BACK IN THE NIGHT (Psychotronic Landscapes, Objects & Souvenirs)
PARTICIPANT INC is proud to present the first major solo
exhibition by Scott Ewalt, BACK IN THE NIGHT: Psychotronic Landscapes, Objects &
Souvenirs. Two decades in the making, the exhibition is a show of nighttime impressions
of the visual design of vice. Ewalt’s source material is comprised of tactile remnants
at the center of psychotronic culture: Times Square from 1966-1996. His close study of
historic ephemera and objects leads to portrayals of the alternative, exaggerated,
accessible, and base worldview they represent—in which all pleasure is encouraged.
With the early mentorship of neo-burlesque mavericks such as John Sex, Katie K, and
International Chryssis, Ewalt came to understand burlesque as the origin of punk.
Already interested in the illustrations of John Willie and Stanton, he purchased his
first authentic piece of burlesque ephemera, a Teaserama poster, from one of its
creators, Paula Klaw. In 1987, fascinated with the play of artificial color at night,
Ewalt switched from painting to digital painting using the program Pixel Paint, and he
began working in nightclubs. He went on to create a short-lived nightclub party called
Burlesque while finishing his graduate thesis on the dismantling of Hollywood Boulevard.
In 1994, The Adonis Theater was closed, and he witnessed the sign sawed into sections
and thrown in a dumpster. This sparked his retrieval of larger pieces, such as the
marquees from the groundbreaking Eros and Venus theaters. But more than just a collector
of artifacts, Ewalt set out early on to meet the people who populated these worlds of
interest, for example his long-term friendship with Liz Renay, whose exhibition How to
Attract Men, Ewalt curated in 2009 at Deitch Projects, NY.
BACK IN THE NIGHT: Psychotronic Landscapes, Objects & Souvenirs is an immersive
installation that brings us the underworld of pop culture, providing a glimpse of the
saturated layer below. The exhibition opens with nine gradated digital paintings
depicting devils on color fields that tear open to show the waiting Deuce—a place in
which vice can be lived in person, not fantasized as in pulp magazines. Each has a
corresponding steamer trunk, making reference to traveling burlesque performers as well
as a nod to the hobo culture that gave us the word punk. The trunks are decoupaged with
cigarette boxes similar to tramp and prison art, and lined with color fields soaked in
sexuality. Evoking the division between private and public vice, the final doorway is
homage to Ewalt’s favorite architectural element of Times Square—the Peepland keyhole,
which kept its wary eye on the devils’ playground for two decades.
With landscapes re-imagined from his own source photography, Ewalt’s models for his
series of digital paintings Deuce Diableries are friends cast based on their
otherworldly looks and smoldering sexuality. The principle character is Ivan Ortiz,
Ewalt’s inspiration since their meeting at the Gaiety Male Burlesk, who appears in each
of the thirteen Diableries. These works make reference the 1860s subversive stereoviews,
proposing devils as the logical inhabitants of the inverted world of Times Square with
its alternative morality. The space is ruled by a large-scale marquee sign bearing the
name of the Tura Satana, the undisputed pre-punk icon of film and burlesque.
A reliquary houses a series of Burlesk Bibles—used by burlesque and vaudeville
performers to transport money from town to town without detection. Ewalt continues this
theme with souvenirs that didn’t exist, but could have, crafting a series of resin half
domes containing the currency of Times Square, oversized pin-up lighters, and t-shirts
from male burlesque venues and sex emporiums. A map showing the Times Square district’s
extensive venues of vice also points out the locations of the Diableries. The exhibition
is scored by a forty-two hour soundtrack, which changes eras like a radio and showcases
the advertisements and music evoking strippers, show people, pimps, pros, and addicts
that made the Deuce dangerous and hypnotic.
Scott Ewalt is a New York based artist that is primarily known for his digital work. He
studied at Princeton University under James Seawright and later received a graduate
degree under computer design pioneer Rebecca Allen at UCLA. He first showed a Diablerie
in a group exhibition at Feature Inc., NY in 1996. His work has been included in
exhibitions such as B-B-B-BAD ... an exhibition with attitudes (2011) and Nobody Gets to
See the Wizard. Not Nobody. Not Nohow (2010) at Anna Kustera Gallery, NY and DEAD
FLOWERS (2010) at Participant Inc, NY and Vox Populi, Philadelphia. His work is on
permanent exhibition at the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural
History, Digital Galaxy Project (1998-present). Ewalt has collaborated with Charles
Atlas, Kenny Scharf, Kembra Pfahler, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, and E.V. Day; and as
lover of LP design has designed album covers for Marc Almond, the Demolition Doll Rods,
Jayne County, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Romy Haag, the Toilet Boys, Amanda
Lepore, and the Ones; and appeared in films such as Matthew Barney’s in Cremaster 2 and
Charles Atlas’ Staten Island Sex Cult. He continues to work in nightclubs for fun and
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