Thursday Spotlight: Ed Zipco of Superchief

Ed Zipco, self-portrait
Ed Zipco, self-portrait

Superchief is a bi-coastal gallery, with locations in LA and here in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in the back of Tender Trap on Greenpoint Ave… And it seems like they’re constantly hosting exhibitions of trippy artwork and extreme artists.

We recently caught up with Ed Zipco, co-founder of Superchief, to chat about the weird nature of the art world, what it’s like to live between two coasts, and who exactly buys the weapons and art cars Superchief exhibits.

Greenpointers: With two gallery spaces and a seemingly constant rotation of exhibitions, how do you keep all of this going? How do you stay organized?

Ed Zipco: Yup, we’re proudly working non-stop. We like to keep it moving, we like to see new stuff, and there are so many artists killing it right now, we’re hooked and working on it 24/7.

An Occulus Rift Experience #DiMoDA Vol. 2 at Superchief Gallery BK
An Occulus Rift Experience #DiMoDA Vol. 2 at Superchief Gallery BK

The length of exhibitions in Greenpoint always varies… this last show with DiMoDa for instance, which features Oculus Rift goggles that visitors can wear and giant wall to wall projections, will be up for nearly a month; while recently we had a few different opportunities pop up at the same time, so we did 4 separate art shows in a single week.

We had wooden laser cuts of futuristic cult leaders with neon colors projection mapped to the millimeter, followed by a night of death-match wrestling performed in front of projections of revenge killings in the ring, followed by a full installation of the TenSquared digital gallery, followed by a solo show for collage artist, sex educator and genius, Zoe Ligon.

"tuff neon swordz" by @artofmoss at Superchief Gallery BK
“tuff neon swordz” by @artofmoss at Superchief Gallery BK

How we stay organized is barely, to be honest- but we’re getting better recently with the help of a few wonderful volunteers with strong organizational skills.

Without them it’s just this maniac marathon of micro sprints all year long, and it is brutal.

The work you exhibit is… a bit left of field to put it politely: handmade weapons, monster sculptures, synthetic skin iPhone cases… Where do you find these extreme artists? Who buys these works?

I totally get that the art can be considered extreme, I can certainly acknowledge that perspective. But I think its just that this is the raw culture, some of its aesthetic is clean and bright, some of it is gnarly and looks like its got barbwire all over it, we cover a lot of ground but its always work we personally love. And the work that we love is the stuff that isnt boring- its the culture that isn’t already so commodified that it’s lost any edge to it.

Superchief Gallery LA artist Ryan C. Doyle with his CarCroach at sunrise at Burning Man 2016
Superchief Gallery LA artist Ryan C. Doyle with his CarCroach at Burning Man

This is the art that creative people who are tired of mainstream art, live and create so that they can experience it, share it, get it out of their head and on the wall.

Who buys these works? The smart ones & lucky ones- our collectors are getting something that is one of a kind by an artist who’s taking their art seriously, making work as part of a larger generational movement.

These are all the artists that have been covered in every arts and culture magazine in the country, Juxtapoz, Vice, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Playboy Magazine, American Painter, the list is ridiculous. And they are all getting slowly but surely into the museum circuit, having work hung in the United Nations, getting trips to the White House so Michelle Obama can say how much she likes their work and then coming back to Greenpoint to do murals on every wall we’ve got- It’s beyond surreal.

These are the moments when you can buy their art before they blow up, because they are all actively blowing up. Baghead, an artist in our show thats up this week, is in a million dollar Heineken commercial that came out in the middle of his opening in Greenpoint last Friday, right after he sold a sculpture for $900.

It’s a fun atmosphere for sure, people grinding for years and surviving and beginning to prosper. The three artist show he was in was called HEATWAVE with Raul Santos and Marlon Prues.

Tender Trap t-shirts available at the bar
Tender Trap t-shirts available at the bar

Tender Trap, where the Superchief BK Gallery is located, is a bar with a bit of a reputation for wild, debaucherous events… the whole vibe of the place is “anything goes”. What’s the craziest thing that you’ve seen happen there?

It’s very true and I plead the fifth.

