Marfa Dialogues

Hello Meth Lab in the Sun

Alexandre Singh, Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe

5 April - 4 August 2008


OPENING RECEPTION: Friday 4 April, 6-8pm
ARTISTS TALKS: Saturday 5 April, 2pm Goode Crowley Theater
MUSIC: Psychic Ills, Saturday 5 April, 9pm Liberty Hall

Ballroom Marfa’s Spring 2008 exhibition is a collaboration between three early career artists, Jonah Freeman, Justin Lowe, and Alexandre Singh. In an installation that literally transforms Ballroom’s gallery spaces into a labyrinthine assemblage of rooms, hallways, closets and observation platforms, Hello Meth Lab in the Sun is a rumination on the theme of alchemy, uncovering of some of the sites of alchemical transformation in the modern world.

Like the dioramas of the Museum of Natural History or the period rooms of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Hello Meth Lab in the Sun creates theatrical depictions of three specific social/historical contexts: the utopian hippie commune, the clandestine meth lab, and the varied sites of modern industrial production. Each room and object is suggestive of a state of transformation or hybridization: vegetables into broth; match heads into meth; sugar cane into Mountain Dew.

Hello Meth Lab in the Sun takes up alchemy’s method of homespun experimentalism, bonding unlikely ingredients and ushering in a secular mysticism. One room reads as an Upper East Side apartment converted to a lifestyle museum, with a collection of black and white society photographs documenting hermetic rituals with cacti and crystals. This is a world reminiscent of Norman Mailer’s 50th birthday party and the final scene in Polanski’s 1968 horror film, Rosemary’s Baby.

Another room reveals itself as a laboratory cluttered with crates of cold medicine, boxes of matches, containers of cat litter and glassware for the mass production of narcotics. Here not only are materials transformed, their intended uses are subverted along with consumerism’s tenets of freedom, happiness and choice. The lightly veiled intimacy between the lawful and the deviant is put on display.

The zeitgeist of 1960s counterculture is channeled by Hello Meth Lab in the Sun, although at times it’s more “living dead” than a romantic flashback. The shag carpet is well worn, the furniture stained, rooms have been incinerated. Ceilings are low and the hallways are tight — these spaces are under surveillance.

The southern most room of the gallery is a tweaked out hippie kitchen, with paraphernalia that cross the cosmic forces of natural living with analogue media. Overhead is a geodesic-dome structure, Buckminster Fuller’s ideal design for making more from less. In the pantry below, a broken refrigerator portal opens out to an empty room where audible traces of conversations and ambient sounds from throughout the entire installation are played back.

The opening reception for Hello Meth Lab in the Sun will be held on Friday 4th April, 6-8pm at Ballroom Marfa, 108 E. San Antonio Street, Marfa, TX. A conversation with the artists will take place the following day, Saturday 5th April at 2pm in the Goode Crowley Theater, 98 South Austin Street.

To inaugurate the exhibition, Brooklyn psychedelic/space-rock band, Psychic Ills, will perform at Ballroom’s Marfa’s Liberty Hall, Dean Street, on Saturday 5th April, at 9pm. All the weekend’s events are free and open to the public.

Artist Bios

Jonah Freeman was born in 1975 in Santa Fe, NM and lives and works in New York City. He has exhibited widely since the late 1990s throughout the United States and internationally with photographs, video projections and installations that explore the psychology of architectural spaces. Recent solo exhibitions include The Long Goodbye (with Michael Phelan), John Connelly Presents, New York (2007); The Franklin Abraham, Galerie Edward Mitterand, Geneva, Switzerland, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Play Gallery, Berlin, Germany (2005, 2004); and In the Public Realm: Sixteen Scenarios, Public Art Fund, Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, NY (2002). His work has also been represented in the recent group shows: Le Centre pour l’image contemporaine, Saint gervais, Geneva, Switzerland; Grow Your Own, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2007); Busan Biennale 2006, Buan, South Korea; Intouchable (l’ Idéal transparence), Désanges, Centre National d’Art Contemporain — Villa Arson, Nice, France (2006); Day Labor, PS1/MOMA, New York; and Vanishing Point, The Wexner Center for the Arts, Wexner, OH (2005).

Justin Lowe was born in 1976 in Dayton, OH and lives and works in New York City. He has been exhibiting since 2000, creating installation “environments” like gallery-lounges, cluttered house interiors and — for his 2006 solo show at Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery, New York — an intricately stocked bodega and Mister Softee truck. Lowe is also known for his collages produced in collaboration with Jonah Freeman. Select solo exhibitions include: Helter Swelter, Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery, New York, NY (2006); Collecting Pictures in the Brain Hotel, Sculpture Center, Long Island City, NY (2005); Dwellings, Brooklyn Public library, Brooklyn, NY; Waterfall, The Wrong Gallery, New York; and Passage, PS1 Special Project Room, Long Island City, NY (2004). Selected group exhibitions include: Slow Burn, Galerie Edward Mitterand, Geneva, Switzerland; Bricks in the Hood, Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery, New York; Studio Visit, Exit Art, New York (2006); The Pantagruel Syndrome, Museum of Contemporary Art in the Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy; Greater New York 2005, PS1, Long Island City, NY (2005); Household Psychedelics, Fia Backstrom Projects, Brooklyn, NY (2004); and The Melvins, Anton Kern Gallery, New York, NY (2003).

Alexandre Singh is a British artist, born in Bordeaux, France in 1980 and currently based in London and New York City. His installations are recognizable by their combined structures of building materials and consumer items, accompanied by circuitous narratives and elements of performance. Singh’s first solo show was held in 2007 at White Columns, New York, NY, entitled The Marque of the Third Stripe; in 2008 he will have additional solo exhibitions at Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Monitor Gallery, Rome, Italy; and at the Museu da Electrcidade, Lisbon, Portugal in collaboration with Rita Sobral Campos for UNCLEHEAD. Singh will be represented in the upcoming group exhibitions: Living to Tell the Tale at the Royal College of Art, London; Art Cannot Be Untaught, La Rada, Locarno, Switzerland; and A New High in Getting Low II, John Connelly Presents, New York, NY. Selected past exhibitions include The First Antechamber, Projects Arts Center, Dublin, Ireland; The Singer Sucks, but the Band… Finding Good in an Otherwise Dismal World, Sunday, New York, NY; East International 17, Norwich Gallery, Norwich, UK (2007); Alexandre Singh and Goody B Wiseman, Second Gallery, Boston, MA; Slow Burn, Galerie Edward Mitterand, Geneva, Switzerland (2006); Open Walls, White Columns, New York, NY; If You’re Felling Sinister, Alona Kagan, NY (2005); Romantic Detachment, PS1 MoMA, Quens, NY and New American Talent 19, Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin, TX.

    Listen to Marfa Public Radio’s Talk at Ten interview with Hello Meth Lab in the Sun artists Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe.

    Frieze Magazine, September 2008

    Artforum, (PDF) September 2008

    Generous support for Hello Meth Lab in the Sun has been provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Peter Norton Family Foundation, the Cowles Charitable Trust, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and Ballroom Marfa Members.

    Special thanks to Alexander Mills, Project Manager, for the onsite installation of Hello Meth Lab in the Sun.

    The Psychic Ills performance has been made possible through the continued support of Ballroom Marfa’s Front Row Music Program and Permian Distributing, Midland, TX.