David Dixon was born in Philadelphia, spent his formative years in North Carolina, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. He attended undergraduate at the Parsons School of Art and Design, has a Master’s from Cornell, and is established in creating multiple art forms. He paints, makes sculptural objects, and films and performs in his own experimental movies. Also, he operates two galleries in Brooklyn: Cathouse FUNeral (pronounced funn-eral) and Cathouse Proper.
I met with Mr. Dixon on a hot July day at the original gallery, Cathouse FUNeral. The trim and easygoing artist kept cool in classic blue-and-white seersucker slacks while drinking espresso and snacking on apple slices and nuts as we talked. In regard to his role at the galleries, he prefers to call himself a dealer rather than director. “I like being a go-between,” he said. ”You know, you’re sort of an escort for the artist to the public.”
The Cathouse FUNeral gallery was established in 2013 and is not a traditional white room. Instead, it is an intimate, constantly changing space that shape-shifts as needed based on the exhibit. The building it is housed in was built in the 1940s and used for the funeral preparations for New York servicemen who were killed in World War II. “It was a sort of one-stop situation. They made caskets downstairs, and they did the embalming in the building. I guess it was a morgue as much as a funeral home,” Mr. Dixon explained.
Mr. Dixon’s studio is also located in the building. To be creative in such a somber place suits Mr. Dixon’s interests well. Early in his career he created pieces inspired by Hermes, one of the Greek mythological figures who escorted the deceased from this world to the next. He also has a fascination with reliquary objects and made a film called “David Dixon is Dead”.
Then there is Cathouse Proper. That gallery opened in 2015 with the help of fellow artist Ethan Ryman, whose studio space serves as its home. It is a more traditional gallery. “It is a really well-appointed and built white cube sort of space with great lighting,” Mr. Dixon said in describing it.
Given Mr. Dixon’s position as both an artist and dealer, he also has an insightful view of the dreaded idea of selling out. The Cathouse name winks at this idea because, of course, “cathouse” is slang for brothel. “Basically, you sell yourself in a gallery in an art context. There’s always that uneasy relationship between art and business, which is much like, you could say, prostitution,” Mr Dixon said
He continued, “It’s complicated for everyone. That’s a long road to go down with a lot of permutations.”
“I feel like art and business run parallel to each other and they don’t actually touch. But of course, that’s an idealized way of thinking about it. In their ideal forms, I don’t think they have anything to do with each other. That’s part of why it is an uneasy relationship. But, you know, one has to live, and these things have a commodity value. But I feel like the true value of the artwork goes beyond its commodity value.”
Completing this thought, Mr. Dixon said, ”In other words, I can ‘own’ a Courbet by loving it and understanding it and seeing it. Of course, you have to go to see it. So the modern museum—the public art museum—is an important development. Because if it is just a commodity that somebody owns and nobody else gets to see it, then you’re not really participating in a cultural exchange. The true value is in understanding and loving it, and getting something from it. You don’t have to buy it to get something from it.”
So, if you’re in Brooklyn and interested in participating in a cultural exchange yourself, perhaps try the Cathouse FUNeral gallery where David Dixon’s “Atavistic Expressionistic Primitivism” installation of frescos is currently on display through September 11. The abstract frescos were created using plaster, pigment, and paint applied to plywood.
This exhibit follows 2014’s “Heroic Social Worker” and 2015’s “Dixie” to complete a trilogy of annual summer solo shows by the artist. Like those predecessors, the current show takes advantage of the gallery’s malleability to create a unique space. Temporary walls jut out to cut up the environment into an unusual surrounding as remnants of old paint jobs and layers of the past also peek out to make themselves known. Though small, it is an unexpected and thoughtful way to experience art.
Cathouse FUNeral is located at 260 Richardson Street, Brooklyn, NY.
Cathouse Proper is located at 524 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY.