I feel enthusiastic to have had the opportunity to meet Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman. I was also able to visit the studio where they prepared for their brilliant exhibition Stray Light Grey for Marlborough Gallery and where they prepared a book for the upcoming NY Art Book Fair at P.S.1. For those of you who don’t know the work of Freeman & Lowe, you deserve a little intro. In the artists’ most recent site-specific exhibition, they create multi-room environments in which the viewer becomes lost and disoriented. The exhibition represents a nomadic post-human generation with access to learning about other cultures with a single click on YouTube, yet a culture that remains stuck on their own prejudices, ideologies, and religions. The exhibition is an amalgam of television sets, phantasmal books like Fun With Your Interneurons by Dr. Janet Adler and Slowdown (Fuck Tomorrow) by Andrew Newhouse, and freaky beauty products like telepathic salts that claim to give the bather supernatural powers. The bath salt label reads, Now You Know What He’s Thinking! Though wide in scope, there are no random objects in the exhibition. Even the plastic surgery clinic product company, Jungle Video Products is a reference to a movie theater in the hippy community in California, Laurel Canyon. Countercultures and psychedelic subcultures are another big part of Freeman and Lowe’s installations. In fact, some of their first works were Meth Lab in the Sun, 2008 at Marfa and Black Acid Co-op, 2009, Deitch Projects, NY. After a zoned-out waitress spilled a whole drink on somewhere on the bowery, I entered the studio feeling refreshed and ready to spiral down the rabbit hole. Exploring Freeman and Lowe’s studio felt like discovering ancient ruins. Even though I arrived a day after the opening at Marlborough and many things had been displaced, every corner of the studio had its own story and was set for the creation of a giant book. The studio on the bowery was once the factory for Acme Industries INC., and was used as a storage facility for machine parts, equipment, and assembly lines for equipment manufacturers in the United States. When Freeman and Lowe took the space it was full of raw materials meant for industrial equipment manufacturers. Because of the condition of the space, the landlord had trouble selling it to other buyers. Freeman and Lowe got a discount on the rent after promising to get rid of all the leftover machinery
and turn it into art! Nearly all the material was used to create the frosted surface of the salt encrusted Pirate radio brain room in the gallery, a reference to the cold war period. The studio tables are full of cut outs for their upcoming Art Book at P.S.1. The art duo has a giant vintage book in L.A. that will be Killed with collages to create an archive of work. Lowe & Freeman love to showcase books. In Stray Light Grey there was a huge mahogany Library with occasional rocks thrown into the mix. Sometimes the amount of work is so huge that they need the help of a dozen people. They told me they once employed almost 70 assistants. In the Kirst period of production, half the assistant crew stays in L.A. where they collect towels and book covers and deliver the work to the artists.
Fiammetta De Michele