The Kitchen Gala Honors Robert Longo
by Rachel Small
Keanu Reeves's face glowered enormously on a screen above the stage at Cipriani Wall Street last night. "You inspire me. I count myself blessed to call you my FRIEND," he shouted in a mock growl. He was addressing the artist Robert Longo, who being honored at the annual Kitchen Gala.
"I miss you. I love you," he said in a voice fit for science fiction villain, perhaps throwing back to Johnny Mnemonic, the 1995 film Longo directed staring Reeves.
Snarling, Reeves then threw himself at the camera while making a hacking noise, and a large rose, one of Longo's works, dropped across the screen ending the actor's greeting.
Reeves's tribute to Longo, who rose to fame in the 1980s for his hyperrealistic charcoal drawings, was the most emphatic of the evening. But between Cindy Sherman, John Turturro, Laurie Anderson, the esteemed dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones, Longo's actress and singer wife Barbara Sukowa, TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, and more, the love for Longo was unanimous.
The only hint of skepticism came from the artist himself. "How many benefits have you all been to in the last couple of weeks? Is this the last fucking benefit you have to go to?" he said to the audience, members of which had probably indeed been to a number of similarly structured annual museum galas over the last couple months. Though, it is worth noting, this is the only one Monica Lewinsky attended–on the arm of Vanity Fair's David Friend–her first public appearance in years.
The Kitchen, a nonprofit exhibition and performance space founded in 1971, had special significance for many guests present, including Longo. It was an epicenter for artists when he moved to New York in 1977 with Sherman, his friend at art school, and it was where Longo get his start. "When I got hired at The Kitchen, I got to tell my father I finally had a job," recalled Longo. "‘He was like ‘Where are you working? A kitchen? Four years of fucking art school? What are you now, a chef?'" Not quite: instead The Kitchen unquestionably helped Longo launch an impressive career. He became established as a core member of The Pictures Generation, a foremost 1980s art movement–and later championed aspiring artists like Jones. "Luck is an important aspect," said Longo, on advice he gives young artists. "I think a place like The Kitchen is a luck-net. Luck gravitates towards The Kitchen. And I feel very lucky."