Bash Compactor: Arty Hard

Written by Matt Harvey on . Posted in Bash Compactor, Posts.

Jack Walls—the face of Bowery Electric’s Art Fags—has a resume like a laundry list of Red State social fears. The 51-year-old black bon vivant has been a gang member, junkie, leather-boy hustler—as well as Robert Mapplethorpe’s muse and boyfriend. And he’s still hanging out with young white dudes from the suburbs. To the sound of the Shangri-La’s “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” Walls’ good-looking young pals filed through the bar’s back room to say hello. Sipping a gin and tonic, the Scottish installation artist Adam McEwan pointed to our host and said; “The epitome of an art fag is Jack Walls. Or as we’d say, art tart.” Art photography wunderkind Ryan McGinley had driven six hours to Cherry Valley, New York, where Walls lives now, to pick him up for the evening. McGinley explained why he’s going through so much trouble for Mapplethorpe’s ex-boyfriend: “It’s intense, he’s like the Godfather.” He thought for a moment and flipped back his thick brown hair. He continued, “I went up to his old loft on 29th Street when I was just a kid. I never saw anything like it. It was very decadent and just really beautiful.”

The man of the hour was wearing a bowler hat and vest a la Mapplethorpe’s famous portrait of him. When I asked Walls if the attention felt good, he shrugged and said,“I guess, I don’t know; I’m here.”With a tinge of pessimism he added, “Let’s see how long it lasts, you know?” When I tried to name the face he used on his stylish fliers, he perked up.“It’s not Irene Dunne either. Of course not!” he laughed.“I found it in a flea market, it’s like, fucking, no one.” Out in the main room, Marilyn Rondon, a 22-year-old Venezuelan beauty, pulled her V-neck off her shoulder to reveal a large tattoo of two girls inked across her chest. She twirled around and gushed, “I’m 60 percent covered.” An Asian dude with chunky glasses was off in a corner doing the robot alone.The Hungarian painter Rita Ackerman—a cultural lightning rod in her own right—took a sip of her red wine and eyed the scene. She said, “I am not judgmental, but I am older than this crowd.” As for Walls, he was neither thrilled nor disappointed with his soirée. “I don’t feel anything,” he said. “I don’t feel lucky or unlucky I just feel here.”