Tuesday, June 13, 2023

blending politics and humour


HUNGER finds out more about the live-performance-focused creation of their first album since the pandemic.

9 June 2023

Five minutes with Dream Wife: The pop-punk band on the importance of blending politics and humour

HUNGER finds out more about the live-performance-focused creation of their first album since the pandemic.

The London-based trio Dream Wife released their debut self-titled album a little over five years ago, with their sophomore album So When You Gonna… following in 2020. While that latter record was a success in the UK charts and named one of Rough Trade’s Top 10 Albums of the Year, hopes of performing it live were soon dashed by the pandemic. The release of their third studio album, Social Lubrication, this Friday (June 9th) sets out to recapture the centrality and joy of playing music live and experiencing it collectively.

The band — made up Rakel (vocals), Alice (guitar), and Bella (bassist) — initially formed in 2014 as a performance project while the three of them were studying at Brighton University, and have gone from strength to strength since, opening for the Rolling Stones at Hyde Park last year. The new album is entirely self-written and self-produced, and their lyrics are more cuttingly witty than ever. In the band’s own words, Social Lubrication is “hyper-lusty rock and roll with a political punch,” with a “healthy dose of playfulness and fun thrown in.” This perfect mix of politics and personal, of seriousness and humour, is what allows the band to get punk back to what it really is and should be. Not only do they skilfully borrow from the genre sonically and aesthetically, but they are committed to unapologetically pushing back against patriarchal systems, while understanding that fun, empathy, and community should never be forgotten or left behind. Here, HUNGER catches up with Dream Wife to discuss the upcoming album, their belief in speaking their minds, and the importance of collectively sweating to live music.

Where did the inspiration come from for the group’s name?

Bella: We landed on the name Dream Wife really early on – before we even had a first practice. As a name its evolved with us and taken on many different meanings throughout our time as a band. Initially it was a funny twist on the fantasy role women are often expected to perform or position they are deemed to occupy but as we have grown together it has become a real symbol for the unity of being in a band. We are each other’s wives! Committed to each other emotionally, creatively, logistically. Even contractually! Being in a band is so much like a family, like a marriage – you get to experience all the parts of life together and all the versions of each other in a very intimate and candid way.

You described your new album Social Lubrication as “politically punchy”, and speaking your mind is something you’ve never shied away from. Do you feel as though you still have a responsibility to be a voice for the voiceless?

Bella: All art is political when in the public sphere and we try to honour and respect the privilege of having a platform, with aim toward the collective good! I wouldn’t quite say we have a responsibility to be a ‘voice for the voiceless’ – that sounds like a saviour complex – but we do have a responsibility to honestly speak to our own experiences and views with understanding that we are not isolated in our struggles, that we are part of a tapestry of intersecting identities and groups. While at the same time understanding where it’s not our place to speak and passing the mic when appropriate.

Do you feel like more musicians need to take a similar approach?

Bella: Yes and no. There’s a lot of different ways to be political in art. Music that speaks to liberated sexuality or full spectrum emotions or intimacy or connection or just for dancing is political in that these forms of connection are actively rebellious. Or just taking up space as a LGBTQ+, POC, disabled, and/or neurodivergent person in music is powerful. People gotta do what they gotta do in their own sweet way. And in the same breath better not to get all your politics from pop songs!!

Obviously, being open politically has been a hallmark of your music for a long time, but was there ever a time where you weren’t so confident about putting so many of your beliefs out there?

Rakel: We made Dream Wife when we were friends at the end of our university days in Brighton and it was a way to jump out of our comfort zone, a way to travel and just make silly fun stuff with more of our friends. Before Dream Wife we had all been in bands but this is the first musical project where we felt we could fully express ourselves within a collective such a band. It hadn’t felt that way before for any of us. That trust and friendship that we had when we made this – we’ve built it up, and that has really allowed us to be more confident both in ourselves and with what we want to say, how we say it and why it matters to us. It’s so important to put your money where your mouth is and since the beginning, we’ve worked with various community led charities and uplifting our community is vital.

One thing you’re very vocal about is the need for improved representation of women and the LGBTQIA community within the music industry. What do you think still needs to be done to improve visibility for these individuals?

Alice: The change needs to be deeper than just surface level. It’s obviously great and good for there to be more diversity in artists on the front line, playing shows, in the public eye – however more change needs to happen behind the scenes and in the positions of power within the industry. Who is making the decisions and calling the shots within the music industry? Who is in control? We need to diversify the people pulling the strings at the top and making things happen behind the scenes to allow for meaningful change throughout the industry. The music industry needs to be uprooted at a deeper level than just a visible surface level change, which can often just be performative and a way to appear as though change is actually happening within the industry, when the majority is still cis white men at the helm, steering the ship.

