What is the Name of Your First Pet?
Hood Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
By Jenny Lee
Mike Schreiber’s solo show at Hood Gallery is located in a row of shipping containers converted into rental store units. An open secret in the Bushwick/Bedstuy art neighborhood, the space itself is around eighteen by seven feet. In its usual state it is tidy and retrofitted with gallery lights and drywall. The title of the show, “What is the Name of Your First Pet?” is taken from one of the standard security questions that one would use in order to protect sensitive personal information online. Art as a publicly available but extremely personal practice is a tension that is addressed here by Schreiber’s ceiling to floor transformation of the gallery. The walls have been painted black, the lighting amped up clinically bright and the floor covered with kitty litter two inches deep. Sprinkled throughout are half buried cat toys and a pair of hot topic studded bracelets interlocked. The feeling is not unlike traversing a public beach in Atlantic City; Random bits of rubbish from a day party sticking out from the sand, with techno music thumping from a beach club speaker. These devices set the mood for the six equally sized oil paintings hanging on the wall. At first glance their look of hard- edged illustration feels stylishly banal, with a severely restricted palette of cobalt blue, cadmium red, black white and silver. The imagery is sourced from the casual drawing sessions that he and his partner Mary Kosut have produced over the years, and the subject matter reflects a kind of spontaneity from this practice. Cats, big bottomed ladies, faces with their stylish hair cuts, webs and ornate butterflies are rendered in a perversely consistent style. The use of unbreaking painted lines with even thickness simulates the scribbled line quality of a sharpie marker. The resulting look of a silkscreened drawing points to a kind of pictographic language. Schreiber uses this as a way to translate the intimate into the communal without sacrificing the nuanced feel of a comfortable and unguarded dialogue.
A couple of subway stops from Hood gallery you’ll find GCA, or Group Club Association. This is an exhibition space run out of the other half of Schreiber’s studio and co- run with Kosut. Tom Koehler, who runs Hood gallery, looks like he could be Schreiber’s long lost brother. Two tall skinny white guys, it’s obvious that they have an affinity to each other that goes beyond the fact that they both run their own art spaces. In a concurrent exhibition, GCA featured Koehler’s site- specific ambitiously large crucifix sculpture, completing the art space swap. This artistic carte blanche is a shrinking privilege where liability in galleries is continuously being mitigated by the demands of return on investments. Although initially appearing like a cynical simulation of broader art world nepotism, it takes little scrutiny to realize the mutual respect and camaraderie these two producers of local art scenes share for each other. The ability to use this alienating structure as a form to produce intimate and poetic exchanges possesses a certain vitality, albeit cut with a somber resolve. Maybe the title of the show is an evocation of this feeling, finding a moment of personal significance within all this mechanical business.