Rirkrit Signs the Bowery



Late last week, Jack Chiles Gallery unveiled new work by Rirkrit Tiravanija. The Argentine-born, New York-based Thai artist has created two signs for the facade of the gallery’s building, a federal townhouse on New York’s Lower East Side that dates back to 1798.

The artwork is part of the gallery’s 208 Bowery Sign Residency initiative, curated by Chiles and independent curator Pati Hertling. The two commission works for two signboards on the gallery building’s face that would typically be used for advertising. A 16-foot-long, 4 1/2-foot-high signboard spanning the width of the building rests between the second- and third-story windows, while a smaller, 5-by-3-foot, double-sided lightbox hangs perpendicular to the building.

For the larger sign, Tiravanija has designed a banner that reads “Freedom cannot be simulated” in spray painted graffiti lettering. The lightbox features the Chinese saying “Time not waiting” (or, more loosely translated, “Don’t waste time”) written on one side in traditional Chinese characters and on the other in contemporary Chinese script.

This is the second in the billboard installation series, which kicked off in March with a joint residency by Das Institut (artists Kerstin Braetsch and Adele Roeder) and United Brothers (brothers Ei and Tomoo Arakawa). The two groups used one side of the lightbox to promote their upcoming show in Japan, with a graphic by Das Institut on the reverse. On the larger sign was a poem, which read, “B Personal/Sun in the Sky Blocked/Radiants Cost. A Tanning Haiku by DAS INSTITUT & UNITED BROTHERS,” meant to commemorate the nuclear disaster at Fukushima (it also references Tomoo Arakawa’s Fukushima tanning salons).

Tiravanija’s signs will be on display through September. Chiles and Hertling have not yet lined up a third residency.