Artists who curate: “Creating opportunities for felicitous constellations”

 “Reverie,” a group show  curated by Stephen Westfall. Installation view, Zurcher Studio.

The other day Austin Thomas, who is feeling overwhelmed with emails from struggling artists,  blogged some career advice. Rather than continually ask other people for career help, Thomas urges artists to simply do something interesting (curate a show, organize a salon, write about other artists’ work, etc.) that helps others. In the process, artists would be building a community and engaging in creative activities that will ultimately help their own careers. Good idea, right? 

Sylvan Lionni, Shirley Jaffe

One obvious way of helping others and benefiting yourself in the bargain is to a curate a show. Today, for inspiration to all the aspiring artist-curators out there, I’m featuring images from “Reverie,” an excellent group show curated by artist/writer/professor Stephen Westfall, who has a solo show running concurrently at Lennon Weinberg. Here’s the lovely curatorial essay he wrote, which  discusses the process of selecting the work. 

Thinking about this group show has been a little like launching a waking dream. The painters are all abstract artists who are working with hierarchically presented planes of color. But the similarity between them seems to end right there. Some are brushy, even ecstatically gestural in their paint application, while others organize their compositions geometrically. There are hard edges and soft edges, younger painters and lifers, larger scaled compositions and compression, brilliant plumages of color and introspective tonalities. I don�t think any of these artists regard their work as cultural or aesthetic �production,� to use the deliberately lifeless term assigned by Frankfurt-schooled theorists. Rather, they celebrate the surprises their evolving languages of form-giving spring on them in the process of their unfolding. If anything, the cottage industry of the individual painter is a happily or grotesquely inefficient form of production. Sometimes both. These artists, like many others, will occasionally find in repetition an �accident,� or a surprise, that will attach and become another element of consciousness going forward. Thus, their imagery changes meaningfully over time, something like the slow forms described by George Kubler.

Seeing more than one work by each artist might leave a deeper impression of his or her individual sensibility while creating opportunities for felicitous constellations and across the room conversations akin to internal rhymes and alliterations in a poem. Eileen Myles once reminded me that �stanza� means �room� in Italian. I have dreams of paintings installed in rooms. They are not paintings I recognize as mine upon waking, their image structures are invariably less defined, but the rooms themselves may jog a memory of other rooms I have been in: galleries, studios, museums, and raw spaces. Sometimes I think these are paintings I should be making, as if the dream was a directive from another. When I am struck by someone else�s paintings I experience a temporary and pleasurable sense of appropriation, for a moment I feel I made that painting. I mean I could have, if I had taken that path. Does anybody else feel like this? Or, doesn�t everybody? [Yes!–ed.]

So this is a collection of paintings, a glimpse of the sensibilities of the painters who made them, and an effort to see how they might hang together. A show like this is a structure that seeks to hold their differences together in order to form a coherent offering, a nostrum, a visual poem, if you will. Painting is dead, but the holly and ivy are twining together from out of the ground where it was buried. It�s spring, after all.

 Patrica Treib
 Stephen Westfall. Yeah–it’s OK to include your own work if you’re curating the show. That’s one of the things that makes curating so interesting: artists choose the context for their own work.
 Stanley Whitney
Julia Rommel
 Andrea Belag
 Alix Le M�l�der

Reverie,” curated by Stephen Westfall. Zurcher Studio, New York, NY. Artists include Andrea Belag, Shirley Jaffe, Alix Le M�l�der, Sylvan Lionni, Julia Rommel, Patricia Treib, Stephen Westfall, Stanley Whitney. Through July 3, 2011.

Meet Me At The Market,” organized by Austin Thomas. Moore Street Market during Bushwick Open Studios, New York, NY. June 3, 4, 5, 2011. 

 “Ben Godward, Harry Gold, Evan Green, Paul Saint Savage,” organized by Ben Godward. Bushwick Open Studios, Brooklyn, NY, June 4 & 5, 2011. 

Mary Judge and Friends, Works on paper by Julie Gross, Jim Conboy, Wally Rheinhart, Polly Saputo and Simona Frillici,” organized by Mary Judge. Bushwick Open Studios, Brooklyn, NY. June 4 & 5, 2011.

Dunkle Wonkle,” curated by William Powhida. Artists include Ellie Ga, David McBride, Bjoern Meyer Ebrecht, Jenny Vogel, and Bill Abdale. STOREFRONT, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. Through June 26, 2011.

Forget-me-nots,” organized by Sharon L. Butler. Hygienic Arts, New London, CT. Artists include June Bisantz, Lula Mae Blocton, Sharon L. Butler, Ted Efremoff, Tom H�bert, and Jane Rainwater.  Through June 25, 2011. I’m working with Dannielle Tegeder to organize “Silver Bullet,” an exhibition in Chelsea in July. 


Surface Attraction,” organized by Joanne Mattera and Marla Rice. Rice Polak Gallery, Provincetown, MA. Artists include Joanne Mattera, Peter Arvidson, Blair Bradshaw, Lynda Ray, Willie Little and Rusty Wolfe. Through June 12, 2011.

Chase the Tear,” curated by Timothy Buckwalter. Artists include Val Britton, Cederick Brooks, Jeremy Burleson, Kristi Dean, Luis Estrada, Sam Gant, Brent Hallard, James Ham, Heather Hamann, Willie Harris, Shana Harper, Scott Hewicker, Chris Johanson, Jeffrey Cortland Jones, Michael Macfeat, Ann Meade, Philip King, Rosita Pardo, Tony Pedemonte, Dean Smith, Rochelle Peterson, Wendell Singleton, Lisa Solomon, Micke Tong, Rebecca Whipple, Billy White and Douglas Witmer. NAID Art Center, Richmond, CA.  June 20-August 19, 2011.

Stephen Westfall: Seraphim, Paintings and Works on Paper,” Lennon Weinberg, New York, NY. Through June 11, 2011.


  1. Great post! Not only was the art fantastic but, the advice was so true. Basically, it comes down to relationships and community building. If you make the shift to that sort of approach, art is so much more fulfilling, and connected.

  2. Thanks for alerting me to yet again some good shows to see! And thanks for spreading the word!

  3. Yes, I too appreciate the advice – go out in the world and do SOMETHING! Connect with other artists and the community. Good post – GREAT art!

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