Wet Paint in the Wild: Gallerist Ruby Zarsky Takes Us to O’Flaherty’s Epic Reopening, Where an Art Collective Served a Room-Sized Slice of Pizza

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You know those late-night, hazy conversations you tend to have in the art world? Where there’s always some guy claiming that New York is dead, there’s nothing interesting anymore in the art world, it died when blah blah blah eyeroll eyeroll? I found myself in one of those recently, and luckily had the temerity to interrupt one such guy to say, “Uh, no. Have you even been to O’Flaherty’s?” 

For the past two years, the gallery, run by Jamian Juliano-Villani, Billy Grant, and Ruby Zarsky, has given the New York art scene the adrenaline needle to the heart it’s needed. At its old space, O’Flaherty’s hosted the world’s most maximalist group show and gave Ashley Bickerton’s paintings a new life, among many other things. Last month, the Viennese collective Gelatin inaugurated O’Flaherty’s new location on Avenue A with a series of unbridled performances, complete with “a haphazard Laocoön.” Let’s see what it looked like from behind the scenes…

Our humble abode—er, gallery… we spend a lot of time here. This beautiful awning was put up without a permit. Needless to say we got a city violation within a week of having it up. We have no clue how we’re gonna pay for that!

What we do know is how to pick em! Here are our gorgeous artists, Gelatin, having dinner with Jamian at La Mela, a little Italy classic dump. From R to L: Wolfgang Gantner, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Ali Janka, Florian Reither, and Tobias Urban.

We had no idea what Gelatin’s show “O’Flaherty’s Gelatin O’Flattering” was going to be. They told us they would be doing performances and showing their collaborative film made with Liam Gillick, Stinking Dawn. For the first performance they needed to make a bunch of plaster objects to adorn the stage. Here is Florian hard at work.

I was unboxing sound equipment for the theater and Florian shouted, “Don’t throw that away!” The work they constructed was literally made out of the garbage from around the gallery.

Opening night: we did our best to prepare. Either Jamian or I are always desperately declare, “I NEED TO SHAVE AND FIX MY FEET!” Very seldom does it happen, but here is proof that we aren’t total slobs all the time.

The first night was a bit of a blur and we took almost no pictures during the performance. I ended up performing a two-hour improvised set on the electric guitar while Gelatin graced the stage. They propped me up on a platform in the middle of the audience and I plunked away. Meanwhile, they covered themselves in plaster with the assistance of Florian’s daughter, Olivia Reither. The end result was a living tableau that looked like a haphazard Laocoön. This is the stage before Gelatin put anything on it…

… and this was the resulting remnants of the performance after they ripped their way out of the plaster. The figures on stage are the actual casts from their bodies during the performance. Wolfgang poses in front of the art after hosing himself down (with an actual hose we installed just for that purpose!).

After the performance, we headed over to Mehanata Bulgarian Bar for an insane afterparty. Here is Tania Dimcheva, the kind and gorgeous matron posing with a weird vessel full of mystery pickled things.

I’m lucky because I have cool gay friends. Daniel Leyva, aka WordofCommand (right) and Dre Ruiz de la Pena, aka DJ Clone (middle), throw the incredible techno party, FIST. I asked them to DJ the afterparty and lucky for us, they reluctantly agreed. *I should note that despite his debonair gay appearance, Dre is straight and, ladies, he is also single! Also pictured and definitely gay is Matt Raviotta (left), who is currently designing a new logo for O’Flaherty’s!

After the final show at our original space, “The Patriot,” we had extreme paranoia about cops shutting us down. To thwart any disruption, we hired a security detail to perform crowd control. Here is Jamian with two of the fabulous and very beefy security guys.

At some point during the night, I started having a panic attack (as I tend to do). Jamian grabbed me and we dipped out to some random bar that only serves straight alcohol. We drank some very strong mezcal, cooled down, and had the bartender snap this pic of us.

After opening night, things started moving along nicely. No more panic attacks! Gelatin second performance was an interactive sculptural installation of a giant slice of pizza.

Very satisfied attendees got to stick their heads in the pizza and grab a picture of themselves posing as a living pizza topping. I’ll take a slice with extra ME!

Since the performance didn’t actually require anything of Gelatin, we got to hang out and do what we do best: get fucked up. Here is Florian, Jamian, and Wolfgang being silly with Olivia Reither shoving somebody out of the shot.

People congregated in our lobby/office all night and seemed to enjoy themselves. Or maybe they just enjoyed the free beer?

Here is the VIP section from left to right: Sean Michael Bennet (background), Alina Blumis, me, and Anna Jermolaewa; Jamian in the middle (probably searching for drugs in a drawer); up front is Kris Lemsalu (left) and Scott Evans (right).

Lucien Samaha took the night off from documenting the performances and enjoyed the pizza.

Second night was so much fun. It was even family-friendly!

Night three, however, was less family-friendly; but even more fun. Things started off wholesome enough with Jamian and I posing in our office.

Our largest crowd yet assembled in eager anticipation for Gelatin’s live portrait session.

What nobody realized is that Gelatin would not be painting the portraits with their hands.

Here is Wolfgang showing Massimiliano Gioni his mASSterpiece.

Christeene was lucky enough to sit for Ali, who seemed to have an uncanny control over his butt cheeks. I would say that the result bears a striking resemblance to the subject!

Wolfgang painted Jamian while she uncomfortably chain-smoked. You can see the frizz accumulating in her fake braid hair-piece from all the sweat pouring out of her nervous scalp.

This was also the first night that Gelatin was joined by Young Boy Dancing Group, which appeared in the latter half of the performances. Here is Manu Scheiwiller being a consummate ASSistant (sorry for the repetitive pun!).

For Performance #4, Gelatin and Young Boy Dancing Group gave a highly choreographed almost ceremonial show. I was busy outside selling merch and couldn’t take any pictures of it. Butt, I made sure to capture some of the essence of the previous performance in my work attire for the evening! Here I am hawking an O’Flaherty’s shirt to Raul De Nieves.

Another satisfied customer!

And one more for the folks in the back!

Don’t even ask what is going on here!

There are still two more performances left and I have no doubt they will be as enthralling as the first four were. But for now we have to shut off the lights and lock up. See you in the East Village!

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