Back in 2007 Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) hosted "Shared Woman," a survey that declared itself "an exhibition that is dependent on cronyism, feminism and nepotism." Curated by artists A.L. Steiner, Emily Roysdon, and Eve Fowler- stepping into LACE was like entering into a kind of queer microtopia. The exhibition's pronounced taste for mediocre curatorial practice putting your friends in a show - worked out just fine here. "Shared Women" was a collection of art, organized by other artists, displaying a similar "gay feminist" sensibility. Its intimacy was a fresh little-sister to the concurrent historical feminist survey "WACK!" doing time then at MOCA. As artist/organizer Eve Fowler put it to me, the show at LACE was made from " people we slept with." Fowler expanded: though several generations younger than their elders in WACK!, most of the artists' in "Shared Women" expressed contemporary solidarity with the aesthetics and political sensibilities of 70's feminism; this affect uniquely defined the young artists.
What can art do besides sit on a wall? LACE traces its history back to the 1970's when it was a collectively run artist's organization. It claims its heritage as an early champion of (then new, now ubiquitous) forms of performance, video, and installation art. Commonwealth & Council is a contemporary artist organized space (began in 2010). Its founder Young Chung states it creates a "safe space" supporting artists commercial galleries haven't gotten to, won't get to, or have passed over. Today, Eve Fowler organizes Artist Curated Projects (which she started with Lucas Michael in 2008). She agrees in spirit, though not in language, with Chung's points. She adds artists-run spaces are where artists control and manifest there own "cultural capital" -- and she presents work she defines as being characteristically strong in content and form.
But what can visual art do? Standing in front of a very large (7'x13') colored pencil drawing by Suzanne Wright, called "Rainbow Highway," amongst the assembled community in "Shared Women" - it became clear for me. "Rainbow Highway" depicts what appeared as the roadbed of the Golden Gate Bridge going between the legs and disappearing into an orifice of an indeterminate and receiving naked body. (Wright tells me it's an amalgam of New York's George Washington Bridge and SF's Golden Gate.) The body, warmly positioning its butt cheeks, appears where the city on the other shore ought be. At first, this surreal landscape was inscrutable. How could I explain this image, at once graphic and explicit? Explicit in that it speaks of a specific pleasure and specific geography; the pleasure of a vast sexuality, the geography of a community supporting that desire? "My anal and vaginal love is as large as the city. It accepts all traffic! It is rainbow colored," the art had spoken to me.
The obvious answers lay about me with the other works at LACE. Together friends and lovers make their own joys, demands, questions, and place. Previous to this outing, I'd not been granted entrance to this distinct community represented here in well over 35 artworks This is what both art and artist's run spaces do; boldly make public what amongst friends usually remains hidden.
Young Chung started Commonwealth & Council in his home (today it's a separate gallery in Koreatown). He says it has something like an agenda to present work by women, people of color, queer artists, and their "allies." Artist Curated Project is based in Fowler's home (though not all its projects manifest there). Fowler isn't explicit regarding identities of artists she cares to work with though does care to stress that she is interested in showing women. Both projects organize exhibitions involving a similar community of other identified artists (though not exlusively). Both artist present work of their friends, and friends' friends' friends.
Artbound spoke with Eve Fowler and Young Chung about their projects and the art and culture they are interested in supporting.
What kinds of work are you interested in sheltering or shepherding?
Eve Fowler: I'm interested in work where I feel the content is important work I enjoy being around. Lucas Michael and I organized an exhibition at the Art Production Fund's Project Space in New York, called "Something's Gonna Soon" with Math Bass, Zackary Drucker, Dylan Mira and Marty Windahl. In general, the art in this show was very queer. Some of the content was more directly about that; some of the content was more mysteriously queer. The quality of all of the work was incredible.
Young Chung: Commonwealth & Council is invested in safeguarding an intergenerational community of artists, extending our multiple realities through the shared experience of art. Our goal is to learn along the way, how generosity and hospitality can sustain our co-existence. We are deeply invested in the articulations of difference by women, queers, artists of color, and our allies. We believe that the plurality of our voices is a testament to the diverse realities and truths that reckon to be heard.
What has been a memorable exhibition you've presented?
EF: The most rewarding exhibition I curated was "Shared Women" at LACE with A.L.Steiner and Emily Roysdon. The people who showed work in "Shared Women" were a powerful, important group of artists. That show had incredible energy and it was fun.
Otherwise, a memorable exhibit was the one Young Chung curated, "Mama San." It included Catherine Lord, Catherine Opie, Robert Blanchon, Ashley Hunt, Connie Samaras, Laura Splan, Anne Walsh and other people he studied with when he was a student. It was Young's thank you to all of these artists. The sentiment was sweet and the work in the show was great. There were a lot of people who hadn't seen Robert Blanchon's work before - he died of Aids in 1999 when he was 33. In general, this was a really strong show.
YC: In 2010, Margaret Honda melted down her 1989 sculpture, "Fish Trap," made of woven bronze wire measuring four feet long and weighing 40 pounds. Still weighing approximately 40 pounds, the sculpture is now in the form of three ingots. This transformation suggests the potential for continuous growth and rebirth. We featured this work as a symbolic stratagem in "Demolition Woman: Preview" at PULSE LA and Margaret included it in her one-person show, "...With Observations on their Habits," here. All the works in the show addressed transformation of earlier works and waste materials from previous projects.
In April, 2012, we were thrilled to present Jennifer Moon's "This Is Where I Learned Of Love," part 1 of her "Phoenix Rising" saga occurring after her ten year dormancy from the art world. Our first "studio" visit with Jennifer took place at Felicity House, a sober living house for women. Here, we were immediately struck by her commitment to an artful way of life as she shared a flow chart of The Revolution and postings of letters about love, revolution, and freedom on her Facebook page that exposed her privacy with openness and heartfelt honesty. Throughout her nine-month incarceration at Valley State Prison for Women and in a rehabilitation center, Jennifer continuously engaged in her practice by empowering herself with the specificity of her experiences.
How does your artist run space differ from a commercial gallery, non-profit, or collective?
EF: ACP differs from a commercial space because I live in the space where many of the shows take place. Artists curate shows without much input from me. I pick people I trust and whose work I like. If they curate a great show, which they usually do, I'm happy. If they curate a show that is just ok, I'm also happy. It's ok if something fails here. I haven't really felt that any of the shows failed but there are some that I have liked better than others.
YC: We don't say that we are interested in qualities of ingenuity and talent then show only straight, white men, which is often the modus operandi of commercial galleries, driven by art market whims and shoddy infrastructure of the art world. Well, that's just it. We occupy that interstitial space between fixed identities. We are becoming or are "something other."
What is your ideal vision for your culture? Or of "your culture"? Or how do you define the culture that you are interested in?
EF: There are so many different ways to answer this question. In general, and in response to what we spoke about I'd say my ideal vision of culture is one with equality of some kind. Or a culture that acknowledges quality in art. And substance/content.
YC: Commonwealth & Council is committed in artists who refuse to follow conventional dictum for artistic trajectory and measure of success. We recognize that 99 percent of artists are not like bullets hitting a target in plain sight, but more like arrows in flight at varying angles with their respective destinations. So our culture is in the making and we are here for the long haul.
Top Image: Jennifer Moon, Detail of "Prison Relic #2: Typewriter" of 14 in the installation, "Phoenix Rising, Part 1: This Is Where I Learned Of Love,"; which documents my nine-month incarceration in a California state prison. Photographs, sculptural objects, a book, and takeaway pocket booklets tell a story of imprisonment, love, revolution, and freedom. | Photo: Patrick Connor.
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