You also have some fun-loving tracks sprinkled in, like ‘Hot (Don’t Date a Musician)’. Is having those moments of comic relief something you were intentional about?

Alice: Comic relief is 100 per cent part of our agenda! As the saying goes, ‘You have to make them laugh before you can make them cry!’ As a group of friends we do just have a lot of laughs, we are silly together, and our music encapsulates that too. It’s also important for us to acknowledge the place of a song like ‘Hot’ alongside a song like ‘Leech’, which is, from the off, a political statement-wielding beast. ‘Hot’ is a good time, poking fun at ourselves. At a live show it really pops off – the whole crowd screaming “hot” in unison is very, very fun. Moments like these and a track like ‘Hot’ stand tall in their own political sense – having fun as a political act, pleasure as a political act. To us a song like ‘Hot’ can be seen in a political light, albeit different from the vibe of ‘Leech’. ‘Hot’ is still its own political banger, we can be silly and have fun and in the same act be saying “fuck the system”.

Why shouldn’t you date a musician?

Alice: I just moved house, and let me tell you, it was a battle. Musicians tend to have a lot of literal baggage. For me it was basically moving a whole home recording studio, various audio toys, and AV equipment. My partner is very understanding, even though “musician” can, in my case, be an interchangeable term for hoarder.

Rakel: I fully support you if you want to date them/us, but heads-up, they are never home and have irregular eating hours.

The track ‘Leech’ explores the dark side of the industry and its gatekeepers – was there a particular experience that led to the creation of that song?

Rakel: Many shared experiences unfortunately. The lyrics to ‘Leech’ were written in one go, in a corner hunched over my phone in a festival field shortly after festivals were allowed once again at the end of summer 2021. ‘Hot’ was partly inspired by just walking around festival sites and seeing all these beautiful, hot friends and the overwhelming joy of being back together embracing live music – and ‘Leech’ explores the dark side of that. I remember walking around and bumping into people from the past that I was surprised to see were still holding their position of power in the music industry, and that feeling that nothing has changed after all that has happened these past few years. I was pissed off and didn’t wanna hold anything back and that’s how the lyrics came about. Musically it is also inspired by PJ Harvey’s album and mixing of ‘Rid of Me’. That tug-of-war between an eerie, whispery refrain smashed with a wall of sound is what we wanted to pour into this song. It’s not a comfortable pop song, it’s a statement.

The album is entirely self-produced and self-written – is that something you feel is important in terms of keeping it as authentic as possible and your view?

Rakel: Having Alice taking the lead on this record was an incredible experience and putting our sound into our own qualified hands felt right for this album – who better knows your sound than yourself? We’ve been fortunate with the producers we have worked with in the past and it is always a collaborative effort making an album together. For this album we wanted to strip it back to a raw core. Three instruments, drums, guitar and bass and vocal. That’s how we play live – there’s no playback, there’s no additional players it’s just us four rocking out [they are joined by a drummer when touring] and that’s how we wanted the album to sound like – our live shows. We really come alive together as a band at our live shows. And we just wanted capture that in a pure sense on record! We recorded it in Nave Studios in Leeds, all in the same room. Often just using the same single take for the whole track. Perfectionism is boring to us. The magic comes from locking in together live and riding that wave through.

It’s been three years since the release of your last project. How do you feel you’ve evolved as artists since then?

Rakel: It’s wild, isn’t it? Our last record was released at the start of the pandemic and we never got to tour that record. When we started writing this record we wrote a bunch of songs that never made the cut for ‘Social Lubrication’ because frankly they were too sad. Sad ass songs. It was a sad time. It wasn’t until festivals started again where we found our stride with what we wanted this album to sound like, and we wanted it to sound raw, sticky, honest, and fun as hell. We would finish a festival show and go straight into our writing space running off the high of what we’d felt experiencing the joy of festival culture and live music. We’d try out new songs that we’d written the week before at a festival show and would go listen to their reaction and that’s how we’d form some of the song structures. Add a chorus there because they were singing that part back to us or cut or that bit because it would work better simplifying it. The audience’s reaction is a huge part of our songwriting so it’s the best way to see if a structure works.

