Review: Buy Us, For You, By Us

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.

David Roth’s Buy Us, For You, By Us runs at FIELD Con­tem­po­rary from Decem­ber 18 — Jan­u­ary 16. More by Roth at