Sharpies, skulls and Spade (Jack)

June 26th, 2007

Bill Powers curated a small show called Drawings in Books sparked off by a book signing for painter Brad Kahlhamer at Jack Spade, the sweetest little general store on the lower east side at the Bowery Hotel. Bill Powers and his wife, Cynthia Rowley, have long been involved in the contemporary art scene and a hefty book collection to prove it. Not only do they own some hard to get limited edition books featuring work by artists such as Jeff Koons and Yoshimoto Nara, but each book shown here has a doodle or sketch inside of it. These scribbles are an interesting artifact, a condensed squiggle that embodies celebrity, artwork and a personal message.
Brad Kahlhamer with twinkling eyes and a Sharpie on hand to sign copies of his subtly sleek new monograph book published by Charta, mingled through the loose crowd distributing wine from a secret stash under the cashier girl’s desk. With essays by Jeffrey Deitch, Dean Sobel, Mariuccia Casadio, the book features a progression of work by Kahlhamer over the years including images of his Kachina doll series that few who know his career have seen. His signature work features “…ink and watercolor drawings…bold gestural strokes evoke a broad range of figural traditions: from the exuberance of expressionism and brashness of street art, to the playfulness of cartooning and mysticism of shamanism. However, this art is not about recuperating a lost heritage, but exploring and interlacing the various strands of a present moment. Travel emerges as a constant theme here, not only in the depicted Western expanses (fantasies of a lost geography) but in the enigmatic figures that litter his large canvases, the many indices of culture spanning from native talismans to nationalist icons: guns, skulls, feathers, American flags, eagles, cowboys, etc. These incommensurable signs are accumulated as so many mementos in a long and often unrecognizable journey. But composition renders them less as melancholic traces than as constitutive fragments of a self in flux – one whose very instability opens on creativity and spirituality.” (Franklin Melendez) A copy of the book is also on display in Spade’s cases, replete with a wobbly skull drawing and taxidermied rattle snake.

The crowd lackadaisically oozed out on to the summer evening sidewalk, heated and lusty in the soft light of the passing Bowery traffic. While peppered with the expected notables, artist and downtown fashion faces, it had the dressed down but high quality vibe intrinsic in Jack Spade items. Spade will also be selling lottery tickets, mouthwash, shoelace and other necessities to hotel guests from the country schoolhouse nook in the front of the hotel.

The book is available for purchase here.