The Modern Hotel last spring announced 2016 would be the last year of Modern Art, a one-night event each May when artists transformed the hotel's rooms into mini galleries. Local artist Troy Passey—who had participated in Modern Art all nine years—joked with friends about how funny it would be if he booked his regular room and exhibited new work in 2017, as though oblivious that Modern Art was no more. Passey forgot about it until organizers got in touch and suggested the idea should come to fruition. So, in April, The Modern issued a press release with the headline "Local Artist Misses Memo. Will Do Modern Art Alone." The release explained how Passey "missed the announcement that last year would be the final year," and had already booked his regular room—Room 103—for the event.
"Taking pity on the poor man, we did not feel we could deny his quest to complete 10 years," the release read, "and wishing to spare him the embarrassment, The Modern will welcome Troy back to show his work."
Passey's monochromatic artworks are spare and sublime, yet reveal his sense of humor, so it's no surprise he is embracing the tongue-in-cheek situation—he titled the exhibit Denial: New Works. His approach, however, was exactly the same as if he'd been preparing for Modern Art.
"I have a ton of work. It's what I've always done. I've always made work to show [at Modern Art]. I'm making a big piece for the bed, just like I always do," Passey said. "Like I've always done," he added, laughing, saying he even used an Alexa Rose grant he received to fund Denial.
The Modern is all in, too, taking the work seriously but leaning into the levity. Passey's art for the infinite scroll—work created by a Modern Art artist and hung on the exterior of the hotel for a year—will be unveiled during his show. The hotel then ended the press release with this:
"Please don't mention that Passey missed the memo. It's possible he still doesn't know."