I was immediately excited about Buy Us, For You, By Us because the image of a brown skinned girl with braids in a camel turtleneck spoke to me. I am a huge fan of the turtleneck. I’m also a huge fan of representation and seeing people who look like me depicted in creative works. So, without even knowing what Buy Us, For You, By Us was about, I had a good feeling.
What I had failed to notice was that the model had a lot of armpit hair…on the outside of her shirt. Now I was intrigued. While doing a little more digging online, I came across photos of people with more armpit hair, but also hairy nipples. Again, on the outside of their shirts. I was confused.
I was also curious. What did Buy Us, For You, By Us mean?Buy us. For you. By us. David Roth’s artist statement described this as “a locally-inspired look at urban planning and lifestyle marketing.” There was also mention of the artist being somebody who encourages to audiences to rethink how they examine worth and value. I expected also that there was going to be a powerful statement about bodies and how we groom and clothe them. Fast forward to an especially rainy Tuesday afternoon, and I am on the number 9 bus, eastbound on Broadway to see Buy Us, For You, By Us at Field Contemporary.
As I opened the door to the the gallery, I was already feeling a little intimidated by how few things and people there were in the room. Some framed pieces on the walls, three garment racks with clothes hung on them and a barber’s chair in the center of it all. I said ‘Hi’ to the two people huddled over a computer in the corner, one of them echoed my greeting and they resumed their conversation. The clothes, which were hung as they would be in a retail space, all had hair on them. Some shirts with hair on the armpits, others with hair shaped into nipples and even some with hair on the sleeves. There were also gloves with hairy knuckles strewn about. The armpit hair was realistic and varied in texture, which left me wondering if it was real.
These garments, framed or as is, were all for sale. There were also printed photographs of the garments being modelled. All the pieces were named after people, which left me thinking that the shirt titled Jamie had Jamie’s hair attached to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave with an understanding of why any of this mattered or should be interesting. In fact, I had to thumb through the pages of a binder that I was not quite certain was meant for visitors to even discover that detail.
My feeling is that work should speak for itself, or be explained. Clearly some statement was being made. What that statement was however, was completely lost on me. There was no artist’s statement or explanation of what the work was about, though there were people working in the space who might have initiated a conversation with me, as the only person in the space. Instead, they chatted amongst themselves and stared at their phones.
I really wanted to like this exhibit, but instead walked away confused and with wet shoes. It’s difficult to say that it’s worth making the trip, because all of the images can be seen online and I gained nothing from the experience of visiting the gallery, besides seeing with my own eyes that this was in fact hair glued to everything. I would have preferred to walk away with an understanding of why there was hair on all the garments and what David Roth hoped to achieve with this work.