Greenpoint sits fine with no longer being Brooklyn’s “it” spot, and Bill Hayden’s show at Real Fine Arts seems okay with this, too—perhaps even celebrating the area’s confounding mix of shop and gallery. This particular installation is as comfortable with its sense of fleeting zeitgeist as Greenpoint is with watching the torch pass from Williamsburg to Bushwick as the hip mecca of the moment.
The blank white wall along the gallery entrance feeds us to a photograph credited to photographer Heji Shin. The framed self-portrait is shot in deep contrast black and white, and has all the faux swagger of a ’70s magazine cigarette ad. Actually a collaboration between Hayden and Shin, this head shot acts as a doorman to the main space, which feels like an appropriate introduction to a collection that blurs the distinction between salable objects and experience.
The rest of the show is credited to Bill Hayden without any press release or handout to explain any intentions. The visitor turns the corner to face a room dominated by two large photographs adhered to the wall. The split screen, “Early Afternoon Idyll,” has the long-haired model from the entrance now appearing life-sized and in full color, sleeping outside on a sofa in a Brooklyn lot while dreaming of himself playing guitar in black and white on the right quarter of the mural. In “Daily Exercises,” he is awake and walking two goats while a police officer watches him in the background. If color and scale represent a reality here, it’s more of a desirable hip ‘reality.’ The vagabond’s patches are of a designer variety and the walking of goats out-“reals” any Pit Bull or ferret. The murals are only an updated fantasy. Black and white is old cool, where the the head shot still hopes for work and the model still plays guitar.
Material object-hood comes in the form of old door ringers: some hang alone mid-wall and one pops out in the middle of “Early Afternoon Idyll.” Despite being real things in real space, the ringers don’t actually work. Discarded rusty shells, with evidence of recent use in the form of graffiti and melted candles inside, hang nearby. The contrast between the real and the dreamworld has failed and the ringer hasn’t woken up the sleeping hippie.
One final piece in the corner of the room has a small toy skeleton in a cardboard box lying on a bed of various telephone part innards. This is the final product of the show, representing both a sales item and a totem packed for an easy move.
The room looks like an emptied out American Apparel store and that’s partly the appeal. The familiarity makes the space more inviting than most galleries. The receptionist is less intimidating than the usual desk-sitting gallerista, for starters. It’s also unusual and refreshing for an art gallery to so appropriately and amusingly address the current situation of its surroundings: It’s a fun show that laughs along with the blue-collar oil spill of the recent past.
Real Fine Arts is located on 673 Meeker Avenue, and is open from Thursdays through Sundays (11am-6pm). Bill Hayden’s solo show is on view now until May 10, 2015.