The Rivington school, despite it’s expensive sounding name (it reminds me of a boarding school parents spend a fortune on to straighten out their “troubled” child), is not a typical school, in fact it’s not even educational. Granted, most art schools aren’t typical (or educational), but throw out the notions of RISD or Pace and instead think cheap booze and NYC clubs. As the artist FA-Q aptly stated, it was “a bunch of nuckleheads (sic) and wannabees” where “society’s outcasts would show up” (at least this guy is honest). The Rivington school started as an offshoot of the latino social club “No Se No”. It was a bar that had an open performance, everything from visual art, to singing, to hanging up a work on the walls. I know, I know, most open performance things are a complete joke (let me give you a hint not to attend any comedy open-mike nite anywhere). However from this movement stemmed some very famous and talented people, including Kevin Wendell (aka F-AQ), Ray Kelly, Taylor Mead, Phoebe Legere, and countless others.
The goal of this movement was not to be a typical trendy hipster Lower East Village extravaganza; these guys where anarchists who loathed typical artist types. Ray Kelly called the Lower East scene “evil, commercialized, and none of that stuff was memorable”. Simply put, “there were no rules”. One look at the FA-Q show and this mentality is made clear (pronounce the letters FAQ aloud and you get the gist). Walking in, I was “greeted” by a bunch of people sitting on benches and glaring at me while doing nothing. The many paintings where jammed together salon style; lots of work on three small walls. There was huge juxtaposition of colors that allowed no space for perception of individual works. His art certainly sticks out enough on it’s own with the vivid colors and sharp lines. It reminded me of walking into Target, and being hit on the head with the annoying red color everywhere until I got a headache.
Later, walking in the MoMA was a completely different story. Instead of having surly punks stare at you; there where surly looking people in suits who acted like punks and watched you. “PLEASE STEP AWAY, TOO CLOSE PLEASE” they yelled in some Borat-like accent when I tried to take a funny posing picture next to a Picasso painting. Sure, there was actually space around the paintings, but the FA-Q show was a way more authentic experience. Maybe the people there where punks, but at least they where true followers of his art, and the passerby at least feigned interest. Compare this to MoMA, which is usually filled with couples trying to appear elegant or families that are looking to kill a few hours. Who knows? Maybe if FA-Q picked a classier name and had some savvy manager behind him he could be in the MoMa too. Sure, he isn’t Van Gogh, but his haunting paintings strike a cord that some of the shoe-ins at the museum never could. But then again, FA-Q wouldn’t have even wanted a show in the first place.