The opening reception for “Baltimore Artists + WPA + Mera Rubell = Love” was held on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at the Marianne Boesky Gallery‘s 64th Street location. The exhibition previewed the 25 works Rubell selected as one of the curators for the WPA’s SELECT 2014 Exhibit. Although none of the works were available for purchase at the event, it was an opportunity to consider a piece to bid on at the SELECT Gala and Auction held in February. The NY exhibit will be up for just a week, through January 18, and came about largely through the heroic efforts of Lisa Gold, the director of the WPA, her terrific staff, and Mera Rubell, who speaks about Baltimore artists with the zeal of the newly converted.

As a curator, I had concerns about the show. It’s difficult to hang 25 smallish pieces of art by nineteen different artists together, especially when there’s no unifying theme or aesthetic. This scenario is a curator’s nightmare. Had this exhibit been produced at Boesky’s slick and cavernous Chelsea space, it could have been a disaster, with works dwarfed by the space and an obvious lack of cohesion. However, Boesky’s uptown gallery provided a much better option.

Housed in a 19th century Brownstone, the gallery has all the physical charm that a Chelsea gallery eschews. It’s tall and narrow with dark wood molding and fireplaces throughout, and the exhibit was spaced out over three stories. The great thing about the layout was that it allowed for intimate viewing of just a few pieces at a time without overwhelming the viewer. It also created an opportunity for the curators to place works in context with the handful of other pieces that related visually or conceptually. The sense of home inherent to this space created a win-win situation for the curator and artists.

When I arrived at the opening around 6:15, the entire gallery was teeming with people. It was difficult to see the artwork, which is always a good sign at an opening, and it was a great party. Again, the intimacy of long narrow hallways and small viewing rooms created opportunities for conversations and connections, which can be rare at art openings at New York galleries, especially for visiting Baltimore artists. There was a good mix of people at the event, and such a surprising number of Baltimore artists who weren’t participating in the show were in attendance that Rubell remarked, “Is anyone LEFT in Baltimore?”

For many of the participating artists, this was their first New York show. Although it remains to be seen if this show leads to others, which is the ultimate sign of a successful exhibit, the experience was highly positive. For this, we have the WPA and Rubell to thank. (Cara Ober)

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Baltimore Artists + WPA + Mera Rubell = LOVE will be hosted by Marianne Boesky Gallery, 118 E 64th Street, New York, NY 10065 from January 11 through January 18, 2014. Hours are Tuesday – Saturday: 10am – 6pm. Admission is free.

SELECTED ARTISTS: Amanda Leigh Burnham • Michelle Dickson • Dave Eassa • Alex Ebstein • Cliff Evans • Sean FitzPatrick • Ryan Hoover • Jason Hughes • Tiffany Jones • Gary Kachadourian • Magnolia Laurie • Curtis Miller • Cara Ober • Rachel Rotenberg • Ginevra Shay • Jo Smail • Ryan Syrell • Alessandra Torres • Stewart Watson

View Artists Selected by Mera Rubell at the WPA Website

For more information about Mera Rubell’s visit to 35 Baltimore artists’ studios, click here.

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Photos by Cara Ober, Joan Cox, Stewart Watson, Karen Stultz, and Tony Hitchcock Photography for the WPA