Magazine article Artforum International

Jack Smith: Mitchell Algus

Magazine article Artforum International

Jack Smith: Mitchell Algus

Article excerpt

The pleasure and the interest of this small exhibition of drawings, photographs, and ephemera from the collection of artist Edwin Ruda and Maria Antoinette, Smith's former friend and superstar, result from its focus. These letters, sketches of costume designs, cut-and-paste flyers for midnight performances, etc., document a friendship and collaboration coinciding with the hyperactive years (1969-71) of the Plaster Foundation, Smith's live-in, self-run theater on Greene Street. Antoinette, a Mescalero Apache who acted in Brassieres of Atlantis and other Smith shows during that time, embodies the legendary polyartist's sequined, shamanistic B-rituals with sexy intelligence and a conspiratorial sense of humor. In one series of snapshots, the two accessorize a subway car with fishing nets and a copy of the Daily News announcing Sharon Tate's murder by the Manson family as they ride out to Coney Island. Performance stills document a topless Antoinette in golden miniskirt and cone-shaped hat, down on all fours as she receives some kind of dada sacrament from a sombrero'd, towering, flamenco-panted Smith; the scene unfolds on a tabletop that makes the performers seem to levitate over the notorious junk pile that served as the Plaster Foundation's stage. These glimpses evoke the mad magic of Smith's visionary, self-destructing, sparsely attended multimedia spectacles, as well as his experimental blurring of the line between performance and daily life. In a framed letter to Antoinette following a botched rendezvous, Smith rants about love and treachery, exposing the viewer to the sometimes paranoid extremes of a relationship which today would be called dysfunctional but which at the time was how people got along when they were busy collaborating in the epic construction of queer, volcano-powered, lobster-colored dream weapons against landlordism of all kinds. …

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