Sunday, 12 August 2012

A Premise for 'Making Familiar'

The Academy of Music, 14th Street, New York City, where Philip Guston and David Reed went to escape the Studio School to see Sergio Leone’s  For a Few Dollars More. Today, this site has become part of New York University.

Making Familiar is an exhibition that spotlights the work of two painters each week. Over the course of six weeks, twelve artists in total will be paired together, both to exhibit and to discuss their work in the setting of the gallery. The exhibition grows each week, starting with two artists, and ending with twelve artists’ work displayed on a salon wall in the gallery.

The exhibition was conceived via the biographically intimate essay ‘Soul-Beating’, by the American artist David Reed, who had the strange aspiration to be a “bedroom painter.”  In his essay, Reed briefly describes escaping “the Studio School to go to the old Academy of Music, a huge ruin of a movie theater on Fourteenth Street [New York], to see one of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, For a Few Dollars More,”  with his idol, the iconic American painter, Philip Guston.

A pivotal aspect of the exhibition is the weekly artist conversation, framed by a conversation area that will be marked out in the gallery by domestic paraphernalia: couches, television etc. The weekly conversations between the paired artists will be open to the public, and will take place each Tuesday during the exhibition. These conversations will also be recorded and screened in the gallery .

‘Making Familiar’ is a play on the phrase ‘to make strange’ – to not talk due to being uncomfortable. The title of the show also refers to the everyday activities of the artist that don’t include the act of painting: Anselm Kiefer admitted once that he is at his most creative when washing dishes. As curators, Robert Armstrong and James Merrigan will guide the discussion along, questioning, observing and familiarising themselves, and the audience, with the artists’ thoughts on painting, or washing dishes.

The artist conversations are grounded in the suggested informality of the David Reed and Philip Guston trip to the cinema. What was said between the two artists? Was painting even discussed?

This is an 'active' exhibition that addresses painting at the site of the familiar, offering a chance to experience peer painting practices side-by-side, and revelations on the processes and 'lived' stories that define their working methods.

[1] David Reed, 'Soul-Beating', Art Journal:  []

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