Ulrich Project Series: The General Store
March 30 - April 30, 2006

List of Artists in Exhibition


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"We got a groovy thing goin' "


-- Simon and Garfunkel



This lighthearted, irresistible song from Simon and Garfunkel's 1966 hit album The Sound of Silence might be the best way to describe the collaborative art group The General Store.  Part store, part exhibition space, The General Store has roots in the  psychedelic and utopian visions of 1960s art groups like Fluxus, Ant Farm, and the Art Workers Coalition.  These artists created a new understanding of the dematerialized art object and the art market at large.  In this collaborative spirit, anything could account for an art experience.  Fluxus founder, George Maciunas describes art as various everyday things—rainfall, the babble of a crowd, a sneeze, or the flight of a butterfly.[1]  The General Store applies these notions to its own art making, creating a playful dialogue on art and collaboration, rules of exhibition, and the economic exchange of goods. 


The General Store came out of an earlier project, Milhaus (Milwaukee + Bauhaus), started by Scott and Tyson Reeder, painters, designers, and brothers who also have solo careers. The Reeders were living in Los Angeles and quickly became frustrated with the regimented art scene. They decided to move back to Milwaukee to collaborate with documentary filmmaker Chris Smith on his 2000 film American Movie and Scott began work on zerotv.com, a website that features irreverent goofy 1-5 minute homemade movies every day.  Scott and Tyson also held a collaborative performance in Chicago where they lived in bunk beds in the gallery for the duration of the show.   They transformed the gallery into a dance club one night, a theater the next, and an all-night drawing party another night.  For the closing, the two brothers turned the bunk beds into rafts and floated down the Chicago River.


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The Reeders, along with Scott's wife, Elysia Borrowy-Reeder, took their madcap, sly sense of collaborative and performance art and tapped into Milwaukee's thriving population of artists, "Its got a weird community and people really do what they want there without much care to how it effects New York or Los Angeles," Borrowy-Reeder explained.  In order to create a more connected site between these artists, Tyson realized the group needed a space and founded The General Store, a storefront in the Riverwest district. The store is covered in papier-mâché mountains and stalactites that create something like a child's cave and move the space as far from the pristine white walls of a gallery as possible.  Displayed in the "gallery" are not paintings or sculptures on pedestals. Instead brightly colored pipe-cleaner flowers sit next to out-there embroidered wallets and purses, craftily re-designed sneakers, and an array of DIY books and CDs.  The General Store offers free classes in book-making, sewing, shoe-modifying, and recording—a collaborative site for anyone and everyone to make art and sell it on the store's faux-stone shelves.  In the back of the store, Borrowy-Reeder started a more traditional gallery that exhibits group shows and international artists such as Pentti Monkkenon, Edgar Bryan, Nick Lowe, Gaylen Gerber and Heimo Zobernig.


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The General Store site, in its process of creation and then exchange, loosely and humorously re-examines the system of commerce that is intrinsic to the art market.  Along with other collaborative art movements like Paper Rad, the Royal Art Lodge, Dearraindrop, and LTTR, The General Store formed to expand the current model of galleries and to create their own funky, disposable, political, proto-psychedelic art, instead of just focusing on work that is reassuring and sells. Most importantly, these groups started spaces and created work that did not have to exist in New York or L.A. to remain vital. Yet, like all avant-garde movements, just as soon as these groups were going against art trends, they soon too began to embrace (and be embraced) by the very system they sought to change. The General Store found success in New York in their exhibitions Drunk vs. Stoned held at Gavin Brown Gallery in spring 2004 and summer 2005.  In the last two years the Reeders extended The General Store collective idea into other curated shows in New York and in Miami. The shows retain the slap-dash goofiness of the store, transforming an elite New York gallery into a funhouse for play and experimentation. Their shows have been described as the "art-world equivalent of a crayon drawing on a mansion wall"[2] and famed art critic Jerry Saltz exclaimed that the first installment of Drunk vs. Stoned was "one of the most diverting group shows of the year."[3]  


Drunk vs. Stoned examined these two states of inebriation as metaphors for two different approaches to making art.  The artists were not necessarily impaired while making the art on display. Rather, the intention of the work was to capture the quality of what it means to be in the more mentally self-aware state of being stoned as opposed to the clownish and uninhibited state of being drunk.  Another curatorial project The General Store orchestrated was a drawing show that required artists to use a four-color-pen. That exhibition debuted in Miami and included such artists as Julie Mehretu, Jim Lambie, and Laura Owens. "We like to think of shows as having parameters or assignments," Borrowy-Reeder said.  "This evens the playing field and you can make some great comparisons."


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For the Ulrich Museum, the General Store has commissioned and compiled more than 20 paintings, all under 10" x 10",  for their newest collaborative exhibition, The Small Painting Show.  Combining the work of emerging and established artists alongside small paintings by WSU students, faculty, and staff, The General Store will transform the gallery into a complete installation of little works.  "For The Small Painting Show we wanted to look at small paintings and the powerful effect and weight they can carry.  We also wanted to create a density that could be an installation in and of itself."


In re-thinking how art is perceived, whether it be through beer goggles or a massive installation of tiny paintings, The General Store has made collaboration in the arts look fun and simple—just as easy as bedazzling a pair of old shoes and selling them for a song. 


                                                -- Katie Geha, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art



[1] Arthur C. Danto, "The World as Warehouse: Fluxus and Philosophy," What is Fluxus? What's Not! Why. ed. Jon Hendricks (Brazil: Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, 2003): 26.


[2] Liz Armstrong, "Chicago Antisocial," The Chicago Reader, 16 Dec. 2005, sec 1, p. 10. 


[3] Jerry Saltz, "Blotto, Meet Buzzed," Village Voice Online, 11 May 2004, accessed at www.villagevoice.com on May 3, 2005.

Artworks shown on this website are copyrighted by the artists unless otherwise noted, and may not be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder.