January 21st - 6 - 9 pm
Several new boutique luxury apartment buildings have arrived or are underway in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Chinatown. For his exhibition at Ki Smith Gallery, Alexander Si will install a mock showroom marketing ‘170 Forsyth,’ a proposed, brand-new, ten-floor, five-unit condominium. A mash-up of advertising copy, renderings, and saturated graphics used to sell actual apartments, the showroom comes equipped with a lounge, 3D scale model, floor plans, and high-resolution digital renders of the building’s interior and exterior. Of course, Si doesn’t plan to develop the property. If he did, Ki Smith Gallery and the residences above would be destroyed, prospectively replaced by wrap-around floor-to-ceiling glass windows, smooth wood interiors, concrete accents, and glimpses of marble tabletops and modern amenities.
A one-of-a-kind object might be called luxurious, or an item made with a rare material, a piece of furniture crafted with attention, sweat and tears, “a drop of blood to heighten the sheen of the pearl.”* Luxury used to stand above the grind of the machine. Now it might refer to the sleek glass surface of an iPhone, bare concrete, polished granite, or steel welded without any trace of the welder’s hand. In a way, Si’s work is a pun on contemporary luxury; he gives us the blood, sweat and tears. Striving for perfection in the surfaces of his final product, he only reveals himself as its maker. More lovely for being made by hand, ‘170 Forsyth’ is also inferior, like the dress of the debutante who sewed her own garment to match the couture of high society.
Si’s earnest effort to make the exhibition resemble “the real thing” channels the fury, ambition, and savvy of Chinatown’s immigrant population, whose labor is often rendered invisible unless it markets to a mainstream appeal. However, it asks more questions than it answers. What is “luxury” real estate, anyway? When does ornament become more than a comfort and aesthetic pleasure, but a symbol of status? What will become of the artist’s hand?
*Jean-Paul Sartre on the work of Jean Genet, from “Masturbation” in Modern Times: Selected Non-Fiction, ed. Geoffrey Wall, trans. Robin Buss (1947) p. 115
When thinking about this body of work, a voice from a friend who is now with spirt comes to me; “just paint the truth”. Truth carries the essence of soul embodiment and with it the resonance of remembering kindred connection to that which we are, creation. Here in lies the origin of these works.