You’ve also got your tour coming up later this year – how does it feel knowing that, since your debut in 2018, you’ve still managed to maintain longevity and a dedicated fanbase still coming out to support you? 

Rakel: Well, we only got to tour that debut, and we toured it to the bone, I tell ya. We didn’t get to tour our second record due to the pandemic, so it feels pretty new and exciting to be going on this massive tour again. We’re very thankful that people connect with our music and touring is the highlight of being musicians for us. Getting to meet and connect with people IRL through a live show experience. That’s why we release albums – so we can tour them lol.

For anyone who’s never been, what can fans expect from a Dream Wife show?

Alice: Overheard in the crowd at the end of a DW show: “That was like a work-out in a sauna!” Be prepared to sweat, rock and roll!

Rakel: Yes, bring a towel. The best compliments I’ve heard from people is that they’ve met their best friends at a Dream Wife or their new bandmates. And that just fills my heart with joy that people go to our shows to find, dance, and mosh with other like-minded people.

What artists are inspiring you right now?

Alice: We get to support Le Tigre next week! and they were a band that really inspired us when we were starting out. Their ability to have so much fun with their music and be political at the same time has always been an inspiring combo to us. Having a good time as a political act – we are so down with that.

Rakel: I think I might faint when I meet them. They really got us through those early teenage years. My friend asked me the other day what our set list would look like, and I said probably just praising Le Tigre and telling the crowd how much they mean to us and hopefully get some songs in as well.

Do you have a specific goal in mind with your career?

Alice: Certainly right now, on the verge of releasing our third album, our goal is taking these new songs out around the world and sharing them with others. We have a lot of gratitude to the people who come down to our shows and support us, and to be able to share new music with them is a total joy – we can’t wait!

Rakel: More orgasms. For all. The special edition of the vinyl for ‘Social Lubrication’ that we made with Blood Records has this sleeve made of lube – so in case of an emergency.

  • Writer Iris Nicholls

Gray Market Weekly #379: Unknown Lands


The Gray Market Weekly #379: Unknown Lands

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Adam Alessi, The Walker (2023). © JSP Art Photography, courtesy of the artist and C L E A R I N G, New York / Brussels / Los Angeles.



Seven days in the evolving business of fine art

This week, searching through the haze…


Almost everyone in the art world these days feels unmoored. The disorientation is partly the effect of sheer volume. Even if one restricts their view to New York alone, the city hosted so many gallery shows, art fairs, auctions, and one-off events in May 2023 that living through the month felt like weathering a fever severe enough to induce hallucinations.  

The state of the market is shifty, too. The consensus is that the spring evening sales signaled the start of a long-anticipated correction. But good luck finding a cogent explanation for what’s up and what’s down that’s neither reductive nor abstruse. Doomsayers and the panic-stricken see the ghost of the 2008 recession lurking around every corner, while moderates think we’re closer to the barely remembered belt-tightening of 2016, and others argue that the 2020s are so economically, politically, and culturally novel that historical comps are powerless to frame the current state of affairs.  

Gone as well is any dominant aesthetic or overwhelmingly favored group of artists. The demand for deeply personal figuration by artists of color has undeniably waned; it’s just that no one seems sure whether its sturdiest replacement is a new wave of abstractiona contemporary update on the Baroquea revival of Surrealisma quantitative aesthetic, or something else entirely.  

Basically, we’ve clearly kicked free of the most recent past, but we’re still waiting for a dawn bright enough to clarify where, exactly, we’ve landed next. Meanwhile, different factions of the art world see vastly different shapes in the gloaming.  

It’s this lack of grounding in time or place that makes Los Angeles-based Adam Alessi’s practice feel so of the moment. And it’s the flight path of the 29-year-old artist’s career—as charted by Clearing, whose résumé for leading emerging artists to a new level has few equals—that will provide a valuable indicator of collectors’ and institutions’ preferences in this murky new era.  

The scenes in “The Village,” Alessi’s solo exhibition at the New York flagship of Clearing (which stylizes its name in all caps and extreme spacing between letters), smirk at attempts to pin them to any definitive epoch, region, or culture. Often centered on wan figures with facial features indebted to Spirit Halloween witches and Carnival masks, the paintings and drawings evoke folklore without a clear origin point. His characters’ crushed top hats and tilted fedoras recall bygone bohemians, peasants, or pilgrims—unless you’ve lived in Los Angeles long enough to know how much rich hippies in Laurel Canyon and bearded East Side trust funders adore brimmed statement hats. The characters emerge from backdrops that vary between layered color fields and sketchy forests with occasional cottages, the latter of which could equally be visions of a pre-modern past, a timeless rural lifestyle, or a late capitalist effort to go back to the land because cities have failed us. 

