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AGATHE SNOW: ARTWORKS

161 Essex Street btwn Houston & Stanton | New York | February 2009

I have a fabulous exhibition filling my front window at 161 Essex Street. The artist Agathe Snow. Her art work is the explosion and break up of the Yellow Brink Road. A metaphor for the loss of the American dream. The road has exploded and pieces are strewn everywhere. The path still exists, but is in need of major repair. Can we repair this road? I hope so.

Agathe is a young artist who has shown her work in the Whitney Biennial, with Saatchi and Saatchi, been in museum exhibitions, has a gallery, but still cannot afford to live in NYC. She lives on the end of Long Island. She grew up in NYC, Her mother had a restaurant in Soho which was forced to close after 9:11. The muse has left NYC— it is near impossible for artists to survive in this city— yes the Yellow Brick— the American dream is as close to dead as I hope it will ever get. —thanks clayton

REVIEW:

Agathe Snow at Clayton Gallery, April 2009
Agathe Snow with her sculpture “Yellow Brick Road”
at the Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Art Museum on Essex St.
Villager photos by Clayton Patterson

Pondering New York City artists’ pathway post-9/11

By Monica Uszerowicz

Published in: The Villager, New York, Volume 78 - Number 47 / April 29 - May 5 , 2009

Lit aglow by Clayton Patterson’s light sculpture and Nico Dios’s neon installation is Agathe Snow’s “Yellow Brick Road.” The density and scale of the sculpture vary depending on its venue — much like the myths of any culture adapt accordingly to its history. But here, at the Clayton Gallery & Outlaw Art Museum, the work’s shape is incontestably distinct. The road has exploded (or imploded); the bricks, pushed up through the broken street by metal cables, create an image of exposed, vulnerable infrastructure.

Agathe Snow at Clayton Gallery, April 2009

The original Yellow Brick Road of “The Wizard of Oz” has been interpreted as a metaphor for gold, once the standard of American currency. More fitting, however, is the road’s symbol for a story, a dream — opportunity, adventure and fortune. Agathe Snow’s “Yellow Brick Road” appears to have been destroyed, but preserves its structure. Perhaps it is a reinterpretation of a dream — the myth of the artist existing in New York City bohemia — as the idea of the dream itself crumbles.

Snow was born in 1976 in Corsica, but it is in New York where she evolved as an artist who has incorporated multifarious motifs into her work. She is muse for and of the city, embodying all of its layers in her sculptures and projects. Her works contain objects taken from and below the street; “Stamina,” a days-long dance marathon that was part of the Whitney 2008 Biennial, invited all of the public — many of the participants were Downtown characters — to engage in the natural collectivity of dancing in a distinctly high-brow, Uptown setting. She is a mother, too, to the artists she feeds through her catering-cum-performance-art pieces and to the crew of visionaries she helped to nurture in her mother’s Lower East Side restaurant.

Before the citywide economic instability following 9/11 forced the restaurant to shut down, La Poème was located at Prince and Elizabeth Sts., a nexus of the Lower East Side. Familial tradition bred in both Agathe and her sister, Anne Apparu, the simultaneous abilities to cook and to foster a community. Like the now-mythological coffee shops and jazz clubs of Downtown’s Beat generation, casual camaraderie spurred the development of a creative niche. Agathe would meet future collaborators, the artists with whom she would grow and move from the Lower East Side to the rarefied world of Saatchi, Deitch and the Whitney.

It was in this fertile environment where Agathe blossomed into the New York artist she could then afford to become; she found she could survive independently in the city and still maintain a creative presence. The food she and her sister cooked in their family restaurant would become the driving force behind other endeavors. Her initial ventures in combining the food of her cultural background with the art of the city culminated in The Chop Shop and Feed the Troops, in which catering became performance.

In collaborative efforts with Anne — now an accomplished chef — and artist Marianne Vitale, Feed the Troops was a second opportunity to sustain the hungry artists of the city, despite the economic landscape’s growing desolation. The Chop Shop delivered healthy and affordable meals during the December holidays; its headquarters became a nest in which artists, coming from their own studios, could eat and relive the sense of familial comfort that was so essential to the existence of La Poème. Artists like Dan Colen, Nate Lowman, Ryan McGinley, Nico Dios, Dash Snow — her former husband — Simon Curtis and Downtown impresario Aaron Bondaroff became integral to both projects.

These were the same men to whom she served as mother figure nearly a decade before.

