We sat down with Andrea Wolf of REVERSE art space in Williamsburg to talk about her current show, her process, her vision, and her stable of artists, which is a community, rather than a group she represents commercially. REVERSE is currently showing Uncharted Waters, a group exhibition featuring works by this community, until May 12.
Interview with ANDREA WOLF//
for Beautiful Savage Magazine
BSM: Andrea, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us about Uncharted Waters?
Andrea Wolf:Uncharted Waters: REVERSE 2013 is an exhibition of work by members of the REVERSE community—a group of artists with whom we’ll feature regularly through exhibitions, workshops, and different projects. There’s a variety: media, installations by Melissa F. Clarke Daria Irincheeva, and Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels; two-dimensional works on paper by Alex Yuzdon and collaborative duo Gentleman’s Game—comprised ofBrandon Friend and Jason Douglas Griffin; and video projection by ChiKA.
And what’s the underlying format?
Through appropriation of old maps or the translation of cartography into three-dimensional spaces, we’re exploring novel ways of traversing boundaries. Each work demonstrates a shared interest in the creative challenges that arise when investigating the unknown. In the same way, REVERSE has ventured to some unexplored terrain during our first year; we’re building an art space that promotes dialogue between artists and the public through innovative talks, workshops, performances and events. And we have much more to explore [in order to continue] to grow as a platform for emerging artists and for new and experimental forms of expression.
So, the common narrative is about experimentation and exploring new ground?
It’s about experimentation and exploration; about topography, mapping and movement. It could be a more explicit reference to space and cartography, but there’s also a reflection on identity, subjectivity and the micropolitics of desire. I wasn’t consciously thinking of [French philosophers] Gilles Delueze or Pierre-Félix Guattari, but answering this question now, I can definitely recognize an allusion to their ideas about individuals in a constant process of becoming and transformation. For example, born in the former Soviet Union during the Perestroika period, artist Daria Irincheeva witnessed the fall of the socialistic regime and the birth of capitalism crashing unevenly upon the ruins of the collapsed system. This “failed dream” inspired Irincheeva’s interest in the notion of “claustrophobic dreaming”: having to acknowledge the possibility of constant letdown. Irincheeva’s recent work focuses on the theme of reconstruction. She sees events, people and occasions in her life as small construction sculptures that can be put up and destroyed very easily. It’s a constant game with no end, as if the beauty is in the process, and the desire for better itself but is not in the potential successful or collapsed result. Also, having emigrated from the former Soviet Union to the United States, but in his case as a child, Aleksey Yudzon is interested in the way we define home and the borders that separate one place from another. Yuzdon’s drawings engage the notion of ambiguity in the context of maps, thereby subverting their intended function.
In a more direct conversation with place and landscape, Melissa F. Clarke’s “neolandscapes” dissect and re-inform the way we think about data, nature and experimental art. Her work, Ice Gouge, suggests alternative methods of depicting and understanding geographic entities. Or Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels’ installations and “blueprint” paintings, which explore our ability to create new geographies. Fels constructs large-scale installations assembled from wood discarded from construction sites or salvaged from the remains of demolished houses; her work converts the space it inhabits into a strange new world.
You mentioned once that you curate shows based on a community as opposed to a narrative. Can you explain that?
Just in this particular case. Usually, when you curate a show, you have a subject in mind and create a discourse around it, and search for artwork that will facilitate that conversation. In this case, the main idea of this exhibition was to present the REVERSE artists’ community. It was time to create more solid relationships with some artists that we have already been working with and some new ones whose practice seemed interesting to me. The idea was not to offer gallery representation in the traditional way, because that’s not our spirit, but to make more formal a way of interaction with artists that were levitating around REVERSE, to foster a relation that is more horizontal and find ways in which we can help each other and benefit from what we have to offer. So when I started doing studios visits for this show, this was what I had in mind: creating a family; looking for artists that we like and that we could work with; artists with whom we could engage in this conversation, and who understand that is possible and necessary to create new dynamics and spaces for our art practices aside of the existing traditional forms. Fortunately, during the studio visits, this common narrative started to unfold and I was able to find a common dialogue within the artwork in the exhibition. And as I mentioned before, all these artists are thinking about subjectivity, dynamic identities, and dynamic spaces—same way as REVERSE is. We’re all exploring uncharted waters.
How does this represent your larger vision?
REVERSE is a platform for artists for the production and presentation of new work, and a space for experimentation and conversation. That’s only possible by engaging people to be part of it, establishing strong relationships with different people from the art world, basically building a community. The dynamics or the art world are changing and are much more ductile; the role of the artist has become in many ways that of the producer; you need to put your work out there, specially with all the new channels created online, you need to be able to put a show together, secure funding for your projects, etc – and as artists we need to find new ways to get all that done as we create new work, I hope that spaces like REVERSE could function as a channel and a tool in this process. And it’s not about being all altruistic, in this new relations there should exist a very conscious and explicit exchange between its participants: how can we help each other, how can we benefit from each others’ skills and assets, how can we grow together. REVERSE has been a learning experience: I think there are lots of possibilities, but you have to be very professional and driven to make them happen.
You say that REVERSE is a space for dialogue and the exchange of ideas. What do you mean by that?
REVERSE is a very big art project, and with artwork you usually to put a theme or question out there, to start a conversation. As artists we spend a lot of time alone in our studios, but it’s necessary to converse and exchange ideas with others that will somehow, eventually inform our work. I also think it’s interesting to take this conversation out of our circle and to try to engage others in it. REVERSE is a multidisciplinary workspace and art gallery, and we try to include different aspects in our program to allow for this conversation, and encourage a dialogue across different disciplines.
Is your gallery and incubator of talent?
I wouldn’t put it that way. It’s a space where good things can happen and where artists can show and create interesting work.
What’s next for REVERSE?
Our next show is Foliage, by avant-garde and experimental musician Elliott Sharp. It’s a long-form graphic musical score that offers abstract instructions allowing for infinite possible interpretations by performing musicians. It exists at the intersection of musical composition, art installation and performance; Sharp’s score is brought to life by the interpretation of each musician who performs it. In Foliage, REVERSE will present eighty risograph prints selected from the over 250 generated in the original process. Each evening, REVERSE will screen a video by Janette Higgins sequencing and mixing images from the Foliage set. Throughout the 10 day exhibition, Sharp and REVERSE will invite artists to interpret and perform his score every evening.
Following that exhibition, we will present Official Transcript, a performative display wherein artist Sarah Butler edits and transcribes handwritten manuscripts collected as Letters from NowHere. Along this, there will be an installation that displays Sarah’s cloud test, the outcome of a yearlong daily inquiry on embodied learning, part of an exploration on ambidextrous, automatic, performance writing. Sarah is also part of the REVERSE Artist Community, so this also falls into the bigger lines of fostering and nurturing the work with our artists. This is her first solo show.
And for you?
I’m very excited because this spring and summer are very active for me. I’m going to Ukraine and Norway at the end of May. I have a show in Kiev and another one in Stavanger . Also I’m currently doing the Artist in Market Place Residency at the Bronx Museum and will be showing at the Bronx Museum Biennale in June and at the end of June, I’ll be participating with some work in progress at Encuentros symposium at MIT.