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Get Turned On at an Art Show Filled with Neon

Esther Ruiz and Robert Davis bring a touch of tasteful sleaze—and a water bed—to New Release gallery.

Waterbed interviews part 1 happening now

A photo posted by New Release (@newreleasegallery) on Jan 11, 2016 at 3:42pm PST

Robert Davis and Esther Ruiz on the water bed at New Release gallery

“This show has a dated mystery to it,” says Robert Davis while laying on a twin sized waterbed with fellow artist Esther Ruiz, surrounded by pink neon lights, mirrors, flickering candles, and dark, wooden furniture. Had it been the 1970s this could have been the set for a great minimalist art porno, but inside the the one-room gallery, Davis and Ruiz’s new show gives off a glow that is more of a nostalgic, inviting warmth than a tacky, tasteless heat.


The Dark Clicks On at New Release Gallery, Photo by Martin Parsek

The opening of The Dark Clicks On, a collaborative exhibition pairing Davis’ furniture and paintings with Ruiz’s neon sculptures, brought a curious crowd to New Release, Erin Goldberger’s new gallery space in Chinatown. ”Initially it was a purely aesthetic combination,” says Goldberger on why she decided to pair two artists who had never met before a few months ago. “It felt natural. Their work, the wood and the shapes and the neons, they just fit. It was simple and then as we all started putting it together, it grew into a real place.”

@eringoldberger holding court on the Robert Davis waterbed at @newreleasegallery. #RobertDavis and #EstherRuiz opened tonight and on view at New Release through Valentines 

A photo posted by mollygottschalk (@mollygottschalk) on Jan 10, 2016 at 6:23pm PST

Erin Goldberger in her new Chinatown gallery, New Release

As soon as you enter the rickety storefront, which was an abandoned VHS video store and dance studio before it was a hip gallery, the sense of place is overwhelming. Though, it’s hard to tell exactly where and when that place is. A huge canvas, stretched to be the size of one wall, shows a giant monarch butterfly painted in ash, while the opposite wall holds a smooth, white sculpture, dressed delicately with a sliver of glowing neon light. Davis’ dark wood furniture, including the rippling waterbed and a carved totem with a mohawk of burning candles, make the gallery into an retro living room of clashing eras, while Ruiz’s neons and mirrors take us into a near future, toying constantly with light and dark.


Esther Ruiz neon sculpture, Photo by Martin Parsek


A photo posted by Cecilia A.S. (@spaceeceecee) on Jan 10, 2016 at 4:28pm PST

Esther Ruiz neon sculpture

“I’ve always been interested in hijacking the domestic,” says Davis, who considers himself a painter, using relatable but unexpected materials like wine and leather in his work. “Growing up I always built stuff with wood, it’s in my DNA. It’s personal without being autobiographical, and I wanted to make furniture for this show so that you could sit down and reflect.” Laying down on the water bed, suddenly weightless, it’s easy to get hypnotized by the glowing works around you, including a large plank of wood mounted on the ceiling donning the title of the show, The Dark Clicks On, a line from a poem by Michael Robbins.

At last night’s opening of “The Dark Clicks On,” a two-person exhibition with artists #RobertDavis and #EstherRuiz at @ErinGoldberger’s @NewReleaseGallery, a space converted from a former video store in Chinatown. #NewReleaseGallery Here is 'Pink Well' by Esther Ruiz. @Esther___Ruiz

A photo posted by Art Observed (@artobserved) on Jan 11, 2016 at 2:47pm PST

Pink Well, Esther Ruiz

“It was something that immediately hit me,” says Ruiz about the poem, which Davis shared when they first met. “I wrote it down and put it in my studio. It just made sense.” Ruiz’s sculptures, though experimenting with light and color, are not flashy. They almost blend in with the space the way neon signs are an omnipresent element of Chinatown. Only the mirror piece, titled Pink Well and hanging across from the bed, became a specifically interactive element as a perfect art selfie station. ”I usually hang these mirrors above eye level so they aren’t functional,” she explains, but in this circumstance the functionality fit the vibe."


Robert Davis sculpture, Photo by Martin Parsek

#RobertDavis ash painting at @newreleasegallery #newreleasegallery @eringoldberger @bobsonofdavis

A photo posted by Olivia Smith (@ashoonk) on Jan 10, 2016 at 6:35pm PST

Robert Davis ash painting

All the works together have an inviting glow of nostalgia, urging the viewer to reminisce. “I like when people can relate to a piece,” says Davis. “Like the bed. Everyone who came in had a story about a water bed. Putting something like this in the context of a gallery brings up an notion of functional/ dysfunctional, and it happens simultaneously. Once you put this in a gallery it becomes a sculpture. People aren’t quite sure if they can touch it but once they realize they can interact with it, it becomes a bit performative.”

Maybe it’s the water bed, maybe it’s the soothing hum of the neon lights, but Davis and Ruiz’s collaboration sets a stage for an experience whether you’re performing or just observing.”There’s a weird generosity to it all,” says Davis about working together with Ruiz and Goldberger. “It was intuitive, and in the end it wasn’t about decorating the space, it was about creating it together.”

Walnut ceiling lamp by #RobertDavis at @newreleasegallery on view through February 14 @bobsonofdavis #thedarkclickson

A photo posted by EXHIBITION A (@exhibitiona) on Jan 11, 2016 at 12:48pm PST

Robert Davis

The Dark Clicks On will be on view at New Release, 60 Mulberry Street, New York, every Friday-Sunday 12pm-6pm.


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