In September, on a roll from my studio visits throughout the summer, I visited Gloria Klein on the Lower East Side. Klein lives in a large apartment complex two blocks from the East River on a stretch between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Her one-bedroom apartment, filled with a decade-spanning collection of work by New York artists, is both home and studio. The studio takes up most of the living room.
I’ve been a fan of Klein’s geometric paintings since the first time I saw them, well over a decade ago at, I think, A.I.R. Gallery. (One such painting is visible on the wall in the picture above.) Her razor-sharp compositions call to mind rapidly multiplying crystalline structures, which she has assembled carefully into a grid matrix, so what looks initially to be wildly out of control visually in fact exists within the exquisite tension of chaos and order.
I'm dispensing with the captions. Just scroll down and take a look. All the paintings are 22 x 30 inches, acrylic on heavy watercolor paper
In Klein's most recent body of work she has switched from stretched canvas to 22 x 30” paper. These are the works I saw and photographed, and which appear here. It seems that in the process of moving from a tensioned surface to the smaller and more relaxed rectangle of heavyweight watercolor paper, the tension in her compositions has also relaxed.“I paint a lot on paper now,” says Klein. The smaller workspace engendered the change in material, but she is careful to point out that the intent remains the same. “To me, it’s the same surface, the same concentration, the same hard edge.”
But the work seems, well, less edgy and more joyful, no? “Not joyful, playful. I wanted to relax the triangles."
So here you go: playful, saturated, geometric, a bit less tension but still intense.
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."
"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. "
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."
There’s a lot of atmosphere in Chelsea right now. Not air, which is a given, but ethereal presence. Light and space.
The David Zwirner Gallery is just pulsing atmosphere over on 19th Street in that block long building complex of his. First there’s the Dan Flavin sculpture that’s been up for a while, glowing yellow, pink and white in a semi-darkened space the size of a small airplane hangar. The effect is at once quietly grand and oddly intimate.
In the gallery proper there’s Primary Atmospheres: Works from California 1960-1970. This is beautifully rendered minimalism. Much of it is etheric, though there’s a strong sense of surface (now there's an oxymoron). The cool white exhibition spaces allow the work to appear to levitate. Don’t make me talk about it any more. I’m going to show you pictures. It’s up until February 6, so go see it for yourself.
But Zwirner’s California boys (and one girl) are not the only luminous game in town. In its Abstract Ensemble show, ACA Gallery on 20th Street has a lovely chromatic mirage of a painting by Leon Berkowitz. On 22nd Street, Ameringer/McEnery/Yohe’s Helen Frankenthaler show has a couple of small acrylic paintings on paper that fairly float.
While everything I've just mentioned is from decades past, I have recent work to show you, too. At Kathryn Markel on 20th, there's Will 'O the Wisp, a show of paintings by Julian Jackson so softly diffuse and radiant they seem to be lit from within, as was his intention. And at Cynthia-Reeves Gallery on 24th Street, there are beautiful large-scale graphite drawings by Anne Lindberg whose striations pull you deep into their finely rendered fog. These two shows are also up through February 6. Go.
Anne Lindbergh at Cynthia-Reeves : Title unknown, 2009, graphite on cotton board
Several readers have asked Marketing Mondays to address the issue of how to get on a curator's radar, and even more specifically, how to get a curator to look at work. Let me share with you what I've learned.
Over the past few years, I've spoken with a number of museum curators about my work. Other curators, over the course of several semesters, have spoken to a careers class I teach. Because the discourse in these situations was not meant for publication, I've quoted the curators without identifying them specifically. The quotes recall the spirit if not the exact letter of the conversation.
Mary Birmingham, a curator I have worked with, has agreed to talk on the record. Birmingham is the Exhibition Director at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey. She is quoted verbatim. Here's what she and the others have to say:
It seems contrary, but a 19th-century means of communication remains one of the most powerful ways of getting a curator's (or dealer's) attention today. Everyone looks at a postcard, if only fleetingly. Put on your mailing list those curators you want to be aware of your work. Many curators save the postcards that appeal to them.
