Four Play and The Wager Show
16 December 2017

Four Play

Essex Flowers

January 18 – February 22
Opening January 18, 6 to 8

As a birthday present this year, I was given a trip to Foxwoods. We took the cheapest route of travel, which was difficult to find among the confusing welter of Internet options. The Chinatown bus leaves every night from Division Street at 9:30 PM and it is $12 for a round trip ticket. It was pouring rain. We were among the last to board.

I’ve always loved Casinos, even though I’m too cheap to gamble for real, or rather, the knowledge that the odds are stacked against me stands in my way. However, I’m still always willing to drop 60 bucks just to watch the spinning graphics: the prancing cats, the alternating geishas and dragons, the sword swings, the ringing coin drops, the colored lines that depict your winnings but are impossible to understand, the midi tunes, the mirrors on the ceiling as you take the escalator up: This way for the tables, ladies and gentleman. The mindless quest toward potential – it is all irresistibly seductive. Despite knowing better, I am taken in, hopelessly shelling out twenties in hopes of arriving at….. a bonus round?….. a free spin? Whatever. I’m up for anything. Playing slots is like sitting in purgatory, the last stop before death, a voluntary tax for opportunity, a vain hope that your numbers will come up, a momentary acknowledgement from the Universe – nothing is more American.

Despite my skepticism, I find the environment quite beautiful. One thousand candied fantasies of hot luck converted into cold cash all jockeying for your attention seems to make time stop, like you are riding on the Heaven’s Gate’s spaceship behind Hale Bop comet, speeding toward Utopia or a black hole.

Poker, on the other hand, is different. It is fun and it is social and you actually have a chance. Even the losers have a damn good time. Parts of people’s personalities are revealed when playing Hold ‘Em that would otherwise be kept hidden. It is a great game, one of chance and sizing up, luck and mathematics, skill and daring. More than anything, it allows you to play with money. I find it completely inspiring that money is valued by human perception instead of a stockpile of Gold. It means that human consciousness has the power to make the imaginary real. For this, it is worth peeling off a twenty and getting into the game.

This show is a collection of interrelated prints, paintings and animation. Each medium sheds light on the other. What connects my work in all of them is that I am cutting through layers. I am searching for some hidden payoff like a scratch-off ticket player hoping to find a reward beneath the surface.

On Sunday nights over the course of this show, invited artists will wager artwork in games of Texas Hold ‘Em. On the final day of the show, Sunday, February 22, there will be a closing and the exhibition will rotate. My work will come down and all of the wagered artwork will be hung. It will be a one-day group show of all that was won and lost, an art collection formed through chance.

-Melissa Brown

The Wager Show

For the past four Sundays, invited artists, writers and gallery owners gathered after hours to play poker in connection with Four Play at Essex Flowers. The game was Texas Hold ‘Em, and the wager was art. Each poker game resulted in one or two winners who earned an art collection through skill, strategy, endurance or pure luck. This Sunday, February 22, a group show of all the wagered art won and lost will be on view at Essex Flowers from12-6PM. It is a group show of several newly formed art collections created through chance, representing some of the most exciting artists currently working in New York City. There will be a closing party from6-8PM. Please join us to view the booty.

The Players:

Z Behl / Trudy Benson / Michael Berryhill / Patrick Brennan /Melissa Brown / Paul DeMuro / Elizabeth Ferry / Max Fierst / Gerasimos Floratos / Jess Fuller / Tamara Gonzales / Sam Gordon / Jesse Hamerman / E J Hauser / David Humphrey / Timothy Hull / Tatiana Kronberg / Marie Lorenz / Michael Mahalchick / Craig Monteith / Kendra Patrick / Mark Sengbusch / Joshua Smith / Wendy White / Lizzie Wright / Siebren Versteeg

more info at Essex Flowers