Tag Archives: Photography Shows

Curating Rendering The Spirit

If you’ve never curated a group show before, especially one with international reach, it’s hard to imagine the level of effort that goes into putting on an art exhibit. You have to put out the call for entries, manage the publicity to make sure you get enough work submitted to fill the walls even after reviewing and editing, and then handle the acceptance emails and collect the accepted work.

Oh, and be prepared for things not working out as planned. I feel extremely lucky we had only two hiccups with submitted work. One was minor – one piece of work came off its mounting in transit. With a quick email to the artist, I got his permission to open the frame and re-mount the work properly so it would present well on the wall. In the process, I also replaced the source of the problem (gummy adhesive squares that were NOT archival) with water-activated linen tape loops using acid-free wheat paste for adhesive. No artist’s work is going to be damaged by me on my watch!

The second hiccup was totally beyond anyone’s control, which is what made it so maddening. Yugo Ito’s photograph coming from Japan was shipped in plenty of time to arrive at the gallery. However, it got stuck in customs in New York for almost two weeks. There was nothing to be done but to wait, as customs is a black hole into which things enter and exit at their own pace and there is no transparency or communications possible beyond checking the tracking number on the USPS website. Creativity saved the day, though – since the actual work was not in the gallery for the opening, I took the JPEG of the work from the submission and printed it, mounting it to the wall with a sheet of glass and some L-pins. It would be represented in spirit even if not in actuality.

Once all the work has arrived, you have to plan how you’re going to hang it. You can look at JPEGs all you want, and generally gauge which artist’s works should hang next to which other artist, but the actual sequencing and spacing can’t really be figured out until you have the actual framed work in hand at the gallery. Next it’s measure, measure, measure, and then plan, and re-measure, before driving the first nail into the wall. Having gallery interns to help with the hanging makes life so much easier (Shout-out to my interns! Thank you!!).

Now the work is all hung, you can relax, right? NO. Then it’s plan the reception, send out the invites, send out the press releases, buy too much cheese and crackers at Costco, and then throw a party. There’s the curator’s remarks to prepare, and handouts about the work to write. Oh, and blogging about it all the while!

At some point during the show, ideally right after you’ve hung the work but before the public comes in to see it, you document the exhibit. Below are a few excerpts from the show as hung. One of the great challenges of curating a show is that once you have it up on the wall, what might look good in the space presents a wicked challenge to document. Trying to photograph pieces in corners where you can’t get a light on them from the other side means that you’ll either have dramatic falloff in the scene from one side to the other, or you’ll have a hideous reflection of your umbrella or other diffuser in the picture glass. I opted for a bit of falloff rather than reflections where possible because the falloff can be compensated for to a degree in Photoshop – a big blinding white reflection of an umbrella cannot.

Atalie Brown
Atalie Brown
Barbara Maloney
Barbara Maloney
Bruce Schultz
Bruce Schultz
Eddie Hirschfield
Eddie Hirschfield
Erik Larsen
Erik Larsen
Ian Leake
Ian Leake
Marek Matusz
Marek Matusz
Yugo Ito
Yugo Ito

You’re not done until the show is over, the work taken down, and the artists have picked up their work or you’ve shipped it off to hither and yon. Then you get to relax for a day or two, and if you’re a busy curator, it’s back to the process all over again!

From Anonymous Vernacular by Jeremy Moore

I read this post by my friend Jeremy Moore the other day and wanted to pass it along. I wholeheartedly agree. I still push myself to go to see contemporary shows because I want to see what people are doing, and while it’s not a universal constant, I am disappointed more often than I am delighted by what I’m seeing on the walls. Too often the idea that the concept should take primacy over the craftsmanship has evolved so far that the idea of craftsmanship seems to be not just second-fiddle, but non-existent. Prints that aren’t spotted, contrast corrected, burned/dodged, or color corrected are far too common. I think it’s a symptom of the age that thoughts no matter how unfinished are all given equal value, and he (or she) who can shout their idea the loudest gets credit. Sometimes it feels as if you’re back in high school at the Model UN debate club and the teachers have stepped out of the room – everyone’s still on-focus enough to stick to debating the topic at hand, but all sense of moderation and argument has been thrown out the window – “I think the solution to the Arab-Israeli problem is to give Jerusalem to Tibet and let the Buddhists run it!” “And why do you think that would work?” “Because!” “Nuke em’ all and let God and Allah figure out between themselves which bodies belong to whose faith” and so on…

Upcoming collectors show in New York

For those who might be interested, here’s a link to The Photography Collectors’ Show in New York next Saturday, March 19. I’m toying with the idea of going up to see it.

Here is a list of dealers who will be in attendance:

Steve Yager
Adam Forgash
Casey A. Waters
Christopher Wahren
D. T. Pendleton
Dennis Waters
Erin Waters
Greg French
Henry Deeks
Maria DiElsi
Thomas Harris
Stacy Waldman
Arthur Dristiliaris
Brian Caplan
David Chow
Dr. Stanley Burns
Glenn Vogel
Jack Domeischel
Julian Wolff
Larry Berke
Lisa Taos
Richard Hart
Richard Silver
Stephen Perloff
Stuart Butterfield
Susan Davens