Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 17th 2019


View The Hustle

By Stephanie Sharp

It doesn’t matter if you’re a regular visitor at the Pensacola Museum of Art or you only go when playing tour guide for out-of-town guests—everyone should make time to see “Hustle: Museum of Spectacle” this summer.

Yes, everyone.

Work from three headlining artists—Matty Jankowski, Jimbo Easter and Julia Gorton—sprawl across the main floor of the PMA, inviting museum visitors into a space and experience that will challenge them to reconsider just what a museum really is.

Curated by Felicia E. Gail, the show is a collection of interpersonal relationships and artistic discoveries developed in the spirit of curiosity and community. As Gail recounts in the tattoo-flash styled takeaway (a must-read for anyone who sees the exhibit), her introductions to Jankowski, Easter and Gorton grew organically and encouraged an assemblage of “side acts” to fully expound on the themes of the artists.

Jankowski’s work dominates the most physical space of the exhibit. His decades of work as a tattoo artist, writer, bookseller and artist are captured in vignettes of his personal collection. From a cardboard cutout of rapper Lil’ Kim (featuring a temporary tattoo he painted on her for a photo shoot) to books, postcards, screen prints and found objects, there is no rest for the mind or the eye. The arrangements inspire a fascination with and respect for the subcultures that Jankowski has been a part of throughout his life and career.

“His work has been framed, the way I’ve put it together here, as installation art,” said Gail. “A medium in art, just like sculpture or painting, installation art is a type of work. I would call his environment installation art, just as much as it’s a museum.”

The installations that make up Jankowski’s contribution to “Hustle” are just a fraction of his personal collection that fills and overflows his home in Panama City, where Gail was first sent on an odyssey to experience Jankowski’s world firsthand.

“The impulse after looking at Matty’s collection was that his collection was his artwork, it was his living space, it was his history. All of that tied into looking back at the way we think about collections and the origins of American museums.”

The black wall displaying the photographs by Gorton invites a pause. But it’s more of the tentative, “Haven’t we met before?” type of pause that might accompany the first few moments after entering a party where you don’t really know anyone than the usual pause that comes when looking at new art.

Gorton’s work is a collection of black and white photos from New York City’s No-Wave scene in the late 1970s. Her photographs are unflinchingly cool and honest, her subjects at once disarmingly familiar and mythically underground.

“I feel like to put together a contemporary show. It’s nice to have different voices,” said Gail. “I noticed there were so many different representations of bodies, and so I wanted to tease that out a little bit, by way of the connections to music.”

In addition to her photography, Gorton also ran a music zine that captured the happenings of that scene and era of music.

“No-Wave was a response to punk, post-punk and new wave. I just love that sense of hustle, that challenge to have their voices heard. You can hear their voices through these photographs. I can hear it, I can be in the bedroom and know what it’s like to be up at 3 a.m. doing a photo shoot with your friends, trying to capture what it’s like to be there. I think she had special access, as much as an involvement.”

That access is expressed personally and culturally throughout “Hustle,” giving museum visitors the ability to interact with subcultures and trends that happened outside of the mainstream.

“All of them have this way of capturing their sitters that shows their vulnerability and their strength,” Gail said.

In the next room, beckoned by a black curtain, a blinking arrow and “mature content” warning signs, viewers are transported into the world of Easter. A video of his performance piece “Phaseolus Gutter” plays between two walls of his drawings. Easter’s work invokes primal reactions to sounds and movements of the bodies we so often see idealized, censored and contorted into neutralized conformity.

“I think a lot about challenging the idea of what normative bodies means. I think that once you begin to ask yourself the question, you’ve totally negated any answers you might come up with,” explained Gail. “It’s a dialectic and evolving, the body is evolving.”

Whether watching the film or getting up close and personal with his drawings, the audience is pushed right through the edge of their comfort zone by Easter. When you emerge from the curtained area, you approach the additional vignettes and side acts with a renewed sense of stimulation.

“I wanted two other artists that had this aesthetic that was, again, this punk or underground, outsider art, smattering into folk art. I just wanted somebody who was of the history. Not necessarily from it, but of it. I looked at his drawings and I saw it,” said Gail of Easter’s work. “I’m sure he’s exhibited in a warehouse as much as he has a gallery, and I liked that.”

Finally, the exhibit is rounded out with “Circus!” which features photographs of Frederick W. Glasier from the collection of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. These photographs were also the result of collaboration and communication and are an important addition to the exploration of subculture and spectacle that Gail dives into with “Hustle.”

“For me, for this show, by exhibiting a collection, an exhibition that was put together by the Ringling Museum, that act is a little bit symbolic of how we think about who converges with who and asking the audience, as spectators, ‘What is a museum to you?’”

Upstairs there’s a totally different show, featuring some art by a guy you’ve probably heard of—Andy Warhol.

The exhibition “Andy Warhol: Myth/Maker” is organized by The Andy Warhol Museum and The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and features original Warhol silkscreen prints from his Myth Series. The portfolio of 10 prints was originally created in 1981 and includes familiar faces like Dracula, Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse.

The exhibition will also be interactive, including things like books, toys and a working silkscreen studio.

Gail suggests trying a new way of visiting the museum for “Hustle” and encourages people to come back multiple times, once alone and another time with a friend or small group of people. To round out the experience, make a special trip especially for the opening reception. Visiting three times allows you to reflect, discuss and celebrate the artwork fully—something that’s especially satisfying with an exhibit like “Hustle” that churns up deep questions and addresses complexes topics.

“Often times, opening receptions act as this performance of an event. At least, I think about it that way. You’ve got the audience, the crowd, the spectators. They’re all dressed up in certain ways, they’re looking around, they’re talking with each other, they’re taking pictures,” said Gail. “So to activate that event, I think there’s this sense of excitement. That’s why we’ve packed it full.”

This particular opening event will feature an artists and curator talk with Jankowski, Easter, Gorton and Gail plus a live performance by Easter and a curated Listening Bar featuring a playlist by Gorton.

“Hustle” will be on view at the museum through Aug. 5. The Warhol exhibition will be on view through Sept. 2.

HUSTLE: Museum of Spectacle Opening Reception
WHAT: Opening for “Hustle” and also “Andy Warhol: Myth/Maker” and “Circus! The Photographs of Frederick W. Glasier”
WHEN: 6-9 p.m. Friday, June 29
WHERE: Pensacola Museum of Art, 407 S. Jefferson St.

Opening Reception Schedule
6-7 p.m. Artists and Curator Talk
7-8 p.m. Performance by Jimbo Easter
8-9 p.m. Listening Bar, curated by Julia Gorton