"All Bets Are Off"
New works by John Gagliano
November 16-December 20, 2007
Mazi’s in Lower East Side

Mid-exhibition Opening
Friday, November 30, 2007 from 7-9pm
112 Suffolk Street (b. Delancey & Rivington Street)
Metro:  F to Delancey and J,M,Z to Essex

Featured Above:  "Oak Tree at Santa Anita", 2007, Acrylic on canvas, 48" x 72"

What really goes on behind the scenes at the OTB?  John Gagliano has created a new body of work of characters he has met, observed, befriended and loathed.  Heightened euphoria, fear and despair are all welcome at the OTB.  As the curator, I decided to step into the world of OTB and interview him about his new series.

Joyce Manalo (JM): Where are you from originally?  Have you moved around the country at all?

John Gagliano (JG): Floral Park, New York… a suburb a few steps from queens.  Oh and Iceman from the X-men was born there too.  I have never lived outside the city for more than a few weeks, but New York is dead to me and I would very much like to relocate in the near future. 

JM: I didn’t know that Floral Park had a celebrity status.  Okay, back to New York, NY, you have a BFA from FIT with a major in illustration and minor in graphic design, currently painting and the art director at Unruly Heir.  Do you think it makes you less of an artist having a job?

JG: The thing about New York is you really do need to have one or more jobs depending on your wage in order to live here.  No, I don’t think being an artist and having a job damages my credibility at all.  Being an artist isn’t just something you do to pass the time, you have to put everything you have into it… and before you do all that you have to pay the rent.  With Unruly Heir I’m actually able to experiment with ideas and mediums that are new to me.  I’m learning a ton and if anything working there only develops new directions and opportunities for my art.  I also work five nights a week at Off Track Betting.  Is my art-cred taking a nosedive?

JM: I don’t see any arrows pointing down.  What is Unruly Heir?

JG: Unruly Heir is a new menswear label…  like Ralph Lauren, after scuffing your khakis and huffing gasoline.  It really is quite amazing to me how quickly we came from nowhere, we were the long-shot a total dark horse from the get go.  When I first got involved in Oct. 2006, I was extremely skeptical at first.  After a few months the company started to take shape and I realized I was working with some talented people.  Angelina the fashion designer has a relentless work ethic, she’s the glue that keeps us all on the same page, and Kristian Laliberte has been a liability for us.  Then the founder Joey Goodwin has this outlandish magnetic persona and you can’t help but find yourself knee deep in his modest vision.

JM: How did you come up with the idea for "All Bets Are Off" series?

JG: All Bets are Off is only a small smudge on my complete vision for OTB.  As I said before, I work for Off Track Betting, I’m the bookie behind the bulletproof glass.  This month was the five year mark of my employment.  Within the first few hours of working there I knew right away this story must be told.  Bukowski touched on it often, but I knew I could tell it differently being a visual artist, and working in the industry instead of being a frequent patron.  It took me a few years just to understand the complexity of the OTB lifestyle but soon after I began working on the novel "Suspect Superfecta". I’ve dedicated the last two and half painting years to this project and "All Bets are Off" is just a preview of its completion. 

JM: Very exciting, I look forward to seeing more pieces.  The context of your paintings are derivations of circumstances at OTB.  Are you painting from photographs, memory or life?

JG: It’s a mix of all three.  I often draw at work with just a pen and any paper lying around.  That’s really my favorite way to capture the action.  I create all of my compositions from my memory and imagination, a lot of my art are exaggerations of the actual truth but are just as close to the reality.  I spend a lot of time writing down quotes heard at work and I enjoy spinning my art off that monotonous banter.  I use photos for reference to paint from, but I use some of my friends or anyone willing to pose for me as models to better tell the story.  I then recreate those OTB experiences through my friends. 

JM: The characters you painted seem to be abject, isolated, and manic.   Which artists have influenced you in conveying emotions through brush stroke and color?

JG:  Ralph Steadman and David Hockney.  These guys are amazing to me.

JM: The themes of your paintings are very much about addiction.  Were you consciously making a statement by painting these scenes?

JG: Well the thing about horse racing and addiction is the industry wouldn’t survive if only occasional bettors played the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup.  Horse Racing is about the regulars.  The question is are the regulars addicted to gambling or just hanging out for the action?  This is just scratching the surface but addiction in general is a troubling thought, addiction in gambling is a gross misconduct.  The Racing Fans I know are not all bad lost people, many are retired old men spending their pension and passing the time.  In many ways it is a social club.  There’s another half that have lost all control, most are younger and not yet retired, but being an OTB regular, rich or poor is a never ending…quandary, they are there opening to closing.  They are at OTB more than I am.  The difference is some have a thirst for gambling you can only find in night of the living dead.

JM: Do you have any advice for first time betters at OTB?

JG: First time at OTB…  well if you don’t turn right around and leave…(1) The second horse never runs second.  Meaning the second favorite usually doesn’t end up finishing second.  (2) Read the names of the horses, some full time gamblers do some don’t, but first timers seem to have a good feeling about a horse’s name.  Remember this only works once.   Horses that are named in likeness of cats always have a better chance of winning, just be sure to make cat noises while the race is going on. (3) Play your area code.

"All Bets Are Off" is presented by ArtForward and Unruly Heir in collaboration at Mazi’s:

ArtForward focuses on unconventional collaborations with the art community and business ventures outside the visual arts, to elevate emerging artists and their works to the forefront.  It is deeply rooted in working with local art councils, artist studios, alternative spaces, galleries, auction houses and contemporary museums to widen the channels for exhibition opportunities and cooperative projects in tandem with dispersing appreciation in the arts.

Unruly Heir represents an emerging lifestyle driven by an attitude that demands and instigates change where change is rarely accepted or appreciated.  Unruly Heir crashes the party of formulated men’s sportswear "classics" providing a new and subtle take on men’s fashion.

Posted by Joyce Manalo // New York City based Brooklyn Art Project Blog Editor and Founder of ArtForward

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