Kate Teale The Housed
Cover Ghost (detail) oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 18 Ă&#x2014; 24 " 2013
Kate Teale The Housed
Kate Teale The Housed c u r at o r
Don Desmett e s says by
Lucy R. Lippard Sarah Schmerler interview by
September 4 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; October 10, 2014 James W. and Lois I. Richmond Center for Visual Arts Albertine Monroe-Brown Gallery Gwen Frostic School of Art College of Fine Arts Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, Michigan
Kate Teale: The Housed is published to accompany the exhibition Kate Teale: The Housed, September 4 – October 10, 2014 organized by the James W. and Lois I. Richmond Center for Visual Arts at Western Michigan University’s Gwen Frostic School of Art, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Catalog design: Nick Kuder Installation photography: Mary Whalen Studio photography: David Henderson, Rene Pierre Alain & John Berens Printed: River Run Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written permission except in case of brief annotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Copyright © text 2014 Western Michigan University. All artwork copyright © Kate Teale, unless noted otherwise. kateteale.net
On the Edges of Silence Lucy R. Lippard
Interview with Kate Teale Don Desmett
How One Critic Covered Artist-Run Galleries in Williamsburg or Four Tomatoes on a Windowsill Sarah Schmerler
On the Edges of Silence Lucy R. Lippard Waves and beds, windows and buildings, time and space, light and dark — silent as only art objects can be: Kate Teale’s The Housed installation builds from work to work, image to image — recognizable but mysterious, ultimately creating a whole that endows once-independent parts with additional breadth and depth. Teale works in the interstices of art expectations. Near abstractions turn out to be loaded with content. (Not that there should be any contradiction there, but content tends to be anathema in art-only-for-art’s-sake circles.) Initially trained in London as a figurative artist, Teale has since departed from the conventions of figuration while remaining faithful to its base in shared realities. “Figurative and abstract at the same time is where I’d like to be,” she says, “and the real and the imagined.” Communication, and Teale’s collaborative work with her own art community as a “casual” gallerist, provide the double layer of this exhibition. Big&Small/Casual Gallery — the name of her off-and-on alternative space, begun in 2009 in a studio building in Long Island City — says it all. While there is a long history of artist-run galleries in (mostly) Lower Manhattan and now Brooklyn, it is generous of an artist who works individually to open her studio to the community; it seems to have happened organically, with a large show, not enough space for all the artists unless the studio was roped in. From living with and trying to organize politically with studio artists, I know how necessary the studio space becomes as a refuge from the outside world, its depressing politics, even from family. Yet Teale has managed to incorporate her community of tried and untried artists into life without suffering too much from the overlap. Even the title of the group show she is curating at the Richmond Center — Your Place or Mine? — follows this pattern. It can be read as an invitation, or as a simple question that has both individual and social implications: Whose space is this? She has chosen other artists who have exhibited the work of their peers. Their own art is diverse. There is no stylistic axe to grind, but they are all unwilling participants in the process of gentrification that has repeated itself over and over again in urban artists’ neighborhoods, a process that inevitably results in the eviction of those who made it “the place to be” in the first place. (Filmmaker Su Friedrich scrawled on a wall “Artists Used to Live Here.”) To make this point about this loss of home, Teale includes in bays across from the wall of their art “a slice of the interior of each of their personal homes.” Home in the broadest sense — studio to planet — is a broad theme throughout this innovative exhibition, possibly related to the fact that
Teale is British, an expatriate, living in the US for well over a decade. Artist run galleries provide temporary homes for art that needs to see the light of day. Teale’s own installation here is called The Housed — a term she adopted from a young homeless woman, quoted in The New Yorker, describing those who are “homed,” as in sighted, hearing, abled. (New York City has more homeless now than ever before in recorded history). This title too is another indication of Teale’s disregard for boundaries and, on an esthetic level, her regard for space beyond the edges of the artworks, beyond the studio walls, more typical of sculptors than painters. The first artist run spaces I recall were the 10th street galleries in Lower Manhattan in the late 1950s. Eventually they gave way to the upward surge of the New York School, as the artists grew more successful and moved uptown, where the major galleries were located at the time. In the early 1960s East Village storefronts became the sites of spontaneous “happenings.” The gallery concept was revived in the late 1960s, beginning, I believe, with 55 Mercer Street, which was to some extent an offshoot of the Art Workers Coalition and its rebellion against the way artists were/are manipulated by the mainstream’s conventional career trajectories: gallery shows, reviews, collectors, museums, fame and fortune. I’ve long seen the longstanding diy movement as “escape attempts,” with conceptual art, public art, community arts, and feminism as significant milestones in the attempt to be independent of “cultural confinement.” Until the late 1970s these relatively formal, “professional” spaces were modeled on the bigger, glitzier galleries uptown and then in SoHo (where most artists would admittedly have preferred to exhibit). Then, in the 1980s, a more informal, chaotic, and political model emerged; think Group Material, CoLab, Fashion Moda, and the still thriving ABC No Rio and Bullet Space. Teale points out that she and her artist/gallerist cohorts “just really want the experience of doing a show to be a rich one for everyone.” When it isn’t, they stop: “I figured out what I can do for artists – and what I can’t. The experience of showing artists in a diy space has to ‘feed’ everyone concerned.” Her goals are to learn, build community, trust artists, stimulate conversation, get feedback on her own work, to be involved as artists in the extended process of making art, and to “stake a claim, however small, in reaction to the excessive corporatization of the contemporary art world.” But including Your Place or Mine? in her solo show at the Richmond Center has gotten her curatorial juices flowing again. She plans to propose an extended version of Your Place
to New York galleries, and she is planning a Fall 2014 show for Big & Small/Casual. Teale’s own art is so complex and visually layered that it’s hard to know where to begin to delve into its depths. Her genuinely felt socio-political motives are buried pretty deep, but knowing they are there is integral to understanding the work. (It’s hard, for instance, to divorce the beautiful tsunami waves from the ominous cloud of climate change.) At the Richmond Center, the viewer will be led into the gallery by a very large graphite wall drawing of a deceptively gentle but relentless tsunami wave and black water. It leads into three paintings of empty beds with striped covers, hung below the windows of an upper level student lounge, from which a wall of paintings of windows are visible, looking back into the windows from which they are seen. These offer sparks of bright color, unique in the show (although Teale’s dense grays are actually made up of red, blue and yellow, rather like the “blacks” of Ad Reinhardt’s “last” paintings). On the back wall are two very long horizontal photo prints of drawings: a pale, close-up, edge of the bed with striped cover and above it, a dark tornado rising from a strip of shadowed land, folded into three dimensions like a venetian blind. The idea is to “catch light” and suggest architectural form. (The use of blinds could also be a pun on societal blindness.) The last large wall is the most