In short, don’t read too much into the wisps of Toulouse-Lautrec. Alessi admits that influence is in the mix, but in his mind, each image simultaneously represents anywhere and nowhere.  

“I’d be disappointed if people could place it in 19th century Paris, because I’m not really interested in that,” he told me in one of Clearing’s ground floor galleries during install of “The Village.” 

Clearing founder Olivier Babin said by phone that he and Alessi had already started discussing his New York debut while the gallery was winding down the lease on its inaugural space in Bushwick and hunting for its next headquarters in the city. While the artist began showing with Clearing in late 2021, this exhibition is the first solo outing at the gallery’s new home on the Bowery and only the second show staged there overall. (“Maiden Voyage,” a group affair that included work by every artist in the gallery’s orbit, closed May 21.)  

“I wanted to start with a group show because it would have been unfair to everyone else to give the first spot to a new artist with the gallery, and also undue pressure on him,” Babin said. Beyond that one extraordinary circumstance, however, he had “complete trust” in Alessi’s work—and total conviction that it was time to introduce him to New York on a grand scale. 

“First show, last show, it doesn’t matter. He deserves a show,” Babin said.  

Yet “The Village” went on view at an unpredictable moment in the Empire City’s art world, as buyers and sellers alike try to recalibrate their expectations after a high-variance slate of spring sales events. In this context, Clearing’s 12-year legacy of shepherding young phenoms (from Harold Ancart and Korakrit Arunanondchai, to Meriem Bennani and Hugh Hayden) lends Alessi’s show a kind of unstoppable-force-meets-immovable-object dynamic. The tension is almost too appropriate.  


Before Alessi’s own studio career took off, his ties to the art world proper were nonexistent. The strongest personal connection he had was a plein air-painting great uncle who he never actually met. His exposure to the establishment consisted of a few scattered childhood trips to the Getty and the Museum of Contemporary Art, and a couple of mass-market prints of Renaissance works hanging in his home. 

He became a voracious image-maker in his adolescence. His commitment to creating visuals overrode his commitment to high school, he explained, especially once he started accepting freelance photography assignments. To graduate, he eventually had to take a summer course in design, where his traditionalist teacher forced the class to work out the basics with rulers and other manual tools.  

“Back then for me it was hell. But now I look back on it, and I learned a lot about how to lay things out properly,” Alessi said. 

That experience turned out to be his last brush with formal artistic training. His education ever since has been self-guided and free-ranging. “I was open to everything that I put myself in front of. That was my school. I’m trying to find things that no one has ever heard of,” he said of his reference points.

It took close to a decade before his DIY approach found traction in the L.A. art world, partly thanks to a side door he found in the city’s food scene. Alessi first got into cooking through a friend who went to culinary school, then landed what he called his “first consistent job” in the kitchen of Jon and Vinny’s, a beloved Italian spot opened by Angeleno chefs-turned-restaurateurs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, when he was in his (very) early twenties.  

The connection was auspicious on multiple levels. Shook and Dotolo have now been deeply entrenched in the L.A. art world for decades. In particular, Dotolo joined the Hammer Museum’s board of advisors in January 2022 and even curated a food-themed 2016 exhibition at the Los Angeles gallery M+B. Alessi, who today calls Dotolo “a great friend and a great collector,” fondly remembers a Jonas Wood work hanging in the kitchen at Jon and Vinny’s during his days on the payroll.  

Alessi spent the next several years living a double life in cooking and in art, with the bonds in one sometimes strengthening the bonds in the other. He split a garage studio with fellow rising L.A. artist Jan Gatewood for a time; he also co-founded Insect, an artist-run space in the city’s Frogtown neighborhood that staged a year’s worth of shows just before the pandemic. He eventually became a regular at Jonas Wood’s semi-legendary art-world poker game, alongside other Angeleno artists like Mark Grotjahn and Matt Johnson, dealers like Nino Mier and Blum and Poe cofounder Jeff Poe, and a rotating cast of major collectors, auction executives, and mainstream celebrities.  

Trying to parse how these intermingling relationships buoyed his studio practice, and vice versa, is a textbook chicken-versus-egg dilemma. What we do know is that Clearing wasn’t the first gallery to take interest in Alessi’s idiosyncratic visual universe.  

