Art Attack At Cary Leibowitz’s ‘(paintings and belt buckles)’

By Emily Colucci

When you spend most of your time, as I do, hopping from gallery to gallery, sometimes all that art can start to blend together even for unabashed art lovers like me. However as I start feeling like I’m running through a gauntlet of similar abstractions and found object collages, there is always a show that stuns me out of the art monotony. For this fall gallery season, that exhibition is undoubtedly Cary Leibowitz’s not-so-Pretty In Pink show (paintings and belt buckles) at Invisible-Exports.

Entering Invisible-Exports’s new gallery space on Eldridge Street, the first thing I noticed was the color — a nauseating pink so dementedly and wonderfully jarring that I’ve never seen any color quite like it. Resembling either Pepto-Bismol or a pink flamingo lawn ornament, the entire gallery, as well as Leibowitz’s variously-shaped paintings, all radiated this blinding, taffy pink, the perfect color for a guest room if you hated company. The pink was so bright that I had to stand in the center of the gallery, blinking and squinting until my eyes adjusted to the stomach-churning color.

Installation view of Cary Leibowitz's (paintings and belt buckles)

In perhaps the greatest opening, the exhibition press release exclaims, “Cary Leibowitz is stressed out.” Known for his darkly funny paintings, which seem like a combination of art therapy and stand-up comedy, Leibowitz, otherwise known as Candy Ass, transfers this stress onto viewers, delving into a candy-coated world of self-loathing, black humor and child-like fantasy, which both amuses and disturbs viewers. Loving the combination of light and dark in Leibowitz’s work, I was excited for this exhibition, which features, as the amusingly straightforward show title indicates, both paintings and belt buckles, since viewing Leibowitz’s paintings earlier this year at the Armory Show.

So Funny/It Just Occurred To Me/I Haven't Thought About Suicide In Weeks, 2013

Leibowitz’s text-based paintings stick to an almost deceptively simplistic technique and color scheme while hitting the viewers with definitively adult phrases and subjects, ranging from suicide to a naughty pun on gay culture’s adoration of diva Bette Midler. Like an actually funny Richard Prince, Leibowitz’s neurotic paintings deftly combine comedy and tragedy, pairing the deranged cheery pink with dark phrases such as “So funny it just occurred to me I haven’t thought about suicide in weeks” or mundane quips like “Sorry I thought you said spaghetti.”

Alice B. Toklas Clam Bake Bake Sale Bake Sale Clam Bake Provincetown 1966, 2013

In addition to the paintings, Leibowitz created a selection of souvenir belt buckles from events that never occurred. From the “Forty-Fourth Fluxus Ice Cream Cone Lick-Off” to the “Alice B. Toklas Clam Bake Bake Sale Bake Sale Clam Bake,” the buckles poke fun at the über-serious art and literary world, imagining that artists and writers had a bit more tacky and kitschy fun. Constructing an imaginary social universe, Leibowitz’s belt buckles forced me to imagine how enjoyable some of these events would be (My conclusion: not very).

After leaving Invisible-Exports, as my eyes became accustomed to the outside world where both unfortunately and thankfully nothing matches that nightmarish pink, I was energized by the combination of laughter and physical discomfort that Leibowitz’s work provoked in me. Just like the idea, enthusiastically supported by Pink Flamingos director John Waters, that you should suffer for fashion, shouldn’t you be able to suffer for art as well?

All images courtesy the artist and INVISIBLE-EXPORTS