Priorities is an new exhibit at The Frothy Monkey's new outpost on Fifth Avenue North. Both the restaurant space and the show are expansive, and even though we wrote a Critic's Pick for the opening party, this is the first time in a long time that I've been inspired to write up anything about art in a coffeehouse.
This isn't any average coffeehouse art show — it's a display by the art collective Creek, and it's impressive. Priorities got its start as a poetry book by Creek member Jesse Mathison. I reviewed the ambitious volume for Chapter 16, and was impressed by the art that accompanied the author's poems. The show at The Frothy Monkey turns the book inside out, pulling the art from the pages and displaying it on the restaurant's walls, inviting art geeks and lunch customers alike to fill in their own commentary on the wide variety of works on display.
Having read Mathison's book, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the show, but you never really see art until you see it in person, and two pieces in particular grabbed my attention even more than they had on the page.
Casey Pierce's “Die for the Cause (JFK)” is a portrait of the titular president inter-cut with the image of an old-school sailing vessel in black-and-white. There's lots of red, white and blue in the palette here, and plenty of reason to take this as a celebration of Camelot. But Pierce's title says otherwise — he reminds us that the ship of state is a warship, and that nobody is safe when those bullets ring out.
I also liked Daniel Holland's “Lost American Grit.” Holland's painting opens the Priorities book, and it's a striking starter — an expressionistic rendering of a leaf-covered helmet on an abstract background with the title phrase scrawled near the bottom. The painting is rough and felt, and it embodies the values that the artist alludes to even as his title bemoans their loss.
These two paintings are hanging side-by-side at the Frothy Monkey entrance, but take the time to walk through the surprisingly large space and see the whole show — even some of Mathison's poems are available for perusing.
Find Mathison's book at the Creek website.