RYAN MCGINNESS’ "WOMEN – THE BLACKLIGHT PAINTINGS" AT LE BAIN, NEW YORK

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Every year, the Armory Show descends upon New York, and along with it the satellite fairs, the art world tourists, and of course, the parties. From the suited-up collectors brunches to the private dealer dinners, the events often seem to overshadow the actual artworks themselves, particularly when they come in the form of Ryan McGinness’s bachannalian Women event held at Le Bain on March 3. The New York incarnation of the artist’s Art Basel Miami fête last December, the event showcased McGinness’s most recent series, Women: The Blacklight Paintings, a stunning group of works that use the artist’s abstractly decorative pared-down aesthetic to beautifully voluptuous and novel ends. Re-interpreting the classical tradition of nude models and life drawing, McGinness has created a new lexicon of graphics. Rather than the signs and symbols of his earlier work, the one-time skater kid here presents the chaotic order of the female body, her curves and angles reduced to a celebratory vision at the intersection of the organic and the mechanical. In his own words, the impetus behind this new series was the “desire to embrace and capture the purely aesthetic experience of graceful curves and sensual forms.” One can see a hint of Matisse’s cut-outs in these works, re-envisioned to fit the twenty-first century.

Appropriately, the series was presented at Le Bain on the top floors of the Standard,at a private event that applauded the works and the female form in an ecstatic art world show of pure scopophilia. As guests entered the loft-like space overlooking the city and the river, they passed along the bar, which served titillatingly-titled speciality cocktails for the occasion, and up to the main event: exotic dancers bumping and grinding on a stripper pole set up on the stage, with McGinness’ new paintings hungalong the surrounding walls. The dancers themselves appeared in g-strings, and their surprisingly natural bodies were glazed in patterns of fluorescent paint, which made fora mesmerizing and erotic vision as they worked their magic. Guests tippled and mingled with natural art world sophistication, seated comfortably on banquettes surrounding the stage. Orgiastic currents did flow through the atmosphere as the night wore on- watching beautiful female dancers strut their stuff in the nude will undeniably have that effect on anyone – however, wonderfully, the scene remained sexy and fun, and never dipped into the sleazy territory one encounters at the greasy flesh fests found in midtown side streets. Indeed, the dancers were celebrating their freedom of expression in honor of the paintings, and the audience was very respectfully enjoying the visual feast of it all.

Typical of McGinness events (indeed, he was the force behind last year’s imaginative 50 Parties series, whose end is still being mourned by many), the crowd presented an eclectic mix of characters: downtown, uptown, mature, young, and everything in between. Notable guests included literary bon vivant Anthony Haden-Guest, who kindly introduced himself after politely squeezing in beside me as I perched on my banquette, and Susanne Bartsch, the Swiss-born New York 80’s nightlife impresario whose legacy has become legendary. A bevy of different languages peppered overheard conversations in the room, and the international chatter continued on at Boom Boom Room, the adjacent boîte that offered further entertainment after the event ended. In his Gatsby-esque fashion, the artist stayed out of the spotlight, choosing to stay behind the crowd, often seeking peace in his hotel suite rented for the night, where his own private party was happening. Still, he offered a warm smile whenever approached, and sat back to enjoy the fruits of his labor, and of course, the show.

Article by Aniko Berman
Images courtesy of RM Studios and Country Club
Photos by Sherry Griffin

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