Wider than a postcard - The latest curatorial collaboration between Arrested Motion’s UK director Sven Davis and Breeze Block Gallery opens today.
Over 200 artists have been invited to produce up to 3 works each based on the traditional postcard format. We caught up with Sven, to find out a bit more about the show.
|——HV— Could you tell us a little about yourself, your background and how someone in the UK has come to be curating shows for Breeze Block Gallery in the USA?
|——SV— Sure! I live in the North of the UK – in York, where I work in architecture for my day job. I’ve been doing that for around 20 years and I’ve got to work on some pretty interesting developments in my time. I currently lead a team within a large engineering consultancy and have about £850million worth of projects that I’m responsible for. It’s a lot of fun, but the pressure can be pretty heavy at times, so art has always being somewhat of an escape for me. I’ve been collecting art for around 12 years and a few years ago I started writing for an art blog called arrestedmotion.com along with a group of friends. I love going to exhibitions and soaking up the work, so it seemed like a natural thing to do was to go and take pictures and write about the art as well. It’s been a fun few years and I’ve met a lot of good people along the way.
Breeze Block Gallery has been running for 6 years of so, and I came across them a few years back and bought a few pieces of work over time from the likes of Rich Jacobs, Bryce Kanights and Josh Keyes. Paige Prendergast owns and runs the gallery and she and I struck up a good rapport and became friends. She asked me to curate a group exhibition, which ran last September and was called Space//Form. It was architecturally focused and featured 100 artists all creating new work on a ten inch square panel that I provided via a sponsor called Ampersand. We laid out all the paintings in a grid, as I’m very interested in the parallels of order and chaos in both art and architecture. The show was well received and on the back of that Paige asked me to work on some more projects with the gallery, which of course I was more than happy to do as she is really great to work with! Our discussions led to Paige building out a second gallery space that was being used for storage so that we can run two shows each month. I’ve ended up curating the Breeze Block programme for both gallery spaces for the next year or so and we have some really exciting projects planned.
|——HV— What the story behind the “Wider Than a Postcard” concept?
|——SV— I’m fascinated in how you can give a series of artists the same brief, the same materials and how the results are so wildly different! That ethos played a big part of Space//Form, and I wanted to work with another format where the project is based upon the same principals in a way that the exhibition could be seen as a comparative study of the artists involved. Group shows for me are always exciting and a great way to find out about new artists. These last two shows for me have been particularly interesting due to the controlled size of the work to be presented. Personally I find that a controlled brief for group exhibitions results in an interesting and holistic show.
Wider than a postcard has 200 artists this time, and there are around 400 individual artworks all combining into one large installation, which will be based on a grid arrangement again – that’s the order part of this whole thing. Part of the chaos will be in hanging that many individual artworks! The title itself is a riff on a lyric by Citizen Fish – I’m showing my punk rock roots here! I always considered the phrase Wider than a postcard to be quite existentialist and thought that sending or receiving a postcard gives such a small glimpse into our experiences, almost a pinhole view into the lives of ourselves and others. I wanted to do something with the format as the size of the work to be created is quite challenging. It’s counter-intuitive to work so small for many artists and when I found this piece of writing by the poet Ron Padgett, it all just clicked into place…
It is not easy writing
someone a postcard.
The size and shape
of the card cut you
down to size
…I used this as the opening statement on the artist brief and it seems that a lot of the artists resonated with its sentiment – some more so than others that I’ve had a lot of dialogue with along the way. Who’d have thought such a small artwork would prompt so much contemplation! It’s satisfying to know that the artists appreciate the challenge though. I’ve not seen all of the work yet, but what I have seen so far has been fantastic. I’m really looking forward to viewing all of the work in person when we hang the show.
|——HV— There are a lot of artist’s involved in the show — how did you come to choose the artists you have? Is there something about curating such large group shows you relish more than the idea of exhibitions with only a handful of people? I imagine most would find that very daunting.
|——SV— Yeah there are 200 artists. I think the idea of curating such a large group appeals to my collector / hoarder instinct that I’ve seemingly always had. The presentation of the exhibition itself is very important to me and I had a clear vision of how I wanted the exhibition to look. It’s kind of a struggle between the less-is-more aspect of the size of the individual works, and obviously the more-is-more aesthetic of the presentation of the work collectively in a large grid formation. That whole thing relates back to what I do for a living…
I don’t see it as daunting really though. Sure enough there is a lot of organizing and a shit-ton of correspondence to keep up with, but between Paige and I we seem to manage things quite well! As for selection of the artists, everyone involved is someone that I either know or respect as an artist and I’m interested to see their work within the confines I’ve set. There’s a mixture of styles, and that reflects my tastes in the art that I both collect and also enjoy. Fine art is pretty limitless as I’m sure you’ll agree. We have photographers, collage artists, painters, illustrators, graphic designers and also some graffiti and street artists that I think translate particularly well into a gallery setting. We’ve got local artists from Portland, the rest of the USA, South America, Australia, the UK, Europe and Asia. It’s a real global endeavour, but in my mind art has no boundaries.
|——HV— Are there any other shows that you’re involved with lined up that we should be looking out for?
|——SV— Well first and foremost we have olive47 showing in gallery 2 alongside Wider than a postcard this May. She’s a street artist based in Atlanta who I got to know when she lived in London few years back. I always enjoyed her fun paste-ups around London, so I was glad to be able to work on a show with her. She’s been working like crazy on a whole series of paintings and assemblages and her installation plans sound like a lot of fun. Further into the year we have an exciting line up. In June we have William Hundley and Jim Kazanjian, who both use photography in interesting but very different ways, as a 2-person show in gallery 1 with SF painter Eric Shaw in gallery 2. July is the wonderful Kevin Earl Taylor and the debut of Ryan Stewart Nault. August has collage artist Mario Wagner and the first solo show for Carl Cashman. Carl flew out for the opening of Space//Form from the UK, where he had just one small piece, which was coincidently one of the first pieces to sell, and that confirmed to me that he was totally committed to making a go of his career. We gave him a show due to both his conviction and also his rad work!
There is another group show in September called Buddy System Invitational where I’m inviting a much smaller group of artists and they are in turn inviting an artist themselves. That runs alongside Chris Valkov who is an outstanding painter, tattooist and draughtsman that I met in Portland last year.
Further out we have Mike Egan & John Casey in October – I’m sure there will be a Halloween theme in there somewhere, Jerry Inscoe, Augustine Kofie and Christopher Derek Bruno as an installation based three person show in November, then Mark Dean Veca, Ryan De La Hoz, Alex Lukas, Bill McRight, Pete Watts & Erin Murray, Greg Eason, Jeff Depner, Matthew Feyld, Brin Levinson, Jessica Hess and Scott Listfield between December and next April. We’ve also got some other shows arranged further into 2014 with the likes of Gary Taxali, Kozyndan, Brendan Monroe and Evah Fan. I’m out of breath now after that list but we also have plans to show in Miami this year as part of the Art Basel week. It’s pretty hectic, and there are lots of challenges, but I’m having a lot of fun with it!
A big thanks to Sven Davis for finding the time to answer our questions and giving us a heads up on the new show.
Be sure to check out the Breeze Block site for further reading.
Wider than a postcard opens today, and runs till 1st June.