enigmatic. Irregularly placed and sized are: images of a glass brick wall in a storage unit at night (a photographic print) through which are visible the ghostly shapes of unreadable objects; a small painting of a vertical window yellow-lit at night, with the blinds down; a horizontal window; and then two floor-toceiling prints of nocturnal apartment blocks with some windows (which may be folded into a protruding corner). Finally, Through the Night (2006–10), an older, smaller series, has its own chamber, a size appropriate to its intimate content and the unexpected presence of humans, but open to the tsunami wave beyond. Teale installed an automatic camera over her bed and used the results as the basis for paintings of her husband and herself in their sleep, like wildlife caught by scientists’ cameras in the woods. The bed is an extension of the rest of the world as no other piece of furniture can be, offering passage to other worlds, perhaps Where the Wild Things Are. The shifts in scale throughout the installation are paralleled by the liberating atmosphere of a dream, of nature, and the reassuring tangibility of the nest, the resting place. When Sarah Schmerler asked Teale what she meant by “scale,” the reply was “human scale, size as it relates
to the human body; something that makes us feel that we can embrace the work.” While the scale of the empty beds can evoke a broader view, the linear waves overflowing seawalls curiously suggest the inverse; in fact one grasping wave almost resembles a furry, though not unthreatening, paw. Tom McGlynn’s review of The Sea is All Around Us — Teale’s solo show in Bushwick in spring of 2013 — remarked on “a sharp contrast between the rigorously painted and wiped domestic subjects and the softly rendered water images…. “The fluid, transformative possibilities of water lap against the psychologically freighted bedscapes.” The storms and beds are vehicles for movement, launchpads into imagined realms, or “universal” spaces that Teale compares to Chinese classical artists’ use of Scholars Rocks’ as microcosms of mountains. She cites Asian artists’ “use of space to signify journeys” through time as well as geography. Artist Andrew Ginzel has remarked on liminality in Teale’s work. Her drawings suggest sensual memories, memories that might not have happened yet, hovering on some threshold. The pale lines of the bed covers provoked another friend to call those works “domestic Agnes Martins.” As in Martin’s work, they evoke an eerie silence and a sense of time that can be equated with distance. Elizabeth Johnson has articulated Teale’s intimate relationship with materials: “paper and fabric are as naturally restless and fluid as water…. Her technique mirrors her subject: destruction and accumulation, taking away and building back, ebb and flow.” Teale glues mulberry paper to the canvas surface, and sands it to a skin-like surface. Then she covers the surface with a “gloopy and translucent” paint, which is then removed with brushes, rags, fingers, to “reveal the image, like painting/drawing with light.” The tactile process of erasure could be seen as a kind of holding back, or paring down, a veiling. It merges organically with the subject, offering a sensual invitation to those willing to accept. Teale likes “the urgency of working against time, and the process of subtraction as a way of ‘finding’ an image”. Once found, the image leaves a lot unsaid. (The reference to skin and the process of rubbing recalls Michelle Stuart’s earth-permeated works.) Teale welcomes yet another layer in the tension between hand and machine. When studying at Hunter College in the 1990s, she printed photos on “very thin Nepalese paper with the quality of skin” that resembled graphite drawings. One of the largest pieces at the Richmond Center are photographic enlargements of much smaller drawings.
Visual correspondences with Teale’s interest in drapery and clouds (I imagine curtains wafting in and out of windows to become clouds, a play on full and empty) are also evident. The inclusion of windows and apartment towers introduces human-made structures, everyday architectural objects bolstered against the elements, unlike the exposed, vulnerable bed. Yet they stand in darkness. Out there, things are out of control. Beds are slept in every night; tsunamis and tornados are, or were, exceptional events. Both have significant edges, both exist in eerily timeless zones combining finity and infinity. Burrowing into the bedclothes for warmth and security is a temporary comfort. Uncertainty lurks behind windows that look out or are closed in. Beds and waves are vehicles of potential joy and destruction. As a child in the idyllic rural English countryside, Teale actually dreamt of tsunamis — “the weird slowness and then utterly inescapable force of the waves. “The bed is a precarious refuge from these forces. An empty bed implies absence. Felix Gonzales-Torres’s rumpled beds made in the 1980s were political statements about the losses imposed by the aids epidemic. In the 1970s, feminist artists used the images of beds, occupied and unoccupied, in the campaign to bring the personal, the domestic, into the political sphere. Since she is an avowed feminist, Teale’s Through the Night series might fall under this theme, but her recent bed images transcend specificity. They are neatly made; with their striped covers they reveal nothing of their secret lives, intentionally bordering on seascapes or wrinkled landscapes, edging closer to the natural forces beyond the walls. The titles encourage this reading. Viewers and reviewers report being initially swept away by the vastness of even the small drawings, overpowered and then enticed, terrified, and seduced as scale and size are strategically employed. Disaster, in the form of climate change and the extreme weather events that are its unpredictable offspring, threaten the assumed warmth and security of home. Teale’s work reflects the very precariousness of life in the 21st century. September 11th, 2001 is ensconced in every New Yorker’s psyche. People saw “twins” everywhere. After the towers fell, Teale set out to make a group portrait of everyone in the city. She ended up with a giant canvas cut down to just portraits of her and her husband, sculptor David Henderson. During the news coverage of the 2011 tsunami in Japan, she watched the English adage “safe as houses” turned on its head as whole villages were uprooted by natural forces. The scale of the consequent homelessness then, and in several superstorms since, also question the notion of “national
All In #2 Graphite on Paper 12.5 × 19 " 2013
security” and the efficacy of censorship and militarism, of governments helpless but arrogant in the face of a vengeful nature taking back her own turf. Teale’s tsunami stands in for other uncontrollable, unpredictable forces, including corporations and “capitalism going crazy”. The Do-It-Yourself movement takes a stand against their representatives — the cavernous impersonal galleries of Chelsea and the slick commercial spaces in condos springing up across Brooklyn. What, then, do we ultimately expect from art? Everything! Or maybe nothing — or maybe sheer visual pleasure. The artist’s task is not only to produce that experience, but to give it depth. Teale accomplishes this with skill and intelligent choices rooted in a real sense of what she is trying to say. She is “interested in work that has to be made, for intellectual, sensual, social or political reasons,” enriching the experience of looking, helping the viewer actually see.
Reposession Graphite on Paper 12.5 Ă&#x2014; 19 " 2013
Under Water Graphite on Paper 12.5 Ă&#x2014; 19 " 2013
Abandon Graphite on Paper 12.5 Ă&#x2014; 19 " 2013
Notice to Accelerate Graphite on Paper 12.5 Ă&#x2014; 19 " 2013
All In Graphite on Paper 12.5 × 19 " 2013 · (courtesy of Jerry Kearns and Nora York)
Over the Edge Graphite on Paper 12.5 Ă&#x2014; 19 " 2013
The following are questions and answers between Don Desmett, Curator of the exhibition, The Housed and Director of the James W. & Lois I. Richmond Center for Visual Arts and the artist, Kate Teale. They were taken from studio visits in October 2012, and March of 2013, and a final email correspondence in November of 2013. Don Desmett: Kate, tell us a little bit of your background, from your days in England and what brought you to the States?
