Superchief Goes West With a Truckload of NYC Culture

May 9, 2014 | Marina Galperina

On May 15th at a warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles, Superchief Gallery is having a grand opening of their new location. They’re still staying in the Lower East Side and throwing pop up art shows and BBQs in Brooklyn all summer. But they’ve driven a truck load of art across the country, so LA gets to enjoy a piece of “us.” ANIMAL spoke to Superchief founders Bill Dunleavy and Zed Zipco about their gigantic grand opening, curating New York and how it all started with an exploding couch.

ANIMAL: What’s the best part about being in Los Angeles?

Ed Zipco: We love having the space to really do some big stuff, it reminds us of the old warehouse days of Brooklyn/Bushwick but this area in LA has way less of the overly-policed vibe of NYC.

Bill Dunleavy: In LA you can drink in public, sleep on the street, ride your bike on the sidewalk and pretty much get away with murder, but they write 200 dollar tickets for jaywalking. It’s kind of the anti-NY in terms of the police situation.

How did you pick the artists and the works?

Zipco: The artists we picked for the grand opening are almost entirely artists that we’ve worked with over the 52 weeks we’ve done shows on the Lower East Side in 2013. We’ve had those relationships for what seems like forever, but now we’re taking the work to the West Coast, which is a first for some of these artists. As far as curation, we feel that we are definitely representing a community of NYC artists. We’ve been working hard to connect those dots in our community in NYC and we’re super excited to start bringing the coasts together as well.

Photograph by Jane Chardiet

Dunleavy: I’m excited to pair up the work of the photographers in the show. Vinnie and Justin Smith are two brothers who lead incredibly romantic lives traveling between Baltimore, New York and the West Coast. Jane Chardiet is incredibly active in the NYC DIY community. Todd Fisher has been living on the lunatic fringe for over a decade… The list goes on.

There’s Tod Seelie whose blog Suckapants has always been really inspiring for a whole younger generation of documentary photographers, myself included. And his work with Swoon on the Swimming Cities Project is incredible, and we’re so thrilled to have so much of his and Swoon’s work in the show. I think that community does some of the most interesting work in New York.

Photograph by Tod Seelie

Dunleavy: We have a couple street artists from NY in the show. We have some very large pieces from Swoon which are centerpieces of the show. And we’ve got some fine art from Andrew Poneros who used to make street art under the name Pork.

Zipco: There are a few new people on the list who I’m excited to work with: Prettypuke, a Los Angeles photographer, Lucien Shapiro, a Cali guy who makes incredible masks and weapons, Serra Victoria Bothwell Fells who makes amazing wooden sculptures.

Dunleavy: Then there’s Coby Kennedy who is perhaps next year’s most interesting street artist since his assault rifle vending machines are designed to be displayed on the street. There are a lot of graffiti writers in the show, but I can’t say who, and their work in the show is separate from their work on the streets.

Reckoning of the Baller, Coby Kennedy; Steel, fabric, plastic, appropriated Ace of Spades champagne bottles

How did Superchief begin?

Zipco: Back in 2012, Jayson Musson had a show at Family Business Gallery, Maurizio Cattelan and Massimiliano Gioni’s tiny experimental gallery in Chelsea, and if you remember, he released a promotional video for his open call “It’s a Small Small World” exhibition which was opened up to any artist who could drop work off to the gallery on a certain date. Bill and I were watching the video from the couch we had at the loft where we ran Superchief.

We had been running the website from that couch for three years, and the idea of dunking that couch in latex paint and hanging it up in the gallery seemed like the thing to do, so we painted it, put our outlines on it like they were shadows from an atomic blast and hung it from chains in the middle of the gallery. Jayson also made every artist who dropped off work sign a waver that their work could be damaged or lost or covered by other art and it would be fine, so we stuffed our couch with fireworks and after Spankrock played the opening party we shot off fireworks in the gallery and lit the place on fire. (We brought a fire extinguisher, because we’re nice like that.) Some artists and managers freaked out, so Jayson had to pretend he was mad about it, but he whispered in my ear that he loved it, and signed his signature four feet wide on the back of the couch for us to keep as a memento.

Dunleavy: His group show inspired us to start an art gallery pretty much.

Zipco: And that collaboration piece between us and him is the first piece of art that was hung in our Williamsburg gallery and we brought it out to LA to be the first piece we hang here too… We’ve discovered much better fireworks in the past 4 years, they are called lazer cannons and would have worked a lot better in that situation.

Superchief LA grand opening reception, various artists, May 15th 6pm-12am, show open through July 31st.  (Lead Image: Cameron Michel, all images Courtesy of Superchief and the artists)