Also, I love Darryl Nau and Ryan Virag with all my heart for bringing us back to Brooklyn nearly 18 months ago to get involved. The Tender Trap crew is the best bar staff I have ever known in my life, its constantly humbling to be around good people like that.

I’m gonna name my kids Ketchup and Nicky, hand on a bible.

What is you favorite thing about Greenpoint? What’s a typical day for you in the neighborhood?

I love that the waterfront is still ripped up to some degree, that if you go down the right street you can still walk through a broken fence and chill on the hot concrete slabs by the water, with overgrown weeds and no one near you for what feels like three blocks.

That should last for about another 6 months.

Past that I really love the food, we’ve got great everything- Polish, Thai, Chinese is all strong strong, plus we’re located literally next door to Paulie Gee’s, which is phenomenal.

As someone who divides his time between NYC and LA, what are the best and worst aspects to each city? Is it like being married with a mistress or more like having two jobs?

I think NYC and LA really need each other, they offer such a welcome and needed respite.

Thinking that there is only one pond is both limiting and distressing, because you fall into the trap of thinking that the way it goes here, is just the way it goes. With LA as a mirror, chewing up the same overarching generational inputs, the this or that type of person here, gets chopped up with an entirely alien flavor over there, in this bizarro way thats equally exciting, and yet somehow the same as NYC, while being wholly different.

It’s like dating the alternative reality version of your wife: it’s still your wife, but you’re on mars.

I’ve been spending way, way, way more time back in NYC these days, but when it was really back and forth it stopped really feeling like they were two cities.

It felt more like it was just one big room, and half of the people I give a shit about in the world are on one side of the room, and all the rest are on the other side. I’m hanging out with the same kind of fun weirdos on both sides, and so many people are back and forth or moving from one to the other, I stopped thinking about where I was or who lived where, it was always just like, “Oh hey.”

It became normal inside of a year, and then just like that, I’m back to being mostly east coast again and letting that slowly become normal. I really miss a lot of people in LA that I suddenly just don’t see anymore, besides the good ol’ facebuk (sic).

You studied writing in school at Pratt Institute, and worked for years as a photographer… do you have time for those pursuits while running SuperChief? Do you miss it?

Hahaha, you asked “Do I miss it” as part of the question before I could answer, because you goddamn know that I don’t have time to shoot or write. That’s why these interview answers are so long, I miss it a ton.

It’s weird the stuff you sacrifice that you really enjoy to do other things you enjoy just a little bit more. But I plan to start doing both more frequently this Fall, is a lie I tell myself most Summers.

Ed Zipco, self-portrait
Ed Zipco, self-portrait

What do you see as the future for the neighborhood? Are you concerned about the L train shutdown?

Oh man, lots and lots of new people. I read we’re expecting five thousand new homes with the buildings along the waterfront? That’s bananas!

As far as the L train shutting down, Day 1 thru Day 10 of that is going to be worth showing up on the corner of N7th and Bedford, dropping a beach chair and just spend the morning watching people spill out of the subway cursing and screaming in droves.

That is what you call a once in a lifetime opportunity for schadenfreude with a side of irish coffee, and it’ll take 5 years off your ulcer.

What’s next for you and SuperChief? What do you see as the future for art galleries and the art world in general?

For me, I’m focused on staffing up! We’re bringing on more and more volunteers to help us run the gallery better, offer more gallery hours to the public and tackle bigger projects. People can email us at [email protected] to apply.

For Superchief, we’re really excited to be bringing so many young emerging and famous artists from other cities and countries to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This fall alone we have artists from LA, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, Mexico City, Australia, Venezuela coming to share their amazing work – I’m incredibly proud to get to do what I’m doing with the staff that I’m doing it with and the partners who have been professional maniacs since I met them.

We also have a month-long show coming up with Gwar, which should be melt-the-walls insane.

Superchief’s upcoming exhibition PROTOGASM featuring @z_taylor @joseph_harmon opens Friday, Sept 30th at Tender Trap
66 Greenpoint Ave

About Andy Smith

A.P. Smith is a writer, photographer, and record collector living in Greenpoint with his dog, Luigi.

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