Kate Teale: I was born and grew up in a tiny village in rural England. My father was a large animal veterinarian. For me, it was an idyllic childhood — nature, animals, spending a lot of time in fields and streams and trees. I loved being outside, often alone. There is no law of trespass in the uk and as long as you don’t break and enter, or cause damage, you can go wherever you want. Our very charismatic primary school teacher (she was ex-Russian corps de ballet and we danced and had lessons in the woods and did full Shakespeare productions aged 7+) — her husband was a painter and I knew from the age of about nine that that was what I was going to be. I recently found an oil painting I did at that age, standing out in a field in winter and painting the snowy hills and sky: It’s one of the best things
Landscape oil on board Painted age 10 (opposite) Tan Draig at This Flesh installation, 1994
I’ve done! My mother (originally from Maine) was a concert manager and she communicated her love of music and her do-it-yourself energy in putting on professional concerts in out of the way places. Both parents were great hosts and we had a wide array of mainly musicians and veterinarians from all over the world to stay. Between the ages of 11 and 15 I languished in two different girls’ boarding schools. The main feelings were of great homesickness, powerlessness and repression. Emerging at 15 into a progressive co-ed school a short walk from home was liberating in all ways. The school, Bedales, was academically challenging and idealistic, founded on the socialist, Arts and Crafts principles of William Morris. I was lucky to have an outstanding class of peers and half of us went on to either Oxford or Cambridge. At Oxford I studied English Literature at Christ Church College. I had two brilliant tutors, Christopher Butler and Peter Conrad — both deeply involved in and supportive of all the arts. One of the most important things I learned was the ability of art to connect through time on a grand scale as well as at an intimate, life-changing level. My year was only the second year of females admitted to the college, which was still predominantly male. I am a passionate believer in sexual and racial equality. My tutors helped me get a scholarship from Christ Church to go to art school in London after Oxford. I went to City & Guilds of London Art School and did a course that combined Fine Art with traditional skills like Trompe L’Oeil painting and gilding. I spent a lot of time drawing. On graduating I moved to Portsmouth, a city I fell seriously in love with and did a lot of work based on (not many people, particularly natives of Portsmouth, could understand it!). Portsmouth is an old (part Roman) and young (much bombed
in World War ii and rebuilt) city — home of the British Navy and setting for some of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park — it is part blue-collar industrial, part faded Victorian seaside resort, part university town, part fishing and ferry industry and more. I didn’t know anyone there but found a studio group where we got subsidized studios in former churches (rent of $40 a month!). That studio group, Artspace, kind of raised me as an artist. It comprised a very collegial mixture of old and young, locals and people from all over. Many had attended Portsmouth Art School where I got a job teaching Foundation and bfa. Being a mostly not art-y city meant that Artspace teamed together, did a lot both collectively and individually and got support for what we did. The low rent meant people didn’t have to work long hours in other jobs. When I was growing up, England seemed to be anti-contemporary art. There was often a kneejerk reaction against it. I remember the public outrage and ridicule in the press for Carl Andre’s work bought by the Tate Gallery. The ‘yba’ art scene in London really grew after I left, and was focused around the two influential art schools, Goldsmiths and the Royal College. The art scene in Britain back then was more closed than it is here — in New York there are 100 different art scenes and all feel permeable. London felt like a bit of a closed club, so I came to nyc and Hunter College for grad school in 1995. DD: Kate, before your arrival at Hunter, you produced a major installation in England, entitled This Flesh (1994). The collaboration, the architecture of the space you used, and the works themselves were, added together, a very social/political statement. Can you talk about the project, and also about the reasons for you as a visual artist to be drawn to produce this kind of work?
KT: I was drawn to do this show from a combination of personal and political motivations and because of the strong suggestion of the time and place. Living in Portsmouth and being part of the artists’ group Artspace, I was active in various group initiatives — one was a protest show against the first Gulf War. Another, entirely separate, was a textile project to create banners commissioned by the City of Portsmouth. For the banner project I was teamed with Tan Draig, a textile artist. Tan embodied anti-war protest — literally: he is a Buddhist monk, survivor of the Cambodian killing fields, and peace activist. He was one of many children of a grindingly poor, abusive Derbyshire miner, and escaped as a teenager, to become a gay prostitute in London. If you read
This Flesh installation oil on canvas 40 × 9 × 3 ' The Square Tower, Portsmouth, England 2004
the lives of the Saints they often have a similar kind of trajectory! We were fascinated by each other’s work and ways of working, and began a long-distance correspondence by mailing pieces back and forth. Whenever Tan visited for the city project, we made collaborative pieces and it was always bracing. We usually worked in a combination of paper and fabric, stitching, cutting and drawing, ripping apart and pulling together. By the end of a year we had a pile of work, and a plan to make a show to counteract the militaristic celebrations the city was hosting in commemoration of D-Day — the 50th anniversary of the 1944 liberation of Europe (which was largely staged from Portsmouth). We negotiated the use of a former fortress/ dungeon in the harbor walls that was previously used to hold prisoners before transportation to Australia. For the large main hall I made mural-scale paintings based on multiplied hands, supplicating or saluting. Although the hands are clearly recognizable, the scale, repetition and flattened space in the paintings create a fluctuation between abstraction and figuration. The imagery was focused on the victims of war and is intentionally non-specific historically. Tan showed large, hanging, shroud-like pieces, and a sculpture made from discarded coats, flattened and stitched together. The collaborative pieces were folded into an old chest with many drawers that people opened, re-creating some of the pleasure we got from opening the often-elaborate parcels we sent each other.
