In the previous post, Mary Birmingham, Exhibition Director for the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey, talked about how artists get on her radar and offered advice to anyone looking to connect similarly with curators.
In this post, she talks specifically about how she found the artists for Material Color. Although the show is over (it ran for four months, October 2008 through January 2009), the curatorial process by which she developed the exhibition continues in her practice. I think it's worth hearing about how Birmingham made the selections she did, because her process complements the ideas that Marketing Mondays has put forth in other posts: Show, show, show your work; network with your colleagues in the art world, whether they be artists, dealers, critics or curators; and understand that networking may lead to referrals, which are a big way artists find their way into exhibitions. (Disclaimer: My work is included in this show. Indeed, it's how this dialog with Birmingham came about.)
Above: Mary Birmingham, facing camera, talks with artist Leslie Wayne at the opening of Material Color. James Lecce painting, left; my Vicolo 35
The words below are Birmingham’s, except for a couple of lines in italic by me to set the scene. I simply organized the comments into paragraphs with subheads to deliver the narrative. The work of most of the artists she mentions can be seen in my blog post about the show. .
One Artist Sparks an Idea
At the Miami art fairs in 2007, Birmingham was taken with the work of Robert Sagerman. His lush surfaces, comprised of thousands of brush strokes built up into a tangible wall of color and light, provided an Aha! moment for her.
"I saw Robert Sagerman’s work at no fewer than four places in Miami. Then I started to become more aware of other art work that shared this sense of weighty materiality and seductive surface. I saw the work of Peter Fox, Markus Linnenbrink and Omar Chacon--all works that were colorful as well as having a visceral feeling about them. By the end of my stay in Miami I had seen enough to tease my thinking about a possible future exhibition."
The material color that sparked an exhibition: a surface by Robert Sagerman (The detail here, from 7373, 2008, oil on canvas, was painted after Birmingham's Aha! moment; it's one of my photo file images)
"My idea was reinforced when I returned to New York. In March  I saw Ivana Brenner's work at Scope and Leslie Wayne’s at the Armory Show. Those six artists were enough to get me going."
Another jumpstarter: the work of Leslie Wayne. This detail, from my photo files, is from a painting at the Jack Shainman Gallery booth at Pulse Miami, 2007
Referrals by Dealers and Artists, and Serendipitous Finds
"I found Carlos Estrada Vega through Margaret Thatcher, who also pointed me to dealer Valerie McKenzie, who represents James Lecce. I like Elizabeth Harris's gallery and and was happy to find that that she represents Carolanna Parlato, whose work I had also seen in Miami through a West Coast dealer. I've known the work of Lori Kirkbride and Paul Russo for several years. Robert Sagerman introduced me to Gregg Hill.
"Alana Bograd was recommended to me by the artist Amy Wilson, who is a friend of mine. Another artist I’ve become friendly with, Molly Heron, was in the  No Chromophobia show at OK Harris and invited me to see it with her. While we were there, I happened to meet Louise Sloane. This is also where I saw your work in person for the first time. I found the other artists either while wandering in Chelsea or through searching the Internet.
"By then I had sharpened my idea to explore different processes and materials, with the common denominator of color. I was especially interested in seeing how different artists found different ways to handle [the materiality of] their paint. "
Installation view of No Chromophobia at OK Harris, spring-summer, 2008, curated by Richard Witter
Birmingham found two artists there: Louise P. Sloane, on far wall above (Martha Keller, left); and me, left and center, below (Siri Berg, right)
Birmingham connected the dots into the curatorial mix that became Material Color
Above: Louise P. Sloane, Cecilia Biaggini and Gregg Hill
Below: Hill, Sagerman and Carlos Estrada Vega
A Typical Approach
"This is pretty much my process for organizing group shows. Something stimulates my thinking. Then I start collecting names, which connect to other names. Studio visits follow each round of discoveries and leads until the show develops."