Then, the option of being an artist in New York was still one to be had. Such projects were two of Agathe’s manifestations of the myth of the New York City artist: the American dream of achievement, and the reappropriation of the familiar — food — into something more imaginative — performance. Ideas like these became the basis for her sculptures, which offer suggestions — inherent in their very designs — of rebirth amid dissolution. “Yellow Brick Road” and others in a similar vein, such as “Hello Kitty” and “Successful Hints,” are clear representations of the city from which their parts were salvaged. The subterranean levels of the city are brought to the surface to be examined in ways previously unseen. 

If an artist can afford neither to eat nor to practice her craft, perhaps there are spaces, though temporary, to resolve this dilemma; similarly, if the broken parts of New York City are used to put together a coherent shape, maybe the city can be reborn. After the World Trade Center collapsed, Agathe and her peers found new ways to understand and interpret New York, whose rising cost of living was slowly erasing the presence of the artist. 

Agathe found the first brick that would be incorporated into “Yellow Brick Road” on Wall St., close to Ground Zero. The sculpture’s design would indicate the destruction that occurred when the towers fell as well as the fading of the myth of the artist who can flourish in New York. When the ideology that one can move to New York and find a space in which to follow one’s dreams became less probable, the “road” burst.

In Snow’s depiction of the event, there remains a shiny, elusive quality; we can see the bricks standing on cables, prying their way out of their original form, yet still maintaining it. The myth, it seems, refuses to die. “Yellow Brick Road” was once part of an exhibit at Peres Projects in Berlin — “I Don’t Know But I’ve Been Told, Eskimo Pussy Is Mighty Cold” — that offered Snow’s visual commentary on the bursting of a steam pipe in Manhattan in 2007. 

Writes Snow, “It told of deep trauma, of the ultimate vulnerability of the human condition.” With these projects, she questions less the myth of the American dream of artistic possibility and more the strength of American institutions and fears. However, a new significance of these pieces has unexpectedly emerged as it becomes more difficult to uphold a creative existence in a traditionally creative city.

The focus, now, is the re-creation of the myth, the rebuilding of the road. The artist will devolve in a city that is unable to afford her, and she it. Rapid gentrification, then, may well signal the end of New York as a bohemia. It becomes both ironic and fitting that internationally recognized artists like Agathe Snow are currently struggling financially to remain in the city that helped to cultivate their collective vision.

The “Yellow Brick Road” is damaged, yet its disconnected bricks stand proudly on their metal wiring, attempting and failing to liberate themselves.

Source: http://www.thevillager.com/villager_313/ponderingnewyork.html

Comment by Clayton Patterson on April 19th 2006:

As you know I have Agathe Snow's art work the Yellow Brick Road exhibited in my window. I am sending this out to a small group of people who may be able to help think through and solve a problem. This explains that yes I display art but am not a commercial gallery-

To explain a little about who I am- I have basically been an outsider to the art world for many years- yet I have always considered myself an artist. I dropped out of the SoHo world in the early 80's and spent my life, on a more independent path. As an individual I was developing my own positions, points of views, art style, concepts of what I see as important in art and the connection to art and life. For me life is art and art is life. I have build up a large body of work, as well as, a major archive. In talking about I, or Clayton, I am including my partner of 37 years Elsa Rensaa. After spending almost all of ones adult life living with another struggling artist, the two has a tendency to grow into one. Both are separate- completely different- but somehow have grown as one. Because of some of our combined projects like video, activism, the caps- Clayton is a concept, as well as, my name. In a sense we are both Clayton.

As an outsider I have been lucky to have a space which has given me the freedom to exhibit other artists work. I exhibit Art that I think is important. But Art which is often more obscure and not seen in the mainstream galleries. What I am trying to clarify is that I am an artist and not a dealer. My space introduces an opportunity for some obscure art work I admire to be seen. It reaches an audience. Most artists I have shown now have a book out on their work- for example- Boris Lurie- R.I.P. - showed several times- I was able to get him a solid obit in the NY Times- Boris, for me, is one of the most important artists of the 20th century- he has been almost completely overlooked- see No!art- Boris Lurie- a survivor of the holocaust- the Germans have published 3 books out. Manwoman- attempting to resurrect the swastika back into a symbol of good- and his visions are a significant part of his art- see the book the Gentle Swastika- reclaiming the innocence- Q Sakamaki war photographer- couple of books out- Spider Webb- tattoo and all around artist- several books out on his work & Pushing Ink is one of the most important an avant-garde tattoo art books in 20th century- Charles Gatewood- needs to be discovered for his major contribution to the world of contemporary photography- Charles has numerous books out on his work- Joey SEMZ- died way too early- no book just a CD- Efroim Synder Hasidic artist- no book out- Peter Missing- no book- Taylor Mead- his art is basically over looked- he is an amazing painter and has some books of his writings published- Nico Dios- an emerging artist- no books yet- Dash Snow, I showed early and he has gone on to become a force on his own- there is published material on his work-= and so on-- these are just a few of the artists who I have shown. I have been lucky enough to have gotten press for most of the exhibitions- but one can see it is about the artists work, their ideas and getting them a little exposure-- again I am no dealer- nor is the gallery a non profit- this is an artists space showing artists work. I am in competition with no one. Most of the shows have been videotaped and photographed, which become a record in the archives. The exhibitions some day will be understood in a larger context.