Here's A, an academic curator in New England with a busy schedule and a history of producing challenging exhibitions that get reviewed regularly: "I keep folders by category—abstraction, installation, sculpture, whatever. I file every postcard that appeals to me. Whenever I have some free time, usually in the summer when school is not in session, I take out the folders and see what I've accumulated. The biggest folders get my attention first. And if I find that I've saved several postcards from one artist, I take time to look at that artist's work online. I may then call to request a studio visit."
Enter Shows Juried by a Curator You Want to Notice Your Work
Some of my colleagues don’t think this is such a great idea because, let's be honest, a curator isn't going to remember all that much out of a sea of submissions. But if the curator selected your work for inclusion in a show, and particularly if she awarded it a prize, by all means send a note to thank her for including you in the show or giving you that award.
Then stay in touch. Send an occasional postcard to announce an upcoming show. And if something really wonderful happens to you as a result of that juried exhibition, a note to the juror serves two functions: 1) It reinforces to the juror that her positive response to your work is shared by others; 2) It allows the juror to stay aware your career. Curators often follow artists' careers from a distance. You think those invitations to show in a museum happen overnight?
Maintain a Strong Web Presence
"I am a huge user of the Internet when I am mulling over exhibition possibilities," says Birmingham. "It's a great way to look for artists, and I find that one name usually leads to another." Google’s image feature allows her or any curator to cut right to the chase.
Show, Show, Show
Curators make a point of visiting galleries in their area, and they routinely hit the galleries in their nearest large city. Sooner or later all of them get to New York. The more you show, the greater your chances are of having your work seen—and you never know when or by whom.
"I saw 60 shows this past weekend," said B, a Boston museum curator who routinely makes quick trips into Manhattan. Will he remember everything? Well, not everything, but as he pointed out, "Part of my job is see a lot and to remember what I have seen."
"I love art fairs," says Birmingham. "For me, working on the outskirts of New York City, they are a way to connect with multiple sources in a concentrated time and place. If I spend the day visiting galleries in New York, I'll usually target a particular neighborhood (the Lower East Side, Chelsea, etc.) to look at work for specific projects. It can be limiting. But at art fairs it's easier to stay loose--and be open to new ideas--while seeing a much greater volume of work. Since I'm always working on several shows simultaneously, art fairs allow me to easily and frequently 'switch gears' and think of several projects at once."
Should You Send a Package to a Curator?
“There is six months' worth of packages in a box in my office and I have no time to look at them,” lamented C, a New England curator. Small museums may be short staffed even in the best of times. A cold-call package may stay in the box for some time.
But this is not always true. "I look at everything that's addressed to me," said the Boston curator. Has he ever included an artist in a show this way? "Not yet," he admitted, but studio visits have come about as a result of the contact. Ask around to see what the viewing preferences are of the curators you wish to reach.
Understand the Hierarchy
While the top curators in any big institution are going after the big names to create the blockbusters, the big surveys, and the all-star thematic shows, the associate and assistant curators are looking in the smaller venues for work to present to the higher ups, as well as for art to advance their own agenda. Like artists, emerging curators need to distinguish themselves with shows that receive critical attention and word-of-mouth buzz. Follow their work—and put them on your mailing list so that they might follow yours. Often these are the curators tapped to jury shows. They have nowhere to go but up, often moving from one museum to another as they go. If they respond to your work, you may find your career trajectory arc upward along with theirs.
Location, Location, Location
I’m oversimplifying, but I think I can safely say that New York curators, who have a huge world of choices in their own hometown, don’t need to travel to regional or local museums to find artists.
