Trevor Paglen, A Prison Without Guards (Corpus: Eye-Machines) Adversarially Evolved Hallucination, 2017, dye sublimation metal print. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

Kendra Jayne Patrick's "Seating Chart for a Fall Dinner Party in a Pandemic" currently on view at Metro Pictures, and it's exactly what we needed right now.

by Colleen Kelsey
Nov 27 2020, 4:12pm

Trevor Paglen, A Prison Without Guards (Corpus: Eye-Machines) Adversarially Evolved Hallucination, 2017, dye sublimation metal print. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

Kendra Jayne Patrick is looking for a good conversation. While the usual fall exhibition schedule typically provides ample occasions for it (openings, parties, deals, galas, stunts), 2020 had other plans. But Patrick, founder of the self-described “itinerant” New York-based Gallery Kendra Jayne Patrick, has devised a forum of her own amidst the season’s pandemic-jilted New York art world. Her latest show, a continuation of her “TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY OCCUPATIONAL ADJUSTMENTS AND CONSIDERATIONS” series exploring works offering perspectives on contemporary life, is a digital exhibition in collaboration with Metro Pictures running through December. 

Titled “TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY OCCUPATIONAL ADJUSTMENTS AND CONSIDERATIONS, EPISODE 4: Seating Chart for a Fall Dinner Party in a Pandemic,” Patrick captures the thrill of a long chat with a charismatic seat mate (who may just be Mike Kelley), match-making artists from her own roster with those of the directional Chelsea gallery. Viewed in pairs, the works speak to the conceptual occupations of each artist. Additionally, Patrick’s cheekily drafted a list of conversation topics the artists would get into if they were to meet IRL, whether it’s !Mediengruppe Bitnik and Gary Simmons on cancel culture or Qualeasha Wood and Paulina Olowska on Lana Del Rey, Cardi B, and feminism. 

GARAGE recently Zoomed with Patrick, who’s been quarantining in Switzerland, to talk about intergenerational dialogue, hostessing, and why Kenya (Robinson) and Cindy Sherman had to talk about Karens. 

Paulina Olowska, "Blue Forest," 2019, oil on canvas with collage elements. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

I always think of September as back to school for the art world. It’s a time of big exhibitions, parties, dinners—and that didn’t happen this year. How did the dinner party present itself as a wrapping for you?
They’re just such an essential aspect of the art world. Then, I think, more concretely, the art business. They’re some of my favorite parts of the job. It’s not nothing, mounting an exhibition. It’s so many different elements you have to pull together. And there’s all these different people who approach art from different perspectives, whether they’re gallery directors, handlers, artists, artists’ friends, or parents of the artist. All of these parties contribute in some way to an exhibition. When you mount it, it’s time to celebrate. All of your concrete ideas around aesthetics in the white cube spill over into real life at dinner parties. 

My artists all are developing relationships with each other and they’re starting to trade work. It’s so much fun creating that community. I was like, oh, what if in real life, it would be these artists and Metro Pictures’ artists, right, but the artists that Metro Pictures represents are some of the most important artists of the past 50 years. In a year like this, intergenerational conversation would be wild and totally exciting. A good way to talk about art and real life and the digital space and exhibition-making was this setting of a dinner party.

Qualeasha Wood, "Test of Faith," 2020
, Jacquard weave, satin Durag, sequins, glass beads

One layer of dialogue is within the works themselves. Another layer is these imagined conversations that you’ve created, which—there’s a level of eavesdropping and humor.  These are spaces where people forge connections, maybe there’s gossip…I think we’re always craving an insight into the interior lives of artists.
One of the privileges of the job is getting to talk to artists all day. When you’re not making an exhibition with them, there’s still constant conversation about what they’re making, and how it’s related to what’s going on, what they used to do, where another artist has picked up that thread in a similar way. Getting to know artists did feel like an element that felt really fun to imagine. I did want to have fun with it. Even though a lot of these artists on the Metro Pictures side are towering figures, you learn at dinner parties that they’re real people. Their kids go to school somewhere, or they got stood up by their Uber driver, or whatever! [laughs] With artists, we assume things about their interior lives based on the objects that they make. But how their ideas might come out via aesthetic means, or how they might come about as applied to the presidential election might be really surprising. 

