It’s Gary Indiana’s Town

The inimitable Gary Indiana doesn’t care what you think of him—but be sure he has an opinion about you.

  • Installation view of “Gary Indiana: From The World of Entertainment – Collages & Prints, 1974-2014,” courtesy of envoy enterprises

    Installation view of Gary Indiana: From The World of Entertainment – Collages & Prints, 1974-2014,” courtesy of envoy enterprises

Using a name he took on in the early 1970s to avoid scandalizing his parents with his published writings, he has been a constant presence in downtown New York ever since. Indiana is a jack-of-all trades who brings his wit and prickly countenance to all of his work, currently showcased in his third NYC solo show at envoy enterprises in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

From The World of Entertainment” presents a disparate selection of Indiana’s works that span four decades and are a snapshot into the artist’s avant-garde life and intellectual considerations as told through a variety of media. Collages from 1976 are cutouts of body parts and other sexualized imagery from porn magazines pasted over sheets torn from Rimbaud’s Illuminations; Indiana makes a political statement by recontextualizing modern fetish and laying it over the words of the 19th-century poet.

Recent black-and-white photographs, taken between 2012 and 2014, highlight voyeuristic views through windows, as does his video Young Ginger (2014). Indiana seems to see the modern urban environment as a society of scrutiny and voyeurism, continuing to explore the prison and surveillance theories of philosopher Jeremy Bentham that were the basis of his well-received installation at the 2014 Whitney Biennial. This point is driven home by the the hang of the show, which purposely mimics the placement of security cameras, as if the works are a feed broadcasting from the artist’s “world of entertainment,” which is being surveilled.

Indiana is primarily known as a writer; after leaving his home in New Hampshire at 16, hoping to become a revolutionary, he had brief stays in Berkeley, Boston, Los Angeles, and Tucson before finally settling in New York. Once there, he became a hero of the East Village’s counterculture art and writing scenes. Famous for his novels about celebrity killers that blend fact with fiction, he also served as the Village Voice’s chief art critic in the ’80s, where he used his pulpit to discuss multitude of issues, from life as a gay man during the AIDS crisis, to his political opinions, to his general disdain for much of the art world.

In 2002, he put his money where his mouth was and began to show his photographs and collages, though he waited over 10 years to launch his next solo output in New York: “I felt that if I was going to break out of this mold—if you’re a writer, particularly in America, that’s all you’re supposed to do—and actually establish in people’s heads that I do this seriously, I should probably do it now,” he said at the time. “I’m not going to be alive that much longer.” Two years later, he’s still going strong, and presenting a body of visual work that makes good on the highly informed, irascible voice we’ve come to know through his writing.

—K. Sundberg

Gary Indiana: From The World of Entertainment – Collages & Prints, 1974-2014” is on view at envoy enterprises, New York, Mar. 15–Apr. 19, 2015.

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