Tan’s life is dedicated to bearing witness. As a Buddhist, he had a hard time with ‘the perpetuation of the self’ inherent in exhibiting art. 3,000 people saw the show in the three weeks it was up. The show was socio-political, but personal experience and dialogue made the ‘message’ multi-layered. The formal consideration of surface or support as stand-in for the body, and the personal ‘body’ as metaphor for larger socio/political realities continue to underpin my work. DD: It seems you entered Hunter College in 1995 with a rich influence of the English figurative painters; Lucian Freud, even Bacon. But how did the step to a graduate school education in the US change your focus, way of working as a painter, and social connections to the broader NY art scene? KT: Yes, I was interested in Freud, Bacon, Stanley Spencer — but also artists like Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Nancy Spero, Leon Golub and younger artists making ‘conceptual figuration’ — Helen Chadwick, Mona Hatoum, Kiki Smith. I didn’t identify exclusively as a painter and was making drawings, objects, installations and paintings. I did identify as ‘figurative’ though, and it took me a while to realize that Hunter was the home of a particular kind of abstract, optical painting. Luckily the mfa was a big, broad program and I found people to work with. Being around artists more focused on formal issues was also influential. I came with low expectations of graduate school; what motivated me was being in New York, having an affordable studio and being part of a community. My expectations were easily exceeded. The faculty and environment at Hunter were exciting and I quickly decided to extend my stay from two to four years by going part-time — and keeping the large studio 24/7. By the end of the first semester I’d teamed up with an international
collection of other students at Hunter (from the uk, Korea, Poland, Lithuania and New Jersey). We cleared a loft and made a gallery (‘Spring’) in SoHo — which was then the focus of the downtown nyc art scene. The opening night was packed: there were queues down the block to get in despite the fact that we’d been so busy getting the gallery ready there’d been no time for publicity. We kept the gallery going long enough to have an opening group show then a solo show each. A member of the group was given the use of a storefront building in Philadelphia and we built that out, and Spring, later Yearsley Spring gallery moved there. There were many weekends of construction, sleeping wherever and staying up all night talking. Hunter provided a stimulating environment: a crazy, maze-like studio building adapted by earlier mfa students, committed faculty and inspiring, energetic peers. It was an affordable, no frills program with a diy attitude — almost the first thing I did was make T-shirts and, posters and help devise strategies for protesting the potential axing of the program. At the time, the new, pluralistic art scene with a melting pot of styles — figurative & not (people like Amy Silman, Cecily Brown, Dana Shutz, Jules DeBalincourt — a Hunter alum) had not yet formed. I took advantage of the photo labs and the great Prof. Mark Feldstein, and let photography take the place drawing had usually occupied in my work. At the time I had been drawing on very thin Nepalese paper with high cotton content and the quality of skin (turned out it was the same paper Kiki Smith used). I started printing photos on the same paper, and they looked like graphite drawings. My painting was mostly on paper and was ostensibly more formal/abstract, though almost always from a figurative source. Through artist friend Jerry Kearns, I met Leon Golub. While in the uk I had written for a British
art magazine Contemporary Art and I proposed a feature on Leon Golub, which was accepted. I became friends with both Leon and Nancy Spero. Jerry also introduced me to EXIT Art when he put me in a Choices show. The SoHo art world then seemed accessible. You could meet your heroes. I hope that answers the question. My focus didn’t so much change as totally open out. I’d been used to working cooperatively and the student body at Hunter provided rich territory for that. Artistically, figuration took more of a background place while I experimented with materials and more formal aspects of my work. DD: So you were not only successful connecting with the NY artists community, but specifically with artists that were committed to social/political values in their art and lives. Spero and Golub were amazingly important (and will be historically too). How did this community and your early work in artists-run spaces give you a foundation as an artist after your Hunter College days? KT: For me, there was no real difference between being at Hunter and being an artist working in nyc. From the beginning, I met people in many intersecting communities. New York has always felt open: you want to meet artists? — then go to gallery openings and get talking. The longer I’ve been here, the more those communities connect and support each other. I guess the kind of galleries I sought out reflect my values: I’m not interested in hanging out at the Hamptons. I am interested in work that has to be made, for intellectual, sensual, social or political reasons. One of the main reasons I started Big&Small/Casual Gallery was to have stimulating conversations around art and that’s what I found mostly at artist-run spaces. We got started on that first gallery, Spring, within six
months of my arrival in nyc. It was partly the combination of personalities and opportunities. New York was then, and is still, one of the places in the world you need to be to meet those people/ opportunities. Nancy and Leon were inspirational through their work and their lives. Their LaGuardia Place loft was split down the middle, with only the tiniest amount devoted to living space, and none of that comfortable! There were many conversations round the table, in the near darkness (they conserved electricity). They were also interesting to me as an artist couple who not only co-existed, but spurred each other on at all kinds of levels. Leon’s last works were, among other things, the most fantastic, lively and provocative dialogue with/ homage to Nancy. I had met, and later married sculptor David Henderson, and was particularly focused on the creative dynamic between couples. One of the earliest places to exhibit my work (in a group show) was Galapagos, then in Williamsburg.
A Big&Small/Casual opening Matt Freedman’s “Twin Twin III, Artists Edition” 2009
The gallery director at Galapagos was Fred Valentine, who now runs his own gallery Valentine, out of his house/studio in Bushwick, Ridgewood. Fred previewed opening his new space by curating a show in my gallery, Big&Small/Casual. Fred is very much part of a new wave of diy, intimate gallery spaces carved out of people’s homes or studios. DD: Visual artists by training tend to retreat to their studios, and when the production is completed come out in the light, so to speak. Is there a balance of working, community connecting, and the gallery energies that comes naturally to you, or do you need to always be mindful of the all important studio creative time? KT: It is a constant effort to maintain the studio/ life balance. Both my husband David and I work in ways that require a lot of time in the studio. I find running my gallery energizing socially and intellectually, but since it occupies some of my studio space, I have to be flexible about when I put on shows. The re-organization involved can be disruptive if I’m in the middle of a big project, so I determined never to make it a completely regular program. At first, I wanted to keep gallery and studio separate, but that idea fell at the first event. Matt Freedman’s Twin Twin 3 was the first show and there were 60+ artists and very little room to stand in the gallery at the packed opening, so, overflow was essential. One major plus of having the shows is I get a lot of feedback on what I’m doing in the studio. Both David and I have ‘day jobs’ which keep us sane and solvent. I teach two days a week at Parsons, and two days is plenty to keep me aware of what’s going on in the world and to have contact with stimulating students and fellow faculty.
Portrait of Leon and Nancy Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 18 × 32 " 2003
DD: What have been some obvious personal success stories from Big&Small/Casual? Does the Brooklyn artist community know you as an artist first, or in fact as you are, this complex level of artist/gallerist/ community activist? KT: There are now enough artist/gallerists in Brooklyn and nyc that it’s easier to avoid being seen as a gallerist first, artist second. That said, I’m taking a break from the gallery at the moment, partly to focus on a run of shows of my work, and partly to avoid that issue. Success stories are mostly the satisfaction of a great show and reception, but also some sales (my first was to the vp of Contemporary Fine Art at Sotheby’s), some reviews and good karma from happy artists. David photographed the shows and openings and made the gallery’s website so, even though the shows were short, there is a permanent, accessible record. DD: Now, to focus on the paintings: I am familiar with the portrait paintings from 2002 to 2003. I remember two specific examples; the portrait of your father and the great painting of Spero and Golub. What factors did you use to choose specific people, and what information in the paintings other than recognition of the sitters were important to you in the composition of the works? Specific cues? Formal considerations? Background information or atmospheres? KT: In retrospect, 9/11 had a major impact on my work. I think I had been looking for ways to re-introduce some form of realism, and that event crystallized the desire to paint figuratively as a form of preservation. My first plan was to do a group portrait of everyone in New York City, and I stretched a giant canvas on the wall, and got started. I quickly
realized I could really only paint the people I knew well, and I ended up cutting out and keeping just the portraits of Dave and me. I didn’t want to let go of the idea of the relationship aspect of identity and was not interested in solo portraits, so focused on doing couples or doubles. Jerry Kearns had been doing a lot of studio visits and later commented that he’d seen ‘twins’ everywhere, including in his own work, and felt the imagery was some form of manifestation of the twin towers. (David and I were married in June 2001, three months before 9/11). I chose to paint people I loved and admired and who I wanted to ‘preserve’ somehow. I tend to prefer painting older people. I also enjoyed painting identical twin sisters. My father died not too long after I painted a double portrait of him and I was always relieved I’d done it, but all too aware that the painting was a poor substitute for the person. Whilst painting the portrait of Leon and Nancy, I took a quick break in the late afternoon and came back to find them glowing in the orangey light and looking uncannily alive. This desire for the paintings to ‘become flesh’ led to my choice of scale (they are slightly larger than life and ‘read’ as life-size). In retrospect I think the scale may make them see too intrusive to live with. Formally, there were issues of how to get an interesting composition — without a big space between the people. I was unsatisfied generally with the solutions I came up with, which is one of the reasons I chose to do the series of paintings of me and David sleeping — the bedding provided all kinds of formally interesting connections.
