When Jeffrey Deitch returned from his short term as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2013, he picked up right where he left off: in SoHo where his former gallery, Deitch Projects, once ruled the roost. New York welcomed the dealer back with open arms. Larry Gagosian partnered with him on a monumental group show at Art Basel Miami Beach. Thor Equities asked him to help curate outdoor exhibitions in Coney Island. While helping with these initiatives, Deitch rearranged his own holdings. It started with his 76 Grand Street space, which his long-time partner, Suzanne Geiss, had been occupying. She graciously moved next door, and Deitch began producing shows. With a quintessentially New York line-up starring the Angulo brothers from The Wolfpack, Keith Haring and Tom Sachs, Deitch responded to the city’s loyalty in kind.
This fall, Deitch has opened his next annex: his 18 Wooster street location, which the Swiss Institute had been occupying since 2011. “Jeffrey Deitch” is the name on the door. “It’s no longer Deitch Projects. Deitch Projects is a completed chapter,” the gallerist says.
The first to inaugurate Deitch’s restored space was British artist Eddie Peake. Like Vanessa Beecroft,who kicked off Deitch Projects in 1996, Peake’s contribution was a performance-based piece titled Head. Based on Endymion—his 2013 Performa 13 piece that he coincidentally also performed in the 18 Wooster Street space—Head displayed the same puckish eroticism that dominates Peake’s work. One flick through his portfolio and it becomes clear that Peake dabbles in just about every medium to bring his collisions of pop culture and romantic mysticism to life. Like a classic Greek theater, the one-hour show was performed in the round with live musicians and dancers. “I was speaking about the performance with someone recently,” the artist says, “and they were drawing a comparison between what takes place in my performances and the sexual moods and behaviors that might typically take place in, say, a nightclub, where a set of parameters are instigated that legitimize sexual behaviors that aren’t necessarily legit elsewhere in everyday life. I thought that was actually very accurate.”
Deitch now hands the floor to painter and art critic Walter Robinson’s traveling retrospective. A part of the New York scene since the 1970s, Robinson offers a sharp take on the art world veers on biting, but his paintings take a more tongue-in- cheek approach. An unabashed appropriator who can claim Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince as contemporaries, Robinson produces his figurative acrylic paintings cheaply and efficiently, working backwards from found imagery that he often snips from catalogues and magazines. Hung salon-style in the cavernous gallery, the show reveals Robinson’s attitude towards abundance as well as his subversive take on marketing. “I am an artist. I make paintings one at a time. I like to fill my studio up. Sometimes you go to artist studios and there is only one picture hanging,” Robinson says. “I’m different. I like to be surrounded by all the works, which people can find confusing.”
Covering his work from 1979 to 2014, the exhibition demonstrates Robinson’s obsessive dedication to a normcore aesthetic. “Art’s function today is to convince us that we are all individuals rather than copies. That’s a post-modernist notion, that we are all just copies,” Robinson says. “My paintings are about desire. They are not trying to be boring, and they are not trying to be radical.” With so many years under his belt, one might wonder what Robinson’s take on his recent comeback is. “I expect my moment in the sun to be relatively short-lived,” he says. “The final mystery of the avant-garde is who’s picked to be successful and who’s not. The last mystery of the avant-garde is the way to market work.”