The China Chalet Group is Ben Schumacher’s third solo exhibition with Bortolami.
For the exhibition, Schumacher has replicated the interior of China Chalet, a Chinese banquet hall turned after-hours club located just around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange. China Chalet became a go-to destination in the late 2000s, attracting a socially diverse clientele seeking an alternative to the stereotypical NYC club scene. It’s still popular today as a venue for surprise DJ sets from pop stars, incognito celebrity sightings, and a meet-up for artists.
Schumacher’s replica of China Chalet, made from memory at approximately 3/4 scale, falls somewhere between earnest tribute and satire. Booths, audio equipment and tables are constructed with little more than anodized aluminum, screws, and faux upholstery. They lack any utility as furniture or as a model, a twist on Schumacher’s training and early career as an architect. But each piece of “furniture” also displays its own miniature model, embedded with small sculptures and dioramas which serve as a constellational map of Schumacher’s biography and past projects. These objects range from a toy theatre made with dollhouse furniture to a plush model of a church in Montreal in which Schumacher had curated a show. An aluminum “dance floor” even doubles as replica of a typical NYC rooftop.
The faux restaurant environment includes new paintings by Schumacher which combine oil paint with printed collages of exhibition announcements and record releases. In each work, figuration fades into printed block lettering and graphic design, the typography stretched over brushstrokes underneath.