Drawing for Homewrecker Graphite on paper 36.5 × 10.5 " 2014
DD: Knowing the newest work, in hindsight the backgrounds/textures/subtle shading was a huge decision in the Through the Night series, but in seeing those for the first time I absolutely loved that they were figurative and abstract at the same time. While skin tones made the figures stand out, I was always intrigued by what details you left out. Ghostly space for hair, facial details left faint that brought forward other details in the eyes/nose/ mouth. Just really beautiful in their juxtaposition of the real and the imagined. The paintings were taken from photographs shot while you and David slept. Did the way in which the camera captured you push you to paint the compositions in a certain way? Did a strobe flash drown out details, or were these conscious compositional decisions in what you felt was most important to reference? In the end, were they literally capturing what you saw? KT: ‘Figurative and abstract at the same time’ is where I like to be, and ‘juxtaposition of the real and the imagined’ is too. Yes, the paintings started from photographs of us sleeping. They do not literally capture what I saw, but aim to capture some of it, as well as what it felt like, including the touch of skin and new flannel sheets, and that heavy/floating half-conscious dreaming state. The photos themselves are awful (no composition; very variable and often garish light; extremely unflattering!). The first photo shoot was intended as a trial run to see if the idea was interesting. We had planned to re-visit and stage/light things better, but I thought the pictures were so gruesome that I dropped the idea. When I came back to look months later, they looked like they had potential and eventually I used almost all of them and never did re-shoot images. The empty areas in the paintings evolved partly from the process of getting to the final painting,
and partly from the influence of Japanese art. (In a talk at an exhibition of Japanese narrative art at the Met in nyc, the curator talked about the abstracted clouds ‘representing a shift in time and space’ — that concept fascinated me. I’ve been interested for a long time in the role of drapery and clouds in painting.) I started by making watercolor ‘drawings’ from the photos. The way I work with watercolors is in layers of mainly primary and complementary opposite colors, which means working in blocks of discrete areas of color, while other areas are still white or untouched. I noticed how much more interesting and active the images were if they were not ‘finished’. (Also, I always loved the unfinished Entombment by Michelangelo in the National Gallery, London — some areas are complete and detailed, other just show ghostly traces of the underlying drawing.) So yes, the empty areas are definite compositional choices. DD: There is a painting from the Through the Night series that is an empty bed. As soon as I saw the painting in your studio I was amazed that it was still a very figurative painting, and for me expanded an incredible amount of information by what was not in the composition. It had a direct reference to Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ bed works in its emptiness, sadness and, memory, but the painting also became very abstract for me. The sheets, blankets, pillows also turned to the hills and valleys and erosional markings of landscape. I was moved by its power to speak of a human loss without the presence of the figure, as well as the uninhabited landscape. Was this painting a giant step to the new works, now focused on minimal information with the dialogue of a beautiful balance of calm and sheer horror of human tragedy?
KT: I think you’re referring to a painting from a group of Bedscapes — probably the one titled Floating World. I had surprised myself with how interesting I found the sheets, and bedding in general, when I was painting the Through The Night paintings. It was exciting to me how much they could suggest beyond their own appearance. I felt that the figures (us) in the beds, tied them to a specific scale and focus that could expand if the figures were not there. Loss was in the bed paintings even before we, figuratively, left the frame (they were done in the shadow of 9/11 and the sudden death of my father in 2006), but yes, I was very aware of how that was suggested by the impression of our absent bodies. I hadn’t thought these paintings were a huge step. At the time they felt frustrating and overly figurative. In retrospect, they are part of the process of emptying out. When I was 22, and at art school in London, I felt stuck in what seemed at the time like a depressing thought process: I kept thinking the most useful thing to do was to get rid of things, create space. Years later I’ve come to see that as a positive idea — the desire to create contemplative spaces, imaginary, universal but figurative, tactile and very particular at the same time. In reviewing my Studio 10 show, Elizabeth Johnson pointed out that there are no horizons in the new paintings — something I hadn’t noticed but love. I want the spaces to be infinite. DD: The natural disaster in Japan was almost unbelievable when the images came out about the tragedy. The depth of emotional reach was at once fascinating and tragic. What led you to focus on the tsunami, and talk a little about the ethereal space the subject resides in throughout the paintings and drawings?
KT: When I was a child, the great terror was nuclear disaster. For some reason, too, I dreamt frequently of tsunamis when I was growing up. The March 2011 tsunami in Japan brought both together. Thanks to news coverage and pervasive personal technology-use, we can intimately experience far distant disasters and extreme weather events. I was horrified and fascinated by the sights on tv and on YouTube. People scurrying, doomed traffic, private possessions and domestic interiors swept by for all to see on terrible black water. There was so much wrong with the scene — the water’s color, the fire in the floods, houses moving, the weird slowness and then utterly inescapable force of the waves. It is hard to beat what critic Elizabeth Johnson said about ‘the ethereal space’: I had an unsettled feeling when we were looking at your work. I finally hit on its source as that infinite, falling off feeling. And I guess we could add that there is no floor either to limit the fall — really your work expands infinitely in two directions, at a 45-degree angle. So there’s danger in perfect balance with material comfort. I want the spaces in the drawings and paintings to feel universal and intimate at the same time. The threats too are archetypal, but impersonal. I hope that the fine line between figuration and abstraction allows for a freer, more associative response for the viewer.
DD: Kate, I am thrilled to be able to bring your work together for this exhibition and to have the writers (Lucy R. Lippard and Sarah Schmerler) we have connected with this publication. Their coverage of the gallery/community aspects of your career, as well as a look at your works in relation to our times has been a gift for me to be a part of. To end our conversation, and although this is probably an unfair question to ask just as this major exhibition is upon us, what’s next?
KT: Well — I’m really enjoying working on the show at Richmond Center for Visual Arts. It is a huge space, and although I’ve worked on a large scale in the past, it means a great scaling up of what I’m doing. I’ve been spending some time figuring out the technicalities of that, and am now making the new large works. I have access via Parsons (School of Art) to printers that can print up to 5' wide and 30' long, so am also experimenting with that. I’ve always loved working with paper and this is a whole new dimension. Big&Small/Casual Gallery is on hold in nyc while my space is taken up with working on these large pieces, but planning the show to go in the rcva’s Netzorg/Kerr Gallery (running concurrently with The Housed) has got me fired up again. That show, entitled Your Place or Mine seems very timely. Artists are under threat in nyc, with fewer and fewer places being affordable. Every time artists stake out a new territory, developers follow and price them, and other residents, out. I plan to propose the show to cue, a curatorial project space in Chelsea, and other venues. I’ll also re-open Big&Small/Casual in the Fall of 2014 when my studio is empty!
