Spencer Sweeney exhibition at Glasgow's Modern Institute
Artist whose work explores feverish late-night New York lifestyle
'Artist, musician, DJ, club owner and playboy mystic of the land below 14th Street’ is the phrase Interview magazine used to introduce Spencer Sweeney when he met up with his friend and business partner, the rock star Andrew WK, to chat about Sweeney’s life and work. It’s a description that lends him a seismic cultural cachet, but is the word ‘artist’ watered down by all those other strings on the bow placed alongside it? Is he, in effect, a bit of a dilettante?
It’s not an accusation that would be levelled were he based in less flashy art hubs, such as Berlin or Glasgow, but there’s something about New York that fosters the cult of the art sleb almost as much as London. Born in Philadelphia in 1973, Sweeney first worked as a DJ when he moved to NY in the 1990s. A meeting with the English gallery owner Gavin Brown led him to curate shows at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, and to programme performances at Passerby, where he first met WK. The pair later went on to collaborate on celebrated downtown gig venue Santos Party House.
A closer look at his practice reveals that it’s precisely this difference that he celebrates. Sweeney is a painter, and a selection of works on canvas will be displayed here, including those from his ‘Party Painting’ series, a group of bright, garish portraits created with broad brush strokes, which mirror the feverish late-night lifestyle. At the same time, he deals in various other visual and performance media, with a one-off off-site performance by New York’s Vogue dancers taking place as part of this show. Regardless of his success, his is a fragmentary, adaptive creative life, which any artist trying to make room for their work might recognise.
Modern Institute, Glasgow, Sat 1 Mar–Wed 26 Mar