: Artist Jeff Gibson has pasted this poster on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, where the public can destroy it.
The Boiler

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