NONEISAFE, 2008-2011

police car, sirens, debris, variable dimensions

In Noneisafe, Avşar constructs an imaginary scenario in which a bomb has exploded in a New York Police Department (NYPD) squad car. The car is illustrated with its front door open, tires blown out, windows broken and debris and dirt all over the surrounding area as well as on the body of the car. The sculpture, for which size is noted as “variable”, meaning that there is the possibility of a life-size / real-life version, is obviously in reference to the safety issues at play in a post 9/11 New York. An NYPD car is a readily recognizable image for all those who live in New York City through real-life experience, and for people in and outside of New York through everyday media outlets such as the newspaper and television. On the other hand, while a car bomb explosion is just as recognizable as imagery it is familiar mostly just through the media, since we can assume that most of New York’s city population has never experienced such an event in person. The juxtaposition of the two imageries is the formal manifestation of Avşar’s intention to play on the viewer’s assumptions about pop news bits and make her aware of the process of how she receives these bits. This juxtaposition does indeed feel recognizable and strike us as probable even though in reality the likelihood of ever coming across an actually bomb-exploded NYPD car is small. (Zeynep Oz)

From The Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2011
By Erica Orden
The cruiser, its doors and hood removed, had been flipped onto its side. A man with a silver crew-cut and a cigarette dangling from his lips was consulting with a stocky, bald man about how to maneuver the vehicle inside before police showed up to monitor the considerable ruckus they were causing.

On a recent weekday evening on the Bowery, a motley crew of men attempted to shove a wrecked police cruiser through the sleek glass entryway of a contemporary-art gallery. In other words, everything was going as planned. The car is the centerpiece of a new exhibition that marks the return of a Brooklyn-based entrepreneur to his original career as a visual artist. Turkish-born Vahap Avsar, the 46-year-old co-founder of design and clothing company Brooklyn Industries, fled his homeland in 1995 in the wake of the government-ordered shutdown of an exhibition he co-organized. Having spent the last 16 years building a business that now boasts 15 retail stores, including six each in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Mr. Avsar is continuing duties with Brooklyn Industries while returning to art with his first solo exhibition in the U.S., NONEISAFE, at Charles Bank Gallery.

When Mr. Avsar first arrived in the U.S., he struggled to find an outlet for his artwork. "People didn't know much about the Turkish culture and history, and my work dealt with Turkish political and cultural issues," he said. One day, after creating some paintings on a discarded billboard, he decided to use the excess material to make messenger bags. His professional and romantic partner, Lexy Funk, showed his creations to a few acquaintances and, as Mr. Avsar put it, "all of a sudden we had a bag company."

Though he continued to dabble in mixed-media artwork, it was not until 2008 that he began to show it again, and not until last year—when Rampa, a prominent art gallery in Istanbul, rediscovered Mr. Avsar's early pieces and mounted a retrospective—that he felt compelled to return to art in a significant way. "I was seeing two generations after me looking at what I was doing and writing about my work," he said.

The Charles Bank show's eponymous piece, the car—which, in its finished form, is torched and spray-painted—was originally conceived in 2008 for a show at London's Saatchi Gallery. Mr. Avsar purchased the vehicle for $800 from a junk yard in Saugerties, N.Y. It was originally a New York State Police cruiser, but the artist wanted it to resemble a New York Police Department vehicle. "I wanted to play with the idea of an untouchable institution, the NYPD, being infiltrated and destroyed. And I think that's very possible," Mr. Avsar said, emphasizing that he respects the police. "I hope that will never happen, but we live in a world of unconventional wars.

To re-create the look of an NYPD cruiser, Mr. Avsar snapped cellphone photos of cruisers on the street, then used the images to design stencils of the cars' detailing. To replicate the precise hue of the paint, he armed himself with a book of Pantone color samples, headed to Jay Street in Brooklyn, where a collection of parked police cars usually can be found, and held the samples against the vehicles until he found the ones that matched. Mr. Avsar performed most of his work on the car at his country house in Athens, N.Y., in part to avoid attracting unwanted attention for torching a former cop car.
A co-founder of Charles Bank, Adam Charles Greenberger, said he reached out through an acquaintance who had worked with the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association to ask if the group would object to the display of a deconstructed police cruiser. "[T]hey advised that as long as we acquired the cruiser legally, it's really a freedom of expression issue," Mr. Greenberger wrote in an email. Spokesmen for the PBA and the NYPD did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The car, which is visible in the gallery from the street, has sparked curiosity in passersby. As Mr. Avsar oversaw its transportation into the pristine white gallery space, traffic slowed on Bowery as drivers rubbernecked to see whether the vehicle would fit through the doorway. (It did, just barely.) The work, on view through June 19, is priced at $60,000. It hasn't yet found a buyer, though a serious collector inquired about it over the weekend, Mr. Greenberger said.
"It's a particular type of collector who would go for a piece like this," a gallery co-founder, Michael Bank Christoffersen, said. "I'm reaching out to some European collectors who go for installations."