Dead Calm Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 78 × 54 × 2 " 2014
Landfall Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 84 × 54 × 2 " 2014
Ghost (from the collection of Elinor Lipman) Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 18 Ă&#x2014; 24 " 2013
The Sea Is All Around Us Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 54 × 78 × 2 " 2014
Homewrecker Archival digital print of drawing 348 Ă&#x2014; 68 " 2014
Vertical Stripe Archival digital print of photograph 348 Ă&#x2014; 68 " 2014
Outside There Is Raging Chaos Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 42 × 84 × 2 " 2014
Flight Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 30 × 44 × 2 " 2014
Shade Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 18 × 24 × 1 " 2014
The Housed Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 42 × 64 × 2 " 2014
Through The Night 11:30 pm Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 32 Ă&#x2014; 38 " 2007
Through The Night Midnight Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 32 Ă&#x2014; 38 " 2010 (courtesy of Cecilia Clarke and John Born)
Through The Night 1:30 am Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 32 Ă&#x2014; 38 " 2006/7
Through The Night 2:00 am Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 32 Ă&#x2014; 38 " 2008
Through The Night 12:30 am Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 32 Ă&#x2014; 38 " 2008
Through The Night 11:00 pm Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 32 Ă&#x2014; 38 " 2010
Through The Night 2:30 am Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 32 Ă&#x2014; 38 " 2010
Through The Night 3:00 am Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 32 Ă&#x2014; 38 " 2010
Through The Night 5:00 am Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 32 Ă&#x2014; 38 " 2010
Through The Night 6:30 am Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 32 Ă&#x2014; 42 " 2008
Red Sky In The Morning Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 42 × 32 " 2010–13
Raft Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 42 Ă&#x2014; 32 " 2009
Floating World Oil on mulberry paper on canvas and board 42 Ă&#x2014; 32 " 2010
How One Critic Covered Artist-Run Galleries in Williamsburg or Four Tomatoes on a Windowsill Sarah Schmerler 19 9 6 to 19 9 8: m a p p i ng t h e t e r r i tory
1. Today, VIPs like museum curators and collectors get driven around to shows in Bushwick and Ridgewood, and they never really know where they are. The scene will change, and they’ll just get back on the ‘bus’ and go someplace else.
Mostly what I remember is the walking. Hours and hours of it. Back and forth, under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. And how ugly the streets seemed to me at the time. In Carroll Gardens (the Brooklyn neighborhood where my husband and I rented a tiny apartment in a brownstone), row homes sat far back from the sidewalk; they had narrow-but-lush, well-tended gardens leading up to their front stoops. Here, homes were covered with kitschy aluminum siding or austere 70s-style faux brick; they came right up to the sidewalk, or maybe had a bit of poured cement ‘courtyard’ a few steps deep. I wondered why anyone would want to settle here, especially artists. It was the opposite of inspiring. It looked like a neighborhood that had given up. The bqe was the familiar, architectural through line for me because it ran though my neighborhood, too. Five blocks from my home it cut a trench 40 feet deep, and in the process cleaved an old church on one side (the “good” side of the neighborhood) from its aging parishioners (the “bad” neighborhood where you don’t walk alone) on the other. Here in Williamsburg, the highway was elevated upwards of 50 feet, and going under it was dank business. There were whole carpets of pigeon droppings; windblown heaps of detritus and trash; broken chain-link fencing. I was discovering something. I was making a working mental map. No one was ferrying me around in a car (though later I’d get plenty of offers.)1 So, I just dowsed, followed landmarks. Keep the onion domes of the Greek Orthodox church to my right after going under the highway to get from Flipside to Pierogi. Go all the way down Grand Street to the River and make a left to get to that laundromat that doubles as a mail box and xerox place to get warm and buy a Coke. Looking back now, I can say that checking things out in this way gave me a sense of comfort, of ownership, almost, of Williamsburg.
w h at c a n i say? The first review I ever wrote of a show in Williamsburg wasn’t of a gallery at all; it was a free-for-all 200-plus-artist group show held at a store — Crest Hardware. Once every year, its owner, Manny Farinqua, would give free reign to local auteur/performer/artist Gene Pool to curate a show, and Pool would shrewdly site the work of local artists on shelves, walls, floor. It was art displayed among the raw material for making art and it was pure visual fun. The time was ripe, conceptually speaking, for “fine” art made of low-fi materials, and here it all was. You had to have patience to go up and down the aisles, but it was rewarded.
2. Today, that critic is the director of a major museum; and, well, I’m still walking around Brooklyn.
I reviewed it for TimeOut where I had been writing for about a year and a half. “I’m so glad you reviewed that show,” a big-wig critic told me while we were sitting in a posh reception for a show he’d curated in Manhattan the week the review came out. “I wouldn’t have known what to say about it.” To this day, I never quite understood what he meant. There was so much to say.2 Alongside the review, TimeOut ran an illustration of the sculpture a woman named Caroline Cox had submitted — a chair made of sliced up parking cones. I also mentioned a guy named Tim Spelios, whose wooden dowels screwed into a pegboard I’d called “an elegant piece of Minimlaism — a 3-d Agnes Martin.” Cox and Spelios were married, I later learned, and about to open a gallery called Flipside.
u n d e r t h e h ig h way bu t o n m y r a da r Flipside pretty much become my base camp in 1997. To reach it, you first went up some typically ugly Williamsburg factory stairs (a scant 80 feet away from the bqe) and rang the bell; there was no buzzer so you had to wait for someone to come down to let you in. Then you had to climb three more steep flights of stairs. The fact that Tim and Caroline were married, and this was also their home, probably added to the sense of coziness, though to my eye their shows were always terribly professional. You never saw their own artwork — they’d emptied out the lions’ share of their personal studios to make way for the gallery — unless you were invited through some doors to the back. And, you never saw the vestiges of their living there unless you were invited (as I would be, later). But there were shows, good ones, well chosen and not fussy, often taking the form of two one-person shows mounted in what was essentially a long hallway project space, and a much larger and rectangular main room. I always liked seeing two people’s work at once, because it gave me a good sense of counterpoint. I first reviewed “Ward Shelley + Lynn Mullins,” two artists who (at first flush) couldn’t be more different. He made mechanized, domestic/quotidian objects that performed absurd useless tasks: Ashcans that rolled back and forth, restlessly, on their sides; a toaster with motorized, soup-ladle handle that ‘pulled itself’ up to a shelf, only to crash back down, over and over again. She made delicate, almost childish drawings in colored pencil, and suspended plastic rain bonnets from the ceiling. He was all absurd striving; she was all feminine, school-girl innocence. But they clicked. I sat, I remember, for about two hours taking notes in a small school desk Tim and Caroline kept by the window. Shelley walked in at one point to
give Tim and Caroline some photos (that could run with my review). After the review came out he told me he really was stunned, and appreciative, that someone had bothered to spend time with his work. The vote of confidence was mutual, and I went on to review group shows there aplenty. One featured tiny figurative sculptures by Matt Freedman balanced on a water pipe that you could only view by flashlight (all the works were exhibited in the dark, including an ingenious 16-mm film by Hermann Feldhaus). One group show, simply called Paint, provided me with an amazing roundup of local mid-career talent: Greg Stone, Joe Amrhein, Joyce Pensato... Greg Stone and I would become fast friends. His generous introductions to artists and parties and his sharing of untold connections would prove essential to my experience there. People would trust me, for no better reason than because Stone said they should. Flipside ran until 2001, when Tim and Caroline decided it was time to give their dog some more room, and find a better home, and concentrate on their own work. But before that sad day, I often got invited “in.” We’d sip green tea near their washer-dryer. Or I’d go past the inner door to visit their private studios. In one, Caroline assembled her brightly colored sculptural installations out of soft plastic tubing, glass marbles, and reflective-plastic mirrors. In the other, Spelios, a tinkerer and woodworker of the highest order, kept his Wing Nut Museum (no joke — complete with faux Egyptian Wing Nuts, Medieval Wing Nuts, with clearly written “legends” for each) and workbench tools. I had a camera one day, it must have been in 2000, and took a photo of the view out his window. It was a special moment. He had four tomatoes ripening on the windowsill, which I vividly remember. And of course, in the middle distance was the ever-present bqe. But what I’d forgotten, until I came across the photo recently (an Ektachrome slide, no less), was that the World Trade Center was visible in the skyline beyond.
