Ray Smith got hit in the face with a huge Alaskan grouper at Parade Ground's "Ray Smith Studio" opening Friday, February 8. It was the second time Ray Smith has shown work since Sandy filled his studio with five feet of toxic Gowanus sludge-water, but it was the first time Ray's been hit in the face by a "human propelled fish."
Eamon Monaghan was the fish-wielder and forms half of Butt Danish, a band he and Ray started while working in Ray's studio. The two never actually play music, they just argue in front of the crowd and insult each other until things reach a breaking point. That can come in many forms, explains Eamon. The two arranged the ending this time, agreeing that Ray would get hit in the face with a fish and then both would share a Peking duck picnic.
"It felt free and wild and uninhibited," Eamon says of the opening performances. "The energy in the [Ray Smith] studio is sometimes like that. It's not rigid, and there's not this sense of 'we have to work now.' It's an uninhibited, collaborative mindset."
The exhibition at Parade Ground represents a new brand of Ray Smith, who showed his work at Sperone Westwater, Gagosian, Bruno Bischofberger and elsewhere throughout the 1980s. Recently, Ray's studio became a no-holds-barred place where young artists had the freedom and space to do whatever they wished; this show highlights the many young artists Ray works with and fosters. A loose community of 15 people collaborated on the table-sized, black and white sumo-ink drawings over the course of two years, creating an accidental, illustrated timeline of the year leading up to Hurricane Sandy.
Ray says of the works, "They're just..." he waves his hand in the air. "They're just bathroom graffiti. Dirty and bawdy and raw. Teenage stuff."
"Yea, it's weird to see them in frames," says Eamon. "It just seems so serious."
On the creamy kozo paper, naked women spread their legs; a foot is shoved into a mouth; "Raycism" is writ large in shaded bubble letters; "Boyfriends: What to do with them?" is etched above a captive woman. The works are exquisite corpses, and thoroughly honest in their depictions of raw thought and emotion.
When asked why the Butt Danish performance and the drawings push so many boundaries, Eamon responded: "There's no filter when we make those drawings. We come into work and hang out with friends, and we don't say 'that sounds funny' or 'this looks stupid.' You feel compelled to make it so you just make it. There's really no consequences, and there's a generosity and openness in the studio that allows that."
"Ray Smith Studio" is open at Parade Ground through March 1st.