In putting together this exhibition with artists on your roster and the Metro roster, which relationships or affinities revealed themselves to you? 
I shouldn’t say it’s a strange time to think about art, but it is a time where I know that I really struggle to divorce art from real life. Real life right now means it’s hard to plan more than 60 days out, or 90 days out, or even 30 days out. I figured at a dinner party, these artists would be talking about whatever they’re seeing in their news feeds, frankly. The relationships did develop in accordance with the subjects that I thought might find the artists together. But there’s this element of, sometimes you put something together and it’s totally thrilling. 

This is an example of something that really surprised me. Of course, the election news cycle is complete and absolute punishment. It’s a time to really think about the so-called American Century, America’s post-World War II economic and political dominance. There’s an artist named Gernot Bubenik, who was a pretty prolific Op artist in Germany in the ‘60s. He gives a speech in Germany that’s deeply critical of the commercial art world. Cartel-style, his market stops—basically there. But he remained an activist. It kind of surprised me when I put [his work] with Trevor Paglen, maybe one of the most prolific American artists thinking about surveillance technology, artificial intelligence, and the real effects this has on our lives and social fabric.

Gernot Bubenik, "3 Leporellos," 1965, 
Oil, Xerox, and comic book on cardboard with linen hinges, 
70 x 13 in (each panel) 178 x 35 cm

So what you’re looking at in Trevor Paglen is an AI picture of a black site, basically. It’s about machines seeing, but if you back it up it’s about the darker uses of the technological advancements that Gernot in 1965 is excited about. This is an example of something that feels really timely, when we should be thinking about what the next American Century will look like. I just love that you have these two artists, in all of these years apart, thinking about the same things. In their art they’re talking about The American Century, they’re talking about state-sanctioned science, they’re talking about the aestheticization of technology, but in real life, I think they would talk about Westworld, that HBO show that deals with those issues. Or I think they’d also talk about Julian Assange, an extremely controversial figure who would be interesting to someone with Gernot’s post-war socialist politics. And I’m not saying he would agree with much of what Assange does, but I think he’s an interesting figure to consider these issues around. 

And we have Cindy Sherman and Kenya (Robinson). Their works talk about enigma and identity, and their dinner party conversation is about Karens.
[laughs] It would have to be! Kenya always says, “Privilege is plastic.” I think that she’s always understood that American identity is extremely complex, and that it’s particularly true for Black people, doubly-so for Black women. Kenya looks at that and says, “I want to change things.” I think as an artist Kenya wants to investigate these issues, but I would say that something extremely central to her practice is Black humor. It’s an essential cultural element, and one thing that I always love about Kenya’s work is that she never lets it fall by the wayside, no matter how grave the subject matter is. Monkey Mouse is her reflection on this interaction between race and class that’s hard for us to talk about as Americans. 

Kenya (Robinson), "Monkey Mouse," 2020, Mickey Mouse plush, Mardi Gras beads

Minstrel culture is the very first truly American version of popular culture, and she’s thinking about how Walt Disney [was] a rumored racist and anti-Semite, but that doesn’t stop him from making money off of Black culture in this really deeply fundamental way. I love that she makes Monkey Mouse from a gas station Mickey Mouse plush and she then puts these Mardi Gras beads on it. It’s hard to present the uncanny and do it so succinctly. And then of course that’s in conversation with Cindy Sherman, who has always made the malleability of identity and privilege the subject of her works. The conversation that I liked between the two of them is the conversation about subterfuge. And how if Kenya is saying that racism is a subterfuge for trillions of dollars made over a millenia, I think, I just love—I don’t know if that’s a superhero mask [on Cindy], I don’t know if she’s at an Eyes Wide Shut party, I don’t know what is it, but I just thought that both of them, looking at these pieces you’re just not exactly sure what’s happening.

Cindy Sherman, "Untitled #317," 1996, cibachrome. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

Yes, I know it’s impossible—but, what would it be like if all of these people were actually in one room together having this dinner. Would it be a huge party? What do you envision?
I love hostessing. I love hosting dinner parties. Frankly, for an occasion like this, with so many Metro Pictures artists, having the opportunity to go through the archive and finding really meaningful relationships between that program and mine, I’m likely having dinner at my place.  At this dinner I’m imagining…it’s a really crazy year, everyone is afraid, exhausted, weirded out…and we’re all at my house eating my fried chicken. I’ve really perfected the recipe at this point. I think they’re also probably having cocktails, maybe somebody has YouTube in the background and some people are watching ridiculous videos on YouTube. It really would just be about the exhale. 

kendra jayne patrick
gallery kendra jayne patrick
Metro Pictures