Mier, another dealer with a strong record for talent-spotting, showcased his work in a January 2020 group exhibition curated by Purple magazine editor-in-chief Olivier Zahm. A one-person show at Los Angeles gallery Smart Objects opened later that year. Solo booths at NADA House (with Zoe Fisher Projects) and Felix (with M+B) followed in 2021, before Smart Objects staged Alessi’s second one-man exhibition in spring 2022.  

Not surprisingly, some of Los Angeles’s most influential young tastemakers caught the scent early in this progression. “I first discovered Adam’s work several years ago through Chadwick Gibson of Smart Objects and have been collecting the work since,” advisor and curator Jack Siebert wrote in an email. “I was intrigued by Adam’s attention to detail, but also frightened by some of the imagery. Adam invited me over to his studio, and I immediately became immersed in the wicked world Adam creates.”  

Still, M+B’s Felix presentation turned out to be especially consequential. Babin didn’t just see Alessi’s work there for the first time; he bought a small canvas from the booth—the ultimate vote of confidence from a gallerist with an eye for emerging artists. “Once you’ve seen the work, you can’t unsee it,” Babin said. 

The encounter wasn’t pure serendipity. Babin had been clued into Alessi’s work by their mutual friend Calvin Marcus, whose own steep ascent to the art world’s upper echelons has included nearly a decade’s worth of exhibitions with Clearing. At first, though, the impact of the paintings had more to do with their upside than their consistency.  

“I might see five paintings, and four I wouldn’t care for, but one would be extraordinary. That’s the way I always look at work: How good can the best be, and what can be done to make sure everything is going to [level] 10?” said Babin. 

Still, the exposure, the personal recommendation, and Alessi’s own virtues accelerated his eventual entry to Clearing’s roster. He and Babin started a dinner club together at the latter’s house midway through 2021. Within the gallery’s program (setting aside art fairs), Babin first curated Alessi into a group show that ran from November to December 2021 in the gallery’s Bushwick flagship. This was followed by appearances in three more Clearing group exhibitions in 2022: sequentially, one each in New York, Beverly Hills, and Brussels.   

Alessi’s inaugural solo outing with Clearing opened only two months after the aforementioned Brussels group show closed. Titled “Cruiser’s Creek,” it consisted of just seven paintings and one small watercolor, all installed in the front section of the same Clearing venue. “The Village” debuted roughly nine months later.


The current show’s title has multiple meanings. On one hand, “The Village” alludes to the strange enclave of characters in Alessi’s latest paintings. But he and Babin both say that it is also an inside reference to the Los Angeles art scene, whose recent portrayal as a global juggernaut in the art media belies a humbler, tighter-knit reality—one that Alessi’s rise also reflects.  

“The art world is small in New York, but in L.A. it’s minuscule. The parts are almost touching,” Babin said. 

To me, framing “The Village” as a distorted mirror of Alessi’s home bolsters a current in the work that dates back to at least his debut at Smart Objects. His practice plays with the Freudian sense of the uncanny: a subtle destabilization of something that at first seems deeply familiar, or conversely, the discovery of a subtle relatability in something that at first seems deeply unfamiliar. (“Uncanny” is the English translation of the German unheimlich, literally “unhomely.”) Freud’s argument was that, no matter which direction it is triggered from, this friction between comfort and discomfort wears away old assumptions and leads to new revelations. 

Crucially, though, Alessi is very consciously playing with uncanniness in his work. Think of it as the camp uncanny: Goya or Honoré Daumier by way of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The characters are odd, maybe even uncomfortable, but not menacing (at least if you give them the chance).  

“I always see them as funny. It’s not [Francis] Bacon,” he said. “I want people to relate to them because I feel like them all the time.” 

It’s remarkable how much truer this conception of the work feels after actually meeting Alessi. In a vacuum, it’s easy to imagine many of his scenes being conjured by some unsmiling, egomaniacal goth in a subterranean lair. But while Alessi is serious about his craft, he’s also warm, affable, and down-to-earth—a lot closer on the personality spectrum to Anthony Bourdain than to Aleister Crowley.

It’s no wonder he’s built so many strong relationships in the L.A. scene so quickly. In art and in business, never underestimate the power of being a good hang. The question looming over his New York premiere is how successfully his talents and work can scale in the art world’s capital.  


Clearing has been deliberately but judiciously using art fairs to tour Alessi’s work around the world for some time. In the past 18 months, the gallery has included one of his paintings—and only one of his paintings—in its presentations at the 2022 editions of Felix, Frieze London, Paris+, and Art Basel Miami Beach, as well as this year’s iterations of Frieze Los Angeles, Art Brussels, Frieze New York, and Art Basel in Basel.  

