Tucked in behind Little Skips on a stub of a street called Charles Place, Microscope Gallery will have been open nine months as of this weekend, but by all appearances the wildly multimedia little artist-run space is just warming up its act. The current exhibition brings in some star power with Warhol appeal in the person of Anton Perich, 1970s photographer for Interview and Max’s Kansas City; original underground television artist; and accidental inventor of the inkjet printer.
Perich’s show Current Electric, on display until July 3, offers a substantial slice of Pop Art history from an artist who sees his work as "perhaps the missing link between Pop and Digital." The canvases hanging in the gallery are all new works, but they are products of the same Painting Machine that Perich has been tinkering with since 1977, a wall-sized device that the New York Academy of Sciences recently certified as the first inkjet printer.
According to Perich, anyway, who mentions but doesn’t cite a 2007 NYAS article that we can’t seem to find. Some acceptance of face value is necessary in the world of the ex-Factory diaspora. See also the artist’s video work on display here, The New Girl, starring the self-styled Misha Sedgwick, a controversial actress who may or may not be niece to the infamous Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick. But just as The New Girl still works on its own level, as an unnerving prop piece about consumer gadgets reduced to brute tools of the forest, so too do the electric paintings succeed as haunting visual objects.
The paintings are their own sort of willful denial of technological progress. At a stage where inkjet printing has become so ubiquitous that most artists have had to rebrand to the chic yet vulgar giclée, Perich is still piloting the equivalent of the Wright Flyer. "In 1977, I was seeking high resolution and achieved it in oil on canvas," Perich says dismissively. "Only idiots need millions of colors that computers promise you." The current work is actually a step backwards from the ’70s, spooky lo-res fields that conjure up images like the face of fellow electric dreamer Nikola Tesla, or in most cases, abstract test patterns in which Perich studies "densities, compressions, and rhythms of lines and colors."
Other Perich projects are near at hand, like complimentary copies of the latest NIGHT, a chronicle of the New York scene that he has edited since 1978. Tonight, Perich will present a screening of two more video works: the classic Mr. Fixit, the 1973 sex comedy that opened the country’s eyes to the subversive potential of Public Access television; and his latest work Mother of God, in which yet another Warhol superstar, Taylor Mead, deftly jumps the decades to play an aging Sarah Jessica Parker.
For a man who carries so much legacy, the question still remains of what Perich is doing out here in Bushwick. The answer is in Microscope itself, created by film artists Elle Burchill and Andrea Monti in the grand neighborhood tradition of seeking out the cheapest rent possible. Andrea knows Perich from haunts like the Anthology Film Archives, and offered the space.
"The paintings were Anton’s choice, he’s been wanting to show them," Andrea says, acknowledging that they are somewhat outside of Microscope’s preferred program of film and other "time-based arts," but very much in line with their experimental sensibility. If Perich is the sort of artist that Microscope’s founders tend to run into, Bushwick is in for more surprises from this gallery, and perhaps a bit of secondhand heritage to support our poorly concealed ambitions as the home of New York’s next Factory.