Left: Artist and Curator Tony Cox sitting in Club Rhubarb Right: Lola Schnabel, Silkscreen pashminas, installed as curtains, Photographs Katy Hamer, 2018

Tucked away in an apartment on Canal street moonlighting as a gallery, Club Rhubarb is the brainchild of artist Tony Cox who organized the group exhibition “Digging for Diamonds in the Disco” on view until February 25th, by appointment only. Cox has brought together an amalgamation of artworks by Allen Frame, Raymond Pettibond, Lola Schnabel, Rita Ackerman, Rene Ricard and others some available to be acquired along with pieces from his own collection. A quintessential group show, the works are not stylistically or thematically connected but rather create a conversation between invisible guests. There is a dialogue in the New York art scene that has faded. Many of the in-depth talks held in downtown apartments at all hours of the night accompanied cigarettes and beer between young artists passionate about making things, are now more likely to happen in art schools and at residencies. As the cost of living has gone up, everyone has gotten busier and while those connections and conversations will never stop, they change. Today we have a multitude of virtual relationships. Social media is an evolving platform that brings people together yet lacks tactile engagement. In a stream of consciousness, Cox shared a brief synapsis of how the exhibition came together. 

Tony Cox, Sketchbook installation detail, Club Rhubarb, Canal Street, NY, Photograph Katy Hamer, 2018

“All of the artists I’ve selected connect the dots between one another through my personal journey.
Starting with Raymond [Pettibon].
I bought Black Flag’s album because of the art and colors. Skateboarding and hardcore culture led me to Mark Gonazles who was the innovator of street skating and played huge roll in the way that i looked at things on so many levels.
From there I met Matthew Ronay and Josh Sachs at the the age of 11.
I met them in an alleyway called speed avenue, just in front of a skate shop called Pro Quality.
These two people still play a huge roll in my life and set a standard for my daily practice.
Matthew’s professor at school was Ken Tisa, the father figure for many.
That’s how I learned about Brock Enright and his wife Kirsten Deirup.
Which led me to my connection to Robert Longo.
I got this studio from James Oakley back in 2010.
James Oakley is a writer, who took care of David Armstrong when David got ill.
David went to the Boston school with Allen Frame.
Allen Frame was Matthew Ronay’s professor in Italy back in the 90’s.
This is a tiny briefing on the show and why I selected all these people. They make scene in the room together and tell a timeline story.” 

Left: Allen Frame, David Armstrong in Boston, Pigment ink print, 1973 Right: Ben Cho, Dash/Mapplethorpe, Pencil on paper, 2007, Photographs Katy Hamer, 2018

A physical connection exists between the artists, the artwork and the space –or rather the bohemian lifestyle that the space represents– which matters. Cox, as both artist and curator has made a visual timeline through mutual affiliations. Each of the artists are connected to him directly, but also to each other through a connective tissue that is sometimes invisible. One has led to the other in a symbiotic sequencing. This is usually how life tends to work, however it is a rare moment for these patterns to be discoverable. That being said, there is a phantasmagoric presence in Club Rhubarb that feels just as lively as it feels close to death. One of the most striking artworks is a drawing by Ben Cho of Dash Snow in a position based on a well-known Mapplethorpe photograph, titled “Self-portrait with whip” from 1978 where the artist inserts the handle of a whip into his anus. The drawing is striking but also bittersweet; made with precise and delicate pencil strokes, it is also a window into the experiences of three artists who all died before their time. The artist Robert Mapplethorpe passed away at 43, Snow at 28, and Cho this past year at age 40. This is something indescribably relevant to a downtown New York lifestyle…what it is and has been for so long; a beacon for those wishing to create and a glowing match, extinguished prematurely.

Right: Installation view, Club Rhubarb, Canal Street, NY Left: Leo Fitzpatrick, “Memory Homage Collage to Deceased Loved Ones of Fridge Door” detail, collage, 2018, Photographs by Katy Hamer, 2018

Another piece that contributes to the ambiance of “Digging for Diamonds in the Disco” illuminated at just the right time of day when sunlight streams through the windows, are silkscreen pashminas by Lola Schnabel. The fabric is so delicate and installed in the window, they are exposed by the natural progression of light for ultimate sheerness. This along with sketchbooks piled high on a coffee table featuring multilayered mixed media collages by Cox, and a sexy paper bedspread, “Isosceles” (2017) by Greg Woolard, made of quilted pages from porn magazines sitting atop a mattresses in the bedroom loft cater to the exhibition being both a place for living and an installation. One of the only works in the show made on premises is a site-specific collage by Leo Fitzpatrick, an elegy to all their mutual friends who have passed away over the years. Covering nearly the entire façade of the refrigerator, the collage, titled “Memory Homage Collage to Deceased Loved Ones of Fridge Door” (2018) consists of layers of photographs, newspaper clippings, drawings and ephemera that transforms the refrigerator into a sculptural ready-made. The piece documents time in a way that doesn’t feel melancholic but rather functions as a series of snapshots in a life moving forward. Cox stating, “Leo used his own collection to make the collage and then put the photos of our deceased friends on top to make this work. All of these people are the people I carry with me everyday and live for, because they inspired all us with life and love.” Friends are a reminder of home. Not everyone will make it on this journey, but it’s important to continue to hold the hands of those who’ve helped us along the way, even if metaphorically, as we step forward into tomorrow. 

Right: Meryl Smith, Untitled, oil paint on canvas, 2017 Left: Greg Woolard, Isosceles, Pattern quilted paper, 2017, Photographs by Katy Hamer, 2018

Club Rhubarb, “Digging for Diamonds in the Disco” is open by appointment only until February 25th, 2018. Please email Tony Cox (ronlittles@hotmail.com) or nicholecaruso@gmail.com for information and location.

Katy Diamond Hamer is the Founding Editor of Eyes Towards the Dove. For more of her writing and art world adventures follow her @katyhamer