“We don’t have any heating and it’s a big concrete box, so we knew it needed a warming element,” Clairmont Jacques explains. “The sauna idea was an immediate fit.” Whimsical in its current configuration, the functional sauna represents months of backyard experiments by The Perfect Nothing Catalog founder Frank Traynor and gallery co-owner Alexander Johns. The tented hot box is the show’s centerpiece, a literal hotbed that engenders an exploration into the intersections between art and the health of body and mind.
On the eve of the opening, the young gallerists invited the participating artists and friends for a beer-fueled test-run of the new heated clubhouse. Guests are encouraged to grab a pair of flip flops, a water bottle, and a towel before crawling into the sauna or reclining in one of the lounge chairs lined up just outside. The show’s hypnotic soundtrack, conceived by artist Alexandra Drewchin, plays overhead; darkly ambient, the sounds lend the scene Lynchian undertones that feel especially poignant while sitting inside the sauna’s communal antechamber, where candlelight bounces off the metallic insulation, giving off just enough light to make out the faces of fellow bathers.
“I wasn’t so much interested in health as I was in creating an extreme body experience,” says Traynor, as he stokes the steam by pouring water over the heater. “If anything it’s just a happy side effect.” While wellness wasn’t a major concern, the primal installation is certainly mood-lifting. (This isn’t the first time that Traynor has collided body treatments with art—last summer he opened The Nothing Mud and Seltzer House, a small shack with a mud bath near Rockaway beach.)