press release

Opens: Friday, September 9, 7–9 p.m.


Jesse Bercowetz and Matt Bua create the largest BOWIE KNIFE ever made.

Bragging is elevated into a novel, uniquely American Art.*

The Bowie Knife's proud hilt and man-killer curve are the signature of its designer Jim Bowie (pronounce BOO-ie), legendary frontiersman of the West and time-honored hero of the Alamo. Jack the Pelican launches its Fall season with Jesse Bercowetz and Matt Bua's fierce, gung-ho homage. It cantilevers 120 feet through the spine of the gallery and is reputedly sharp enough to cut a tomato.

This masterful wreckage of salvaged debris explodes into a demonic, hoodlum's opera. The handle is a traffic cop's Cushman all-weather motor scooter, tricked out with lights, sub woofers, bass shakers, spiked chrome hubcaps, and a Knights of Columbus long-sword hood ornament. The hilt is an old fridge, modified into an iron maiden (that horrific medieval torture device). It opens to a light show and the screaming throb of eight-year-olds (gathered up from the YMCA), singing "Run to Hills. Run for your lives"—the chorus in the team's blazing rendition of Iron Maiden's Run to the Hills, which is a history lesson in the genocide of America's westward expansion. —"White man came across the sea/He brought us pain and misery/We fought him hard, we fought him well/Out on the plains we gave him hell."

The blade is a scrap tin canoe, in deference to Kon Tiki, popular archeologist Thor Heyerdahl's do-it-yourselfer of a pre-colonial native American boat that'd take on the Pacific to Polynesia. Its outstretched oars frame portraits of pioneers, revolutionaries and martyrs. Through peepholes and creaky cabinet doors in its sides, one can look onto a model of the Guggenheim Balboa (—"meets pinhead"); a dry ketchup making device with knives, blenders, a garbage disposal unit, tomatoes, walnuts and pumps; a desert of cacti, heat and lizards; dead bonsai; living scorpions; and a video of a knife throwing contest. Emily Lambert sings a passionate (if off-key) cover of The Doors' love song Indian Summer.

Encrustations of minutiae are everywhere—painted images, words and sculptural elements in the anti-craft tradition—and blaring over it all is their anthem, A Bowie Knife for a Lifer. —"WE'VE GOT THE BRAGGIN RIGHTS" leads the chorus, "THE KNIFE, THE KNIFE, THE KNIFE IS ON FIRE!/FREEZE US IN A BLOCK OF ICE/AND PEE ON THE PYRE'S FIRE." These and the lyrics of another of the four songs that animate the show were processed into rock-ballad song poems by a bargain songster-for-hire they found on Ebay.

Jesse Bercowetz and Matt Bua began their collaboration with the Mir2 Project at Smack Mellon in 2001, along with several others, including Ward Shelley, with whom they continued to work for several years. Largely on their own since 2003 (they recently did "Under Island" on Roosevelt Island, a massive installation on Governor's Island with LMCC and a special project at Jessica Murray Projects with Carrie Dashow), they have achieved a reputation for large-scale outlaw assemblages in the form of tree-houses, clubs and chandeliers. Their ambitious, resoundingly crude displays have cropped up at public and private venues in New York City (including PS1's "Romantic Detachment", a prominent outdoor installation at the Brooklyn Museum's "Open House: Working in Brooklyn, and earlier, Exit Art's "Exit Biennial: Reconstructon"); throughout the country (notably Rice University and Franconia) and internationally (including the Steirisc Herbst in Graz, Austria). Their next project will be unveiled in September at the Coniston Water Festival in the UK Lake District.

* "Heroic tales rise out of people on the move, discovering what is unknown, possessing themselves of new, strange lands, leaving history behind, pushing into a barely perceived future. Bragging is elevated into a novel, uniquely American art." --Richard Erdoes, Legends and Tales of the American West

only in german

Jesse Bercowetz & Matt Bua