Another person who saw Meth Lab Miami and couldn’t get it out of his head was a college student named Max Levai, who was considering joining his family business—his father, Pierre Levai, runs Marlborough, which is known for its roster of not-so-edgy heavyweights like Fernando Botero, Dale Chihuly, and Tom Otterness. Pierre agreed to hand the Chelsea operation to Max, so he could stock it with new young artists. This show, Stray Light Grey (a Gibson reference), officially kicks off the new program.
“You have a kind of tabula rasa situation but one which is very well funded,” Lowe says of the Chelsea arrangement. Levai says he wants to “make a business out of the situation,” selling entire rooms or pieces from the rooms, or sculptures inspired by the installations, like cast-metal cactuses encrusted in crystals. Another goal is to make the installations “collapsible and make them fit into a shipping container, so you discard as little as possible.”
But just because there’s no meth lab this time doesn’t mean it’s not a drug experience, they tell me. “It’s really hard to see past the initial drug thing,” says Lowe. “It isn’t actually part of this installation, really, right?” He looks to Freeman, who agrees that it’s not “in an explicit way.”
“I mean, these things are always steeped in the pharmacopoeia. It’s become so pervasive that everyone’s on it,” says Lowe, who is obsessed with the secret history of CIA experimentations with LSD. “There’s this Brian Aldiss book Barefoot in the Head that imagines a postwar Europe where hallucinogens were weaponized. The entire culture is just constantly tripping.”