j oe By 2001, things had pretty much exploded. There were clusters of galleries spreading to the South Side like 31 Grand; there were spaces opening as far north as McCarren Park like Parlour Projects. Soon still others were opened, not by artists, but by gallerists who, though fledgling, considered this a buying/collecting scene. A few stalwarts stood out to my “pen”: Roebling Hall, run by Christian Viveros-Faune and Joel Beck, went through two locations (on Roebling St. and Driggs Ave., respectively) before moving to Wythe Avenue, and eventually to
3. Eyewash still exists, but more as a roving project at this point.
Chelsea, and their high-concept, edgy shows were strong; Larry Walczack (the former partner of Annie Herron, who pretty much made Williamsburg an art neighborhood, single-handedly, in the late 80s and early 90s) showed mid-career worthies in his walkup, project space on n. 7th Street called Eyewash; Momenta, the non-profit run by Eric Heist and Laura Parnes put on tightly curated concept shows, ready for their closeup; Sarah Bowen, who showed some of the most deserving locals you could imagine — the Brooklyn Rail’s Phong Bui, Shari Mendelson — was a bona fide dealer who kept her white-box space going for more than five years. Later, on burgeoning Hope Street, there was Plus Ultra (run by Josh Stern and Ed Winkleman, who went solo to run Chelsea hotspot Ed Wikleman Gallery).3 I either reviewed, or featured, or listed all the above spaces, and more, but today not one of them has had the staying power of Pierogi, brainchild of Joe Amrhein. What was his secret? Real estate mavens will tell you Pierogi’s “special sauce” is that Amrhein was smart enough to buy the studio building that held Pierogi while he could (a feat he only managed, in tandem, with collector/investor Cliff Diver), but I will tell you that it’s Joe himself. There’s no one quite like him: the reluctant dealer, the truly natural dealer. He never expected his business to get as big as it became, and in part, his reluctance is probably what makes him so effective. He’s quiet, and plainspoken almost to a fault. I’ve been on panel discussions with him, and frankly, I can imagine other local dealers, personable guys like Don Carroll (who ran Jack the Pelican Gallery on Driggs for many years) and savvy dealers like Becky Smith (a whipsmart Yale grad who admitted to basing her gallery, Bellwether — first located in a nondescript space on Franklin St, later in a larger spot on Hope Street, and later still decamping altogether for Chelsea — on Joe’s flat files) making for a better “show.” But Joe knows his stuff. And he’s honest. And you can trust him. Today, every single gallery I’ve named in this essay thus far has shuttered, except Pierogi. And that’s food for thought.
m y no s e i s d r i p p i ng Joe put a lot of formal and conceptual care into his shows — even his summer group offerings. I reviewed one, called Boiled or Fried (a reference to pierogi, of course) that featured mind-bogglingly minute landscapes made of postage stamps by Jonathan Herder (Joe tends to favor labor-intensive work); another called In Heat that included self-deprecating caricatures by painter Daniel Davidson (Joe understands the appeal of the shlemazel); solo shows that introduced me to the likes of
David Scher, who made playful yet utterly cerebral drawings in ink and watercolor; and British artist Simon Lee, who would later get public attention for making a camera obscura out of a bus. But the gallery’s centerpiece were the flat files — the archive on which he built the gallery, where 500-plus artists kept affordable works (mostly on paper) in constant circulation. I want to tell you about one very cold and snowy night in 2000. I had walked my butt off, getting ready for a plum feature assignment for TimeOut’s first issue dedicated to Williamsburg, for which I was covering the gallery scene. I walked long and hard in an old black raincoat to see new galleries — all the way down Grand Street searching for some living room space that had gotten some good buzz lately, and then to about five or six other spots from the G Train. By the time I got to Pierogi it was dark, and after gallery hours and the snow was coming down so hard I could barely see. I chanced it and found the place warm, very much open and empty, save for Joe and a woman, and Joe’s dog Berry, asleep at Joe’s feet. I stood there, wordlessly, my coat dripping in a circle all over the floor and watched while I thawed. The woman, a South American curator, was putting together a show of drawings for a Manhattan gallery that was based on her doctoral thesis. Joe listened to her premise and, one by one, with white gloves on, showed her drawings that fit the bill. It was like she was shopping, almost, and Joe was gently, not pushy, but effectively telling her about each artist, about whom she hadn’t heard, but on whom she’d soon rest her high concepts. Here he is doing the heavy lifting I thought, and getting no credit. (It wouldn’t be the first time.) Later, when the magazine asked me who they should photograph to represent local gallerists and how to find them, I imagined trying to set up a group portrait and all the logistics of trying to get all of them in one place, and of how inevitable it would be that someone would get left out. So I said ‘Just take a picture of Joe with his dog Berry in front to the flat files. That’s Williamsburg.’
t h e for m u l a mov e s nort h-e a st/sou t h-w e st Is Bushwick the new Williamsburg? Is Ridgewood the new Bushwick? Such bottom line questions make for fun news headlines, and I’ve written them myself. But I will tell you here that far more pertinent is who, not where: who is going to be the next Greg Stone, or Tim and Caroline? Who’s gonna be your selfless, Sacagawea guide to studios and parties? Who is gonna let you into their home? Jason Andrew has become for me the Joe Amrhein of Bushwick. He works for the Jack Twerkov Estate by day and at night is an auteur of the highest order, putting on shows of local artists and turning over any space he runs to people of talent. He turned his own apartment into a non-profit gallery called Norte Maar. Go into his bedroom, and you’ll find there a private collection, built up of local artists he exhibited over the years — Andrew insists on personally buying at least one work from each show he does. It’s like the flat files, only 3-d. It’s what the Brooklyn Museum isn’t: an investment in local talent. Fred Valentine, longtime Williamsburg resident who moved to Ridgewood, gave over his private space to exhibitions calling it Valentine. Famous Accountants, a basement floor-through in Ridgewood, now no longer, was run by two artists — Ellen Letcher and Kevin Regan — garnering reviews in the New York Times and Art in America. They stopped when it was time to move on. It’s just that, for the rest of us, it’s hard to know what that means. So, intrepid traveler, ready to don your walking shoes: how will you know the next “scene” when you get there? I keep going back to that photo of the tomatoes on Tim’s windowsill for the answer. Williamsburg, after 2001, after the post 9-11 housing rush, became diy, became hipster; it swelled and blossomed, and exploded. Before that, it was just a place of ripening. It was someone’s home. And they made art. And they let you in to see.
