Melissa Mesku is a writer and editor in NYC.
Where Privacy Meets Paranoia
Bushwick artist builds a space for viewers to contemplate privacy
“There’s people in your head,” artist Thierry Laurent explains, pointing to a silkscreen collage, one in his series of five called The Unknown. The image is dominated by an Illuminati-like eye. Below it, the distorted likeness of a boy’s face. The space behind the boy’s eyes is filled with depictions of men at computer terminals, the kind envisioned in the 1960s, while the eyes themselves are, upon closer inspection, not eyes, but mouths. (“The eyes speak,” Laurent tells me).
Stepping back from the wall, the piece becomes part of the room, the room that is the mainstay of this exhibition. Laurent, a carpenter by trade, took over an unused attic space and built it out for this solo show, Special Victims, which runs through October. For a new gallery, it doesn’t feel new or like a gallery. Rather, it feels like an attic that’s been forgotten since the seventies. The low lighting makes the silkscreens on the wall take on the vibe of posters tacked to wallpaper, à la Dark Side of The Moon, or a Bowie Pin-Up.
Laurent got his start in the punk and DJ scenes in the mid-nineties on the Lower East Side of New York. Since then, his mixed-media art has included similar elements of DIY and community participation. His previous show, held in a bathroom, was a meditation on the significance of the restroom as the last bastion of privacy. The current show keeps with the privacy theme, “it’s just that this [show] feels less like a cozy appreciation of what little privacy we have, and more like a paranoid realization that we don’t have any privacy, and if we do, it’s just because we’re trapped up here in our Grandma’s attic.”
Laurent’s interest in examining privacy—the ways in which our conception of it has changed, and the ways we’ve changed as a result—was a primary motivator for his creation of the show. At the centre of the room are a pair of comfortable couches and a coffee table, cozy enough despite Laurent’s assessment. Along with the warm lamplight, it looks like a space that could even compete with the bar downstairs. While that’s not on the books, the inviting glow is part of the vision. “The best part about this show so far are all the conversations I’ve had on that couch. So many people—they want to talk about these things. Everyone sees what’s going on but we’re not talking about it.”
Special Victims runs through October.
135 Graham Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11206