Curatorial debut

Yours truly at the opening of You, Me and Everybody Else

Considering that not even one of my own works was on exhibit at the You, Me and Everybody Else show at MOCA DC , why am I looking so pleased with myself? That’s because I was the guest juror and curator -an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. Friday night’s grand opening was the culmination of several months of hard work. Setting out to jury and curate a show requires a lot of time and energy, most of it in front of a computer screen. When David Quammen of MOCA DC asked me to help him revamp his lobby space and curate the inaugural juried show, I accepted the challenge.

I came up with a theme that reflects our eternal fascination with people – whether it be looking at ourselves or at others. The first step was to hit up the sites advertising Calls for Entries. However I soon discovered that the best and most visited sites are great resources for artists looking for calls, but expensive for galleries and institutions. On a shoestring budget I spread the word on free sites and art blogs, and received some wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) submissions for You, Me and Everybody Else (my call encouraged artists “to consider broad contemporary interpretation of the figure”). Here are some examples of the works I selected for the exhibition. Also please note Jayne Matricardi-Burke’s multi-media Family Portraits behind me in the top photo.

John Norris ‘Manufacturer’

Michael Berkowitz ‘High Priestess’

The works began arriving from artists within the United States, France and Israel. With a push for new lighting, fresh paint, carpet cleaning and removal of unnecessary ‘stuff’, the space was ready to do the works justice. Then there were press releases to write, bloggers to contact, labels to prepare, postcards to design and artworks to unpack (Note To Self: make sure to specify NO styrofoam peanuts in the future!). The opening night arrived and the turnout was larger than expected and the response to the works was very rewarding.

As a curator, I made the decision from the start not to request artist statements from artists. I surprised myself, because when I am wearing my Artist Hat, I tend to expound and over-explain my work. As a curator, I found that I was more interested in what the work conveyed to me directly, without the artist’s input. I have forgotten which famous artist balked at writing any statements, claiming that if he were required to do so, he may as well hang an essay on the wall rather than a piece of art! Brings to mind the early conceptualist Mel Bochner’s word portraits (see Self Portrait below).  How do other artists and curators feel about artist statements? I’d love to hear different takes on this subject.

This curatorial experience has whetted my appetite for more curatorial opportunities and I already have some exciting ideas. You can also check out an in-depth article about the curatorial process which has been published in The Great Nude. But for now I need to get back into my studio and get ready for my own solo show in August!