Notice To Accelerate Graphite on wall 504 Ă&#x2014; 96 " 2014
Acknowledgements I’d like to thank David Henderson; sculptor, husband, helper and inspiration. And Don Desmett, Mindi Bagnall, and all at James W. and Lois I. Richmond Center for Visual Arts; a total pleasure to work with. Grants from The Joan Mitchell Foundation and nyfa (New York Foundation for the Arts), made this possible. Thank you.
Thank you, Lucy R. Lippard and Sarah Schmerler for brilliant essays. Thanks to Colin Stearns, Hashem Eaddy, Colin Todd and Barb Compagnoni for extraordinary assistance with large-scale printing, and to Chris Anc of Adorama and Scott Conry of Legion Papers. Thank you Alexa Kus, Valerie Costanza, Mandy Hess, Sarah Spohn and Maddie Helwig for your assistance in making the large wall drawing. And Larry Greenberg and Annelie McGavin of Studio10, Bushwick. Lifelong thanks to Christopher Butler and Peter Conrad. — Kate Teale
* New York Professional Outreach Program (NYPOP) is about making connections that lead to a career in the visual arts. The program brings university students to the work places of contemporary professionals in New York City. The experience encourages students to believe in the possibility of a career for themselves. On-site sessions examine contemporary aesthetics in concert with an insider’s perspective on the current professional scene. The class seeks answers to the many practical questions that stem from a student’s desire to become an artist, curator, art writer, and museum or gallery worker. NYPOP students have visited the studio of Kate Teale.
The convergence of connections between artist and curator for this project has been a study in an art world version of “six degrees of separation.” Kate and I first met when she was one of the artists in a group exhibition in 2009 entitled Keeping It Real, curated by my longtime mentor and nypop* collaborator, Jerry Kearns. Kate’s figurative work in that exhibition drew me to look more deeply into her production. What I found was a complex artist, connected not only to her British figurative roots (now morphed with her move to — and influences in — nyc), but also her community outreach through her diy exhibition space Big&Small/Casual Gallery in the energetic and close-knit Brooklyn art scene in which she and her artist husband, the sculptor David Henderson, reside. I am honored to be able to do this mid-career examination of Kate Teale’s work, ranging from the figure, to detailed interior scenes loaded with psychological examinations, to her palpable lens on global issues and their affect on the individual soul. Her work is beautiful, haunting, and historically placed in the dialog of contemporary social practice. I want to thank Sarah Schmerler for her intimate writing about the Brooklyn art community; a community of organizations and the people and places that have generated a truly important contemporary art scene. Teale’s Big&Small/Casual Gallery is a prime example of artists supporting artists. Sarah’s essay captures the energy and commitment of the ever-growing arena that is Brooklyn, powered by committed people and places. Over the past thirty years or so, I have had the extreme pleasure and privilege to work with the highly regarded art and cultural activist, Lucy R. Lippard. I have had the honor to cross paths with Lucy on projects generated by her remarkable writing, as well as her curatorial work on a number of projects I have gratefully programmed for the various exhibition programs in which I have worked throughout the years. Lippard’s essay on Teale’s work places the paintings and drawings in a larger historical and social conversation and places Kate and her work solidly into the dialog of contemporary art from the 1960s to the present. As always, I am thrilled to have Lucy R. Lippard as a prominent and powerful voice for this project. Thanks as always to James and Lois Richmond, and the Friends of the rcva for their on-going support at all levels for rcva programming. To Western Michigan University’s Gwen Frostic School of Art — my thanks for including the rcva exhibitions program as an integral part of the School of Art’s mission to educate and expand the art world horizons of our students and our regional community. — Don Desmett, Founding Director of Exhibitions James W. & Lois I. Richmond Center for Visual Arts
kate teale was born in England, and received her b.a. at Oxford University, her Painting Diploma at City and Guilds of London Art School and her mfa at c.u.n.y. Hunter College. Kate’s first solo show in New York City was at Spring Gallery in SoHo in 1996. Her most recent solo show was March 2013 at Studio 10, Bushwick section of Brooklyn, ny. Group shows include: Monya Rowe Gallery, Chelsea nyc; Jim Kempner Gallery, Chelsea nyc; and Bushwick Basel with Valentine Gallery. Her work can be seen at Pierogi Gallery flat files, Brooklyn. Kate received a Painters and Sculptors Grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation in 2013, and was a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellow in Painting 2008. She has written feature articles for the uk art magazine Contemporary Art. Kate is founder and director of Big&Small/Casual Gallery in Long Island City and has curated 12 shows at the space www.bigandsmallcasual.net. lucy r. lippard is a writer/curator/editor/lecturer/activist, author of 21 books on contemporary art and cultural criticism, most recently Undermining: A Wild Ride Through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West (The New Press, 2014), Down Country: The Tano of the Galisteo Basin, 1250–1782 (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2010), The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society, and On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art, and Place (The New Press, 1997, 1999). She is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Lannan Grant among other awards. Her most recent curatorial venture was Weather Report: Art and Climate Change (Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 2007). She lectures internationally and has received seven honorary doctorates. She lives in rural Galisteo, New Mexico where she is on the County Traditional Community Planning Committee and for 14 years has edited the monthly community newsletter: El Puente de Galisteo.
sarah schmerler is an artist, critic, and curator based in Brooklyn. She has covered the diy gallery scene extensively for such publications as Art in America, TimeOut New York, ARTNews and Art on Paper. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son, and does private writing consulting for artists. She wishes she had a little more space. don desmett is Founding Director of Exhibitions at the James W. and Lois I. Richmond Center for Visual Arts at Western Michigan University. Desmett received his mfa from The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and has a bfa from The University of Akron. From 2000 to 2004 Desmett was Director of Collections and Exhibitions at The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. He also served as Director and Curator of The Tyler Galleries at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia from 1990–98. Desmett has organized major exhibitions for The Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; The Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, d.c.. Don has written numerous essays for exhibition catalogs, including Heroes Like Us?, Yinka Shonibare, mbe, Sculptural Concepts and Charismatic Abstraction, for the Richmond Center for Visual Arts; Arnold Mesches Painting History, for the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, The Price of Power for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, Jerry Kearns Deep Cover: The Deadly Art of Illusion and Mike Glier: Garden Court for Temple University’s Tyler School of Art.