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Week-Long Strip Poker Game Comes to TriBeCa Gallery Window

By Julie Shapiro | November 10, 2011 3:51pm | Updated on November 11, 2011 10:23am
Performers will play strip poker for seven-and-a-half hours a day in 'I'll Raise You One...'
Performers will play strip poker for seven-and-a-half hours a day in 'I'll Raise You One...'
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Zefrey Throwell

TRIBECA — These gamblers will lose more than just their shirts.

Seven card players will get naked in a series of strip poker games in a TriBeCa storefront gallery starting this Saturday, as part of a titillating art project that has a serious economic message.

Called "I'll Raise You One…," the installation opens in Art in General at 79 Walker St. this Saturday, and the poker games will run seven-and-a-half hours per day for a full week, with a new game beginning as soon as the previous one ends.

The players — a rotating cast of men and women that includes Zefrey Throwell, the artist behind the installation — will be fully visible from the street, and Throwell expects to draw a crowd of curious onlookers.

"At first it's kind of titillating — 'Oooh, it's strip poker'," said Throwell, 35, a Brooklyn resident. "Then after you get over that, you start to wonder: What the hell are they doing?"

Throwell sees strip poker as a metaphor for the economy, with clothing symbolizing money. While skill can help, the people who show up with the least clothing are in the worst shape, and no one can control the luck of the draw.

"Wealth is unequally distributed — yet we're all expected to play by the same rules," Throwell said. "It's a political and economic criticism."

This isn't Throwell's first foray into nudity as activism.

After his mother, a high school counselor, lost nearly all of her savings in the 2008 crash, Throwell channeled his anger into offbeat performance pieces. In August he mounted "Ocularpation," in which dozens of people dressed as bankers, hot dog vendors and secretaries descended on Wall Street and stripped bare in unison.

Three people were arrested for disorderly conduct during that stunt, but Throwell doesn't expect to run into any trouble with the police this time, since all the stripping will happen indoors.

"It's legal to walk around your own home naked," he said.

Courtenay Finn, curator at Art in General, said Throwell's project is a perfect fit for the gallery.

"Art in General has always been a site where artists could exhibit unconventional and experimental works," Finn said in an e-mail. "Since 2005 our New Commissions program has produced and presented dynamic projects, allowing artists to take risks and push their practice in new directions. Zefrey's New Commissions project is no exception and seemed all the more important to present in today's cultural climate."

Throwell said that if the installation sparks a conversation about inequality, he will consider it a success.

"This is what art is for," Throwell said, "to help change the world."

"I'll Raise You One…." is on view at Art in General, 79 Walker St., from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 12 to 19. The opening reception is Nov. 12 from 6 to 8 p.m.