The strategy seems to have paid off. Jack Siebert claimed that buyers across continents “have fallen in love with Adam’s work and will go on wild searches to find the right painting for their collection.” These fans include “collectors from L.A. to Italy who have acquired Adam’s work on the secondary market.” Another plugged-in source told me that a strong contingent of buyers in East Asia have been circling the work via Los Angeles-based intermediaries.

Naturally, the demand has shifted Alessi’s primary market. Most of the large paintings in “The Village” are priced from $40,000 to $60,000; small canvases range from $9,000 to $15,000; and the drawings on view near the gallery’s entrance are asking $4,500 each.  

For comparison, Babin said that the small painting he bought at Felix in 2021 cost $2,000. In Alessi’s first solo exhibition at Smart Objects that year, the largest canvas (which clocked in at six feet by five feet) was priced at $7,000; in his 2022 solo outing there, a three-foot-by-four-foot painting was available for $13,000. 

While those numbers certainly indicate a significant increase, the operative question is whether it’s an unsustainable or unreasonable one. “The Village” is Alessi’s fourth one-person show. Meanwhile, sources relayed last fall that Gagosian was offering new paintings by Anna Weyant, born nearly two years earlier than Alessi and sporting only one more solo gallery show on her C.V., for between $300,000 and $600,000 each. Several other ultra-contemporary artists with similar track records land on a continuum between his current prices and hers, reinforcing that “too expensive” is always a relative designation.

Some of this ballooning has nothing to do with the art market specifically. Inflation and higher interest rates have come for everyone and everything in the aftermath of the pandemic, whether we’re talking about the cost of paint and stretcher bars, packing and shipping services, or art fair booths and gallery dinners. The mechanism to offset those cost increases is the same for dealers as for landlords, supermarket chains, and multinational corporations: raise prices.  

Yet it would be naïve to behave as if the economic aftermath of Covid is the lone driver of this change. The line separating aggression from pragmatism in the gallery sector was being continuously redrawn well before the pandemic, and it’s possible that no Federal Reserve policy or macroeconomic statistic will ever return it to where it used to be a decade or two ago. 

“When I arrived in New York almost 15 years ago, there were completely different price brackets for young artists,” Babin said. “Now it’s not easy to find a good work of art under $10,000. So, sadly, a lot of interesting people are getting priced out.”

Artists, not just sellers, have had to adapt, too. Alessi shrugged off the possibility that chatter about his burgeoning career arc might distract him from his single-minded focus on the work. “I find joy in making, in being at home, in spending time with my family and friends. Seeing this [show] with them is what makes me happy,” he told me. While his sentiment felt sincere, it’s important to recognize that his sober perspective might come from the exact opposite of innocence about art-world machinations.  

“Young artists are really no longer naive at all,” Babin said. “Now it’s really part of their DNA to be hyper-aware of the traps and the perks, the do’s and the don’ts.” 

In his mind, then, Clearing’s main tasks are to amplify Alessi’s instincts and advise him wherever he needs or wants input, be it on logistics, production, or just the importance of always putting the work first. More than anything, that means positioning him to play the long game: to place his works in the best private collections, make inroads with esteemed institutions, partner with galleries who share Clearing’s vision, and protect him from speculators. 

There is alternately work to be done and proof of concept on these fronts. Alessi has yet to be curated into an institutional show as of publication time. But apart from a contribution to a recent White Columns benefit auction, no piece of his has appeared under the hammer yet, either. These basic facts underscore his broader place in the industry on the occasion of his first major New York gallery show: suspended on the high wire between lasting curatorial recognition and quick-twitch market opportunism, doing everything he can to stay steady. 

What matters in the end is whether the timelessness and placelessness that Alessi has been pursuing in his images resonates beyond this unsettled moment and his existing base of supporters.

If the motley crew manifested in Alessi’s canvases can mesmerize higher and higher caliber collectors, museum professionals, and other tastemakers in a widening circle of geographical influence, then his success will further prove that a general art-market correction can border on inconsequential to the right individual artists with the right backing. If not, then skeptics can hoist up age-old arguments about the dangers of pushing young talent too far, too fast, even in an epoch where norms seem to be disintegrating daily. 

Either way, Alessi’s skewed harlequins and scribbled apparitions will be watching from the forests and color fields, silently hoping behind their curled lips that they’re on the right side of the punchline. 

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