By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Soon after doing a solo show at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Phil Frost enlisted Aaron Rose to help navigate a U-Haul filled with 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood, logs and old-style barrels across the country for Scribble & Scripture. Following the opening, he'll be in a group show at Hofstra University on Long Island.
Though a member of the family, Frost also exists in a world of his own pyscho-primitive design. His insanely dense panels are covered in intricately woven primal patterns called "glyphs" by the artist. Made with Pentel Presto (correcting fluid), they transport one deep into our collective primordial past while at the same time testing the outer reaches of the pending apocalypse.
A reggae mix tape pulses in the background as Frost bears down on his work in the days leading up to the opening. "I used to use words in my paintings that were really more sounds made out of strings of consonants, and then they became gestures that ultimately began to express themselves simply as patterns," Frost almost whispers, each word measured just as carefully as the teardrop "glyph" he's whiting in as we speak.
Frost recently moved to Albany for work purposes. It may sound far removed from the heady Lower East Side scene in New York, where he had been making a name for himself, but it is a fine place to drag from local ravines the logs he sometimes uses as canvasses. Labor intensive is how to describe a creative process that often finds Frost hunched over a canvas surrounded by a cadre of assistants, all a little zoned out from extended exposure to Presto fumes. Process aside, the finished product is a monument to the wonders of obsessive expression. The abstractly washed backgrounds and myriad tribal patterns meld together to remind the viewer that no matter how loud the white noise of modern life gets, the "shaman state" is still attainable.
THE CROSS-COUNTRY SOJOURN WITH FROST — and even this show — is emblematic of the kind of delicious suffering Aaron Rose has been doing for art ever since his first Alleged Gallery show back in 1992 on NYC's Lower East Side. After all, being a gallerist was never a calling that Rose aspired to.
Rose first landed in New York, in 1989, as one half of an acoustic punk rock duo named Cat Furniture. Not long out of high school in Los Angeles and fleeing a single bad year at Art Center in Pasadena, Rose was primed to devour Manhattan's downtown life in all of its sordid splendor. Without so much as a coin in his pegged pants and a bandmate who would ultimately be picked up walking naked down 14th Street in the midst of a Jesus episode, Rose turned to painting as a means of making sense of his epic and romantically clichéd urban pilgrimage. When Jane's Addiction impresario Perry Farrell accepted Rose's paintings for exhibition on the inaugural Lollapalooza in 1991, he was off on his magic-carpet ride.
After that, a gig selling folk art at Little Rickie, a funky East Village emporium, led to a mural commission on the store's exterior. The mural caught the eye of an art girl who was vacating her storefront on Ludlow and Houston. The space, next to the bar Max Fish, which was then a dive bar and not yet the artiste joint it was destined to be, became Rose's Alleged Gallery. Named after the prayer candles bought in downtown bodegas (i.e., "alleged good luck candle"), the space at first seemed merely like a damn good place to mount an art show, which, of course, seemed like a damn good reason to throw a party.
The first show contained Rose's own work, which drew heavily from the symbols of his California skateboard youth. "Me and my roommates were like, 'People actually showed up!' I mean, it was mostly overflow from Max Fish. We kind of couldn't believe it. We even sold a couple things."
In the autumn of 1993, drawing once again on the street and surf imagery of his West Coast roots, Rose put together another show, "Minimal Tricks." It was a skateboard art show with a roster — including Ed Templeton, Craig Stecyk, Mark Gonzales, among others — compiled with the help of a friend's brother who lived in L.A.: Adam Spiegel, a.k.a. Spike Jonze.
The show was a hit. Or, at least, it was a great big party with a lot of people who were mostly not from the establishment art world but rather from the music and film enclaves. Once again work sold. Word spread throughout both the downtown underground and the highly transient and aesthetic-minded skate community. The whole thing was a fucking blast. At least for the moment, Rose was on a path that felt right.
More Alleged shows followed. For the next two years, Rose worked at Little Rickie by day and kept Alleged Gallery open from 6 to midnight. Skaters hung out, and people in the know, including the Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth and other indie darlings, made the scene. Naturally, like any scene worthy of note, the "real party" happened in the backroom until all hours of the morning. Soon, Rose landed a job at MTV producing, among other things, a series of short film promos that aired mostly late at night. The network also enlisted him to curate art exhibitions in the halls of their eternally '80s-damaged building. In both cases, like just about everything Rose puts his spin on, the alumni of those endeavors are a who's who of the moment: Jonze, Korine, artists Chris Johanson and Rita Ackerman, to name just a few.