written by Eddie Arroyo
Lifting one leg up and dropping it down then lifting another leg up and dropping it down as the booty music blasts way – naturally my mind turns to reason why am I participating in a dance competition. This response comes back to me reflecting on an evening at Gramps Bar during Justin Long’s booty dance off. Of course I lost, rightfully, the award went to a sultry attractive competitor, but it was fun. Which was the point. What was puzzling was Long’s work as a DJ. Naturally, artists enjoy an assortment of different activities which is not obviously connected to art but booty music DJing seemed a bit strange. In a recent conversation with Andrew Horton I posed a question, what dictates the practice more the aesthetic or some abstract narrative? Certainly, this curiosity that moves through everyone’s mind when witnessing a work of art where someone inevitably asks, “What is this about?” My argument continues to find flaws in pure Formalism. A dialog that seems to be reflected in Justin Long’s work which he would describe as dumb art.
Long first came into my radar when he and Robert Lorie (Meatball) presented Maintain Right a performance installation in the De la Cruz Collection project room. The pair who formed a collaborative called Funner Projects constructed an oversized metal crossbow, fabricated from scrap materials and set it up facing a series of targets. The targets were made of cheap wood and painted with human silhouettes where, “Every hour on the hour, the garage door opens. Two men emerge wheeling a large crossbow in to position. They take some measurements, and wind back the bow, the arrow is in place (which is a 2X4). All clear. Fire in the hole! BANG!” Undoubtedly there is an overlaid story in an expression of aggressive joy to catapult these 2×4’s into these anonymous shapes. Wonderfully juvenile in its nature apparent with my own guilty pleasure. This is a fun toy to have.
I began to notice over the years that Long’s work consistently has a bricolage approach to it. He does not seem to be concerned with any preconceived notions of Formalism. Function and dumbness seems to win the day. After that performance he began to exhibit a series of work which had a nautical theme to it and had the opportunity to document much of it. From a Miami Art Museum Annual Friendraiser where he fired Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans onto targets across the art collector Robert Blumenthal’s pool to Bow Movement which was an exhibit at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. In that later exhibit he installed a massive 60-foot long sailboat hull which was described as the skeleton of a whale. On the whole that show seemed to be a love letter to the joy of sailing. Personally, I found his installation at the Michael Jon Gallery more successful in that objective. However, it did reveal that he was exploring something more than juvenile pleasure or exercising bricolage approaches. Collectively it stands as a reflection of an artist exploring a culture, its history, and way of life. A sentiment which was reinforced in his Mantucket exhibit in the Emerson Dorsch Project Room and where he invited a small group of friends to go sailing with him (This was on display as a video format).
Long’s practices seems synonymous with artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn and Tom Sachs who also use crude and conventional materials to convey conceptual frameworks. Its a curious thing when comparing Sachs to Long with regard to lifestyle and culture. Indeed with Sachs “Space Program” series he has spent a considerable amount of time investigating aspects of these objects and it functions on a literal level. So much so that he decided to alter the Lunar Excursion Module by including a fully stocked Vodka bar and library (with titles such as Woman’s Almanac).
It is here with Bad Scene Quinquennia at the Bas Fisher Invitational where Long seems to be ready to launch another series of work in regards to a culture. It began with a long rectangular photograph of objects used to create a performance project which presented more of a situation. The project piece was a 1998 Saturn SL1 provided by local artist Naomi Fisher and Jim Drain in an exercise of nostalgia.
Long’s intent was to recreate “some of the magic” when he modified a similar Saturn into duct taped Delorean.
This art piece (that is a car) is one of the dumbest thing I had ever seen and had the opportunity to drive it as well in a delightful yet cautious frenzy. What can I say the bastard was loud. This art piece (that is a car) had been horribly spray painted silver with the exhaust pipe protruding like an antenna right out of the hood of the car resembling a pimped out unicorn. Wooden dollar signs spray painted gold and bolted onto the rims were spinning as people would zip it around the block of the project space. The bastard was loud. Artists would take turns driving, kicking, and hugging the art piece (that is a car).
Witnessing it moving up and down the street, I could not help noticing the playlist blasting through the speakers and thinking back when I lifted one leg up and dropped it down then lifted another leg up and dropped it down. Booty music has influenced international urban culture but here its history is categorized in Miami Bass which became popular in the 1980s and 1990s. More specifically in Miami’s black neighborhoods such as Liberty City and Overtown which is significant given the performances location. Long has consciously encompassed this art piece (that is a car) as a part of this city’s history and culture where it was pimped out to be presented in colloquial and international conversation. Which is always an objective when anything is declared art; much as Sachs “Space Program” series. What makes this possible Miami Bass series more relevant is that it moves beyond Sachs approach because it is more specific to a place in addition to a time. I am not certain if Long will continue to explore these ideas and experiences with the same enthusiasm as his nautical works but I do look forward to the prospect. Eagerly waiting to lift my leg.
To purchase the Art (that is a car):http://miami.craigslist.org/mdc/cto/4390075879.html