To most, today is Valentine's Day. To me, today is the first day of Mr. Brainwash's first-ever New York show (and only his second show, period). I first became aware of his work after spotting Spock and other iconic characters and stars (same diff) in Andy Warhol Marilyn hair, then investigated him more fully after his interesting cover for Madonna's Celebration album.
His work is not ground-breaking—to say he's influenced by Warhol, Keith Haring, Shepard Fairey and Banksy is an understatement—but his focus on iconic figures as portrayed with a pure-pop art aesthetic is irresistible for me. I've snapped up a bunch of his works and hope to collect many more.
The artist emerges to pose for the Post. (And his fans.)
The first 300 attendees of his show—Icons, running February 14—March 31 at 415 W. 13th St. here in NYC—were promised free hand-finished screen prints, so I dragged my Valentine and we went with our two pals by cab. We had agreed we'd only be willing to wait two hours in the 32-degree weather, but wound up getting there at noon. As we walked up, we were #109, #110, #111 and #112, which meant we could have afforded to arrive far later. Oh, well, we figured we were safe this way.
Give us our art.
who didn't give a shit about his work but had heard you could score a free print worth hundreds just for standing around. The rest of the people were in their 20s, 30s and 40s (mostly) and remarkably unfazed by the long wait. Probably the highlight was when Mr. Brainwash emerged to shake hands with everyone and take pictures with all who asked. He even signed some blank canvasses one bright fan had brought. He couldn't have been nicer, even if the scheme to get us to create a big scene by wrapping a line around the block for his show couldn't have been crueler.
Mr. B escorts us in.
Eventually, we heard the first hundred people were getting a bonus, which sucked because we just missed out. But worse, we weren't allowed in on time for no good reason. An hour late, as my toes began to die for good, he valiantly promised to get everyone in and stood at the door counting us off and patting us on the back as we entered.
Some original works are for sale, but there is no gallery store.
Unfortch, he hadn't even signed any of the prints yet! So that means he would have to sit there and double-sign (numbering on the back) every print, plus he was inking his thumbprint on each one. Oh, and it turns out he was giving away three prints plus the show poster to the first 100 and two plus the show poster to the next 200. So that's a fuck of a lot of time spent signing. That made him everyone's hero for caring and taking the time, yet it might have been better to have them all signed and waiting.
I was able to enjoy some of the first floor of the show, which included a spectacular wall of Madonnas faced by the gigantic original used for Celebration. Along with traditional silk screens, the show is packed with sculptures and installations. But I didn't get to do more than sample the show due to angst over how we'd get our prints.
They decided to give out the prints in the original order of the line, but since things were so chaotic (the fire department arrived, scaring me that we'd be shut down) we and many others hovered close to the action, the front where he was patiently signing and signing and signing.
Worth the wait.
The scrub scalper dudes started running things, calling out numbers and urging people to step back. The lamest moment was when one chick with the ticket number 507 was asking to cut ahead of those of us who had tickets around 469 because she had dinner reservations. Everyone groaned and she was told to learn to count.
Finally, we were called up, and though my friend and I somehow were given pre-printed Staples tickets with identical numbers, we got our prints with no issue. I asked for some postcards and got a giant set of different cards!
Signing my prints.
As chaotic and physically taxing as the effort was, they did really try to ensure that people who stood in the line got what they deserved, which was free stuff worth a total of close to $1,000 (the prints have already sold for $400 each on eBay and the poster for $150).
I'll go back to see the show. This kind of art is something I truly love, but I'm not above saying that seeing the art traditionally—walking around a gallery and staring at it on the walls—is almost beside the point. The art isn't beside the point...and there is a difference.