Rosson Crow "Bowery Boys"

Deitch Projects


Exhibition catalogue

Hardcover 100 pages

Deitch Projects 2010

"Bowery Boys" by Rosson Crow March 2009

Text by Kathy Grayson



Rosson Crow’s exhibition of large-scale oil paintings explores the history of “bad boys” in underground art and as an agent of culture in New York. From the flamboyance of a wild-style bombed train pulling into a subway station in the 1980s to a haunting red opium den from Chinatown in the 1880s, Crow investigates the rebellious and lawless side of New York history. Rendered in hallucinatory layers of oil paints and washes, her theatrical confabulations collapse centuries and synthesize styles to reveal the nature of interior space and the affinities that align across time.

One painting features a superimposition of the stained-glass windows of the gothic Bowery Mission onto the interior of its neighbor, the New Museum; a second pairs a vintage New York sex club, Plato’s Retreat, with the new Boom Boom Room and a Bruce Nauman neon; a third adorns an 1800s barber-shop with 1980s Allen Ruppersberg texts in bold colors. Some canvases straightforwardly conjure the artist’s imagining of bad-boy dens or lairs without historical hybridization: Kenny Scharf’s black-light disco, Cosmic Cavern; Dash Snow and Dan Colen’s Nest at Deitch Projects; and Keith Haring’s Pop Shop.

Crow has always shown an interest in masculine spaces. She has previously painted saloons, gun shops, oil derricks, rodeos, stock-market floors, and many incidents in the arguably male-dominated tradition of modern art. Here she imaginatively explores the idea of the bad boy as fawned over by art audiences and celebrated in New York history. Gangs, graffiti, gays, drugs, and illicit sex are part of the city’s spirit but also a big part of the art world today. How has New Yorkers’ love for this spirit shaped the history of art and exhibitions today? The cultural moment in underground New York when hip-hop met graffiti met the East Village scene in the 1980s led to an art explosion of interdisciplinary activity. Many of these paintings explore that moment and its legacy for artists working right now.

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