If you are an artist who has not shown regularly in New York, you can certainly send postcards to the curators here whom you want to know about your work. But you’re more likely to get more traction with the curators of your local and regional museums, as Birmingham points out. Part of their mandate is to visit the galleries in their region and to show the work of artists who have a connection to the region; if you show regularly, chances are they’ve already seen your work.
Many curators hit the openings in their area, knowing they’ll see not just art but the people who make it and sell it. Learn who the curators are. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Openings are a great democratizer, the opportunity to talk without a degree or a desk separating you in conversation.
Once you’ve gotten a local museum show and ideally an exhibition catalog and the support of a curator who has championed your work, you’ll be ready to broaden your exhibition base. Curators--like dealers, critics and artists--have their professional organizations. A reference from one curator may help you at another institution.
Networking: A Key to Getting on the List
One artist on her list might have been in a show that turns up another couple of names. There are colleagues who travel and bring back postcards or exhibition information from shows they’ve liked. There's the dealer who suggests one of his artists; the artist friend who turns the curator on to a new gallery loaded with artists doing exactly the kind of work the curator responds to; the neighbor with a great eye; the brother's girlfriend's best friend who’s dating an artist; the friends of that artist.
If you’re getting your work out there, it's entirely possible that curators have already seen your work. Often it’s repetition that makes the difference. A curator sees your work in a show, you’re mentioned by a dealer or another artist, there's a positive review in a regional magazine, a blog post by or about you gets circulated and, boom, you get a call or an e-mail from a curator who was nudged into action by the synchronicity. Similarly, inquiries timed to take advantage of a current show or good review may get you a quick response, perhaps even an invitation for a studio visit.
"One final note," says Birmingham: "If a curator has given you positive feedback, by all means continue to update them by email. I’ll be happy to hear about your latest show or award or residency, as long as you realize I may not be able to respond personally. Remember that it’s a symbiotic relationship; curators need contact with artists (among others) in order to do their jobs effectively. We really do need each other. The trick is in striking the right balance. "
Next week: Birmingham explains how she selected the artists for a recent exhibition
Honest to god, while I was waiting for the crowds to thin in order to get an unpeopled shot, I actually heard a woman say, “It’s pronounced Monay, like the jewelry.” Except that she said joo-ler-ree. I wondered if anyone would make a crack about a big sofa, but no. At least not on my watch, anyway.
Try to get there when the museum opens, before the hordes come charging in and posing in front of the paintings. It's a madhouse in there all day long, the very opposite of what must have been the tranquility of the Old Man's garden. The paintings are on view until April 12.
I have no title for this work, but I love it and the detail:
Swinging around to the right: Afterlife, 2002-2009, dispersed pigment, polymer and collage on canvas, left
The work for which I have no title, right, is shown in detail below
The layers are topographical and transparent, taking you deep with the visual structure of the painting
Viewing Horvath's work gives you an opportunity to float above it, to float within it, to peek into and behind space. Clearly she achieved what she set out to do. This is part of her statement from the press release: “I’d like you to see a place as if you are hovering far above it, and at the same time digging in the ground. You are large, then you are small. When you are small you can enter into things. When you are large you can see more.”
Foreground, Your Blue Loom, for Martin Ramirez, 2001, disperse pigment, ink and polymer on paper on canvas
A peek into the smaller back gallery. The largest painting, July Mountain, was noted here previously
Artists and Dealers Writing About Art Marketing
Edward Winkleman Blog
Subtitled, art/politics/gossip/tough love--and covering every one of those topics--the blog also reaches out to the artists in his readership. Yes, I've mentioned this blog before, but good information bears repeating. Winkleman's informative series, Advice for Artists Seeking Gallery Representation, was culled from his many posts as a stand-alone section. His book, How to Start and Run a Commercial Gallery is also very helpful to artists who wish to know how to connect with the folks who are starting and running those galleries. I wrote about it here.
Note: Bhandari and Winkleman will participate in Blog It!, a panel discussion in Manhattan this Friday, January 15. Seating is free but you must RSVP to attend.