Neiman Gallery’s LOVE2016 curated by Rachel Stern, An Interview by Saskia Krafft

Rachel Stern, photographer and MFA candidate at Columbia University composed this exhibition by inviting befriended artists to show their anecdote, opinion, question, or personal tragedy about the not so small topic of “love.”

The research results can be seen in the Neiman Gallery. Stern herself deals with “love” in her own art practice and designed this show like one of her opulent installations. All-over rose print wallpaper and salon-style hanging combine the multidisciplinary approaches. The sensory overload of this show makes it hard to focus on individual pieces, but the odious and great feeling after seeing this show is worth it.

The question of what “love” is won’t be answerable, but it leaves an awareness of how key topics of mankind drift through centuries and media and are still not irrelevant or dusty.

Stern agreed to talk about her newest project which seems aptly scheduled for Valentines Day.

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What drew your attention on curating a group exhibition about love?

For the most part I am not a curator – I’m an artist. I didn’t think of this show as support for my befriended artists, probably more selfishly. I wanted to see what they have to say about this.

They are not all friends, but the reason why I’ve asked people that I have connections to, seemed like a good structure by which I begin to understand this topic. Some of them I’ve asked for a specific work, so I knew what I was getting in, but some people I just asked to respond to what love looks like now. So oftentimes I didn’t know what they were going to make at all.

Did your definition of love change throughout the process of curating this show?

No. The closer I try to get to what it is, the harder it gets to actually define it. The answer that I’m finding is, that there isn’t a definition and you shouldn’t try, but I like to try anyway. The utility of trying is exciting.

The strategy is, ask everyone, because it’s actually not definable. It’s comparable to describing the air. You could try to explain how air functions or what air does for you, or ways of experiencing air, but you can’t really say what it is, because it’s not an actual thing. It then becomes less about defining it and more about ways of approaching it. Love is something that happens in the in-between.

What was your main idea behind the way you curated the show?

I wanted it to be overwhelming. As soon as you walk in, you are surrounded by roses. They are red referencing love and black for intensity, so it really feels as if you went into a completely different space. Some of the works sit very comfortably in that color palette, but some of them really clash. There are a few things that really jump so that there’s disruptions, there’s complications, there are things that pull you in different ways, there’s things all over the place. I wanted it to feel like a haunted forest where constantly things are jumping out towards you.

Did this show also influence your own art practice?

Curating and installing were very interesting to me, because in my work I build a lot of sets. I don’t have a piece in that show, but the way the show is set up – so intense – feels a lot like my work. There is always a lot of stuff in my work, a lot of pattern, a lot of color. That level of how I work being expressed in a different context, was pretty exciting and to be able to use other people’s material.

I haven’t been in the studio again, but we’ll see how it will influence my work and especially my upcoming thesis project. Mark Dion is my mentor and we are both really interested in museums and collections. I’m interested in creating a photographic curio cabinet for my thesis- basically like a salon-style installation and comparable to this show.

What interests you in the salon-style hanging as well as its tradition? And will there be a “LOVE2017” show?

In my work I think a lot about early collections and the history of the museum collection – mostly from the renaissance to the pre-victorian era, but also about kitschy collections and how all of these function. This show is like a collection of love. It’s based on the idea of sampling.

I feel that there has to be a “LOVE’17”, because I’m already thinking of so many gaps. I don’t have anything about space in this show, about a place, a physical site which represents relationships. That seems to be a big gap that wasn’t touched upon. Because the topic is so big, I can think of so many more artists whose work would be a great contribution to this show. If you’re trying to say what love is, there’s so much more what could be said about it.

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The opening reception was packed and the show a great success. Stern plans on digging even deeper and filling more gaps in “LOVE2017”.

Featuring: Alexandra Forsyth, Allana Clarke, Alli Coates, Benjamin Peterson, Bobby Gonzalez, Brooke Holloway, Bryan Jabs, Bryson Rand, Genesis P Orridge, Henry Horenstein, Hobbes Ginsburg, Jason Lazarus, Joe Mama Nitzberg, John Edmonds, Joseph Kaplan, Julianne Hagerty Cole, Justin Olderud, Kent Rogowski, Kimberly Smallz La’Beija, Leah Moskowitz, Leigh LeDare, Marc Swanson, Martín Gutierrez, Matthew Leifheit, Matthew Morrocco, Meredith Sands, Michael Bühler-Rose, Michael Stablein Jr., Michelle Handelmen, Natasha Ochshorn, Nayland Blake, Nick Doyle, Patrice Helmar, Paul Legault, Peter Clough, Phoebe Hinton, Sara Stern, Scott Alario, Sharon Madness, Sheila Pepe, Signe Pierce, Susan Metrican, Thomas Roma, TM Davy, Whitney Artell and Yoshie Sakai.

Author Saskia Krafft

Photos by Saskia Krafft and courtesy of the artists.

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