This bring me back to Agathe Snow. Yes I am showing Agathe's work, and to be sure Agathe has outgrown anything I can professionally do for her. She is becoming an international art star. And she deserves all the recognition that she has been getting. Agathe is without question becoming a major player in the art world. She is focused. She is bright. She works harder than 98% of the people I know. She has a vision. She is filled with energy, and she has creative talent running out of all her pores. Agathe has been discovered and is getting the recognition that she deserves. The problem is that NYC has become so expensive that it is almost impossible for most artists to survive here. Agathe has been getting the kinds of museum exhibitions that most artists dream of-- she has shown in Whitney Biennial. Peres Projects, Berlin, Saatchi and Saachi, NYC Armory Show, Migros Museum, Zurich, NYC New Museum, she is in Paris right now with an exhibition connected to Louvre. She has a museum show coming up in Tokyo.

Agathe was born in 1976. Agathe is 33 years old. With all of her honors- her accolades- her write ups-her exhibitions-- with all the critical attention she has received- NYC is too expensive for her to live and work in. She has been forced to live in Orient Point. My main purpose of exhibiting her Yellow Brink Road is to give the art work a place where it can be seen by the public and to provide a safe space to keep the work. The art became too expensive to keep in an art storage space. She was being forced to chucked her art into the garbage. I could not allow that to happen... and I have storage issues myself. I cannot keep this work forever. I do not have the space.

The story of the Wizard of Oz is a classic American tale. For the people in my generation there are very few of us who escaped seeing the movie the Wizard of Oz. The Yellow Brick Road is comparable to the American Dream. Dorothy is searching for Kansas- Agathe is searching for a way to survive in NYC. Traveling down the Yellow Brick Road the lion found his courage, the scarecrow learned how to use his brain, the tinman found his heart and his emotions. I think Agathe's Yellow Brick Road is a brilliant work of art and is a true reflection of the condition of where the America Dream finds itself in todays world. Agathe's Yellow Brick Road- has imploded and exploded- similar to one of those massive Con-Edison explosions- parts of this golden road have fallen in, other pieces are flying upwards- and debris is everywhere- however- the direction of the road can still be seen- plenty of bricks have survived the storm- and it is still possible to repair- rebuild- and make whole again the American Dream. But this work must be saved. It is very shortsighted to overlook and discard this instillation. This would be like taking a Edward Kienholz instillation and just throwing it out after the exhibition has been completed. This work must be saved. I cannot keep this work forever.

One of Dorothy's claims is that there is no place like home. Agathe grew up in NYC and does not have a home. Agathe Snow's mother had restaurant called La Poem which was on the corner of Elizabeth Streetnand Prince. 9:11 eventually killed the family business. Agathe's sister Anne has made a name for herself as her gourmet cook. The mother has opened another restaurant outside of the city. Everyone in this family work's hard- they all eventually becomes successful at what they are working at- they all have been making enormous contributions to the betterment of NYC. Agathe's work must be saved.

As a side bar-- a more private reason for my showing Agathe's Yellow Brick Road is that, for me, it symbolizes the local community struggle for Charas / El Bohio, also known as PS 64. Charas, in 1979, was the American Dream for the young Hispanics who worked successfully as a collective to start and keep going this amazing community project running until 1998. In 1998 the Giuliani administration sold this public community space to Greg Singer. Greg Singer with his enormous ego and foolish plans has lost every development project he attempted to pass off as community usage. The Charas building should be given back to the community- and like Agathe's Yellow Brick Road, all the pieces are still there- it can be rebuilt, put back together- and the American Dream can become a reality once again.

For your information- the twist- Yip Harburg From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia YIP HARBURG went to PS 64. Edgar Yipsel Harburg (April 8, 1896 - March 4, 1981), known as E.Y. Harburg or Yip Harburg, was an American popular song lyricist who worked with many well-known composers. He wrote the lyrics to the standards, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", "April in Paris", and "It's Only a Paper Moon", as well as all of the songs in The Wizard of Oz, including "Over the Rainbow".

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