Joey Frank: “Seeker An’ the Trick” at The Intercourse


Joey Frank, pictured beside his locomotive installation, "The Seeker an' the Trick"

It’s refreshing to see an exhibit that displays the wonder not of special effects or 3D trickery, but of a classic model train set–straight from an eight-year-old’s holiday wish list–as the backbone of an installation. In Joey Frank’s “Seeker An’ the Trick,” an installation now on view at The Intercourse in Red Hook, the train traverses a series of tunnel-like paintings, connecting a house, parents and children, and mysteriously, a topless Egyptian mummy, like a secret peak into a dream.

The figures in the paintings the train connects have many of the facial features of Alex Katz’s work, as the exhibition notes reference, but also the candy colors and exaggerated lips of Elizabeth Peyton. The construction however, is all Frank’s own, reminiscent of a dream, or perhaps an amusement park haunted house ride. The train is our inanimate tour guide through this world, seemingly placid at first, with interior views of a suburban home, but then slightly more sinister as the adults appear to fighting, and the mummy is revealed to have breasts. Images like this appeal to our voyeuristic urges, but not in a violent way.

As the train burrows through the paintings, sometimes through a convex passage, sometimes through a tiny flap, it makes it seem as if you are spying, not only on a family, but on their dreams. Where else would the view be so fragmented? It’s tantalizing, and gives the viewer ample opportunities to consider what this train is supposed to represent. Is it a tour through the children of the arguing adults? Is it the viewer’s dream? Is Frank simply reminding us just how fun model trains are?

A second view however, may cause more critical questions, not about the meaning, but about the physical quality of the exhibition. I wished that the paintings, which look like they’ve been painted on inverted cardboard boxes, could be as neat and inventive as the train that connects them. That’s not to say production values are paramount, especially in an installation based around a favorite childhood toy. But much like a beautiful dress whose seams are coming apart on the inside, I wished the structural integrity of the pieces could be as stable and tight as the ideas behind it.

Come to the beautiful, barn-like Intercourse for this installation, but stay long enough to study the sculptures in the other half of the gallery. These are by The Intercourse’s owner Dustin Yellin, the artist who opened the gallery earlier this year, in the former Time Moving and Storage Building on Pioneer Street. His vision for this Civil War-era warehouse includes a gallery, an artists’ residency program, public performances and lectures, classes, and events in the space’s large garden.

Currently The Intercourse is also home to Yellin’s sculptures, inspired by Hieronymus Bosch and reminiscent of large-scale fossils. Only instead of extinct animals preserved in amber, he uses magazine cut-outs of various body parts and pop culture references to compose figures and scenes, all washed in blue and green, then frozen in glass and acrylic. They’re like the fossils of the future–what the next dominant species may discover, display, and infer about the humans of 2012.

“Seeker an’ the Trick” runs through Oct. 16 at The Intercourse, 159 Pioneer Street in Red Hook. Viewing hours are Wednesdays 8pm to 12am, and Thursdays through Sundays 11am to 7pm, with a “Full Moon Opening” this Saturday, September 29 with drinks in the garden, special live performances, and more surprises between 4 and 8pm.

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