In Dialogue with curators Monica Carrier and Jane Kang Lawrence
The exhibition Flat File 2020 at PeepSpace, features two-dimensional small works by over fifty artists who were selected through an extensive curatorial process based on both open call and invitation. After December 23rd, when the show ends, the works of art will be stored in flat file drawers at the space and will be available for viewing along with other scheduled programming through September 2021. Curators Monica Carrier and Jane Kang Lawrence who are also artists and educators, share their vision for this new art venue and some insight on the current group exhibition.
AS: Let’s start with the venue. How did PeepSpace evolve — what is the premise, how did you get to work together, and some practicalities.
MC: I was so happy to meet Jane through my husband. They met on the train because artists find each other on their commutes from Westchester. That’s a strange phenomenon that I never realized existed before moving out here – there’s an entire train world full of niches and communities, very different from subway commuting. For a while we had a lot of fun at dinner parties and socializing. We have daughters the same age and they also hit it off. But of course as artists, with lots of ideas, our conversations always led to our ambitions. And it turned out that we both had a fantasy of creating a space in Tarrytown for contemporary art to thrive. The more we talked about it, the more we realized that it was doable and that we were definitely on the same page. We wanted to create a space that could be a kind of gathering space and we’ve been so lucky to see that begin to happen, even though we opened mid-pandemic, maybe even more so because of that.
JKL:True story. Peep was born at a dinner party, and formed in a succession of more dinner parties both in our homes and in local establishments. The coincidence of our teaching career, daughters of the same age, and sense of humor had to amount to something big.
AS: Besides your curatorial practice you are also both artists and educators. Tell me a bit about your own art and teaching and how do they inform this curatorial project?
MC: I am excited about the unexpected, loss of control, in order to then later create order with these new-found elements. As a drawer, working with mostly ink on paper, I embrace the pooling of ink with water, and the marks that come from its drying. So much of this part of the process is beyond my control. The material has given me a place to visually play, like with a Rorschach or the pareidolia phenomenon. This is one of my strengths as a teacher too. I am flexible in my day to day interactions with students, thriving when I have to change the entire plan due to unforeseen circumstances. I can read the room, turn on a dime, and shift the lesson to better fit the class’s dynamic that day. And this has been a part of my process at PeepSpace as well. I can see this starting with our first show, PlusOne, in which we invited artists and asked each of them to invite another artist to exhibit. The nature of that process left half of the selected artists out of our control. And then for the current FlatFile 2020 show, we relied on an open call without a theme, which resulted in a wide variety of artists’ submissions, most of which came from artists we were previously unfamiliar with. I think all of it is related to an openness to circumstances. But that openness is just a way to pay attention, to look. At least that’s how I might talk to my students about drawing.
JKL:My paintings and drawings are born of curiosity about the world traveled, coupled with the world I can create. Besides responding to architecture and geography as static space, I am also responding to my relationship between movement and travel. Am I arriving or leaving the particular corner or alley I am painting? As a teacher I encourage my students to consistently stay curious about their physical surroundings. I hope to present to them the confidence to know that their art is a view and vision of the world and it can be read as valid expressions. I teach in an international NYC public high school. Being an international school, every student is a recent immigrant to the States and they are all learning English. There is a fluency in art and artmaking that doesn’t need linguistic translation. I try to make my classroom studio (now Zoom) a place where students talk and reply to one another using their artwork. Peep’s Flat File dovetails both my own practice and teaching in that I wanted it to be a space for our artists, as
Jimi says, let their “freak flag fly”. The program was open to the experimentation and energy of emerging and established artists. We wanted a flat file collection that was not constrained by preconceived notions of aesthetic value, but rather a collection that is diverse in visual language.
AS: Tell me about the current show. What was your curatorial process and how did you work together?
JKL:As artists, we both have benefited from flat file programs and upon forming Peep we both knew that a FF program is a must. Actually, that was one of the first things Monica and I spoke about and agreed. To me that was an auspicious sign, this agreement to begin an artists space was meant to be. Giving artists a home for their work to reside for a year is beneficial for all. As a Covid19 Relief initiative, NYFA allowed organizations to post in their Artists Opportunities without fee. For that I am grateful, newborn Peep was able to reach a larger attentive audience.
MC:For me, it was initially an intuitive selection process. Much of my response to the submitted work was an inexpressible viewing experience that was emotional and striking. Then it was an act of play, like an unprescribed puzzle, to fit the pieces together for display. Organizing the exhibitions with Jane was like a collaborative process painting. What happens when this is here? And that invites this work to be across from it. Then let’s play with the space between these and place this one higher with more wall space around it. Jane and I have similar enough sensibilities that when we play this way together, it continues to be fun. We’ve been able to create cohesive transitions that allow the work to reflect ideas around the room. And inherently, we have to trust each other.
AS: I know it is challenging to highlight specific works of art in this context but I would like to get a flavor of the show. What would I see as I enter the space?
MC: Upon entering, you see on the left wall, Ryan Sarah Murphy’s three pink and red cardboard collages, with varying degrees of glossy surfaces and angular shapes and on the right, Ben DuVall’s red-orange screen printed triptych over typeface – both artists’ work echoing each other’s geometric formalities with flat, bold colors. Each of these selections then leads to looser, more illustrative pieces…like Christopher Ulivo’s fantastical, comic book/Boschian-like painting The Revenge Tour of Julian the Re-Apostate! #00019.
JKL: The work I am most drawn to are the pieces that have an obsessive mark making quality to them. There may be a flash reaction to the repetitive movements on paper but the longer time I spend with the work I appreciate the meditative quality they hold. Layo Bright, Becky Kinder and Lynnette Therese Sauer’s drawings offer the viewer a space to pause. Yes, and me too! Christopher Ulivo. On the flipside, there is wild work that makes your eyes race back and forth. Ulivo’s drawings bookend PeepSpace with both humor and terror. I particularly enjoy peeping at viewers’ reactions as they take in both his drawings.
AS: Finally, what is your takeaway from this exhibition?
JKL: Bringing a diverse group of artists together is always gratifying. Group shows are never dull and often the viewer, curator, and artists find harmony and connections that never existed before. For example, Peep’s back wall. There is a mix of photography, drawing, painting, and mixed media. It is obvious that the broad mix of artworks are all tied together by the through lines of repetition and color. Some visitors have analyzed this grouping of work as an intersection of gender and the social structure of femininity. The Flat File show can create wonderment about the simplicity of color families and that is no less important than to view the collection as a complex representation of identity.
MC:Despite my own personal taste for illustrative, humorous work…I am consistently moved by formal compositions that recreate space. I’m also simply reminded of how many artists are out here making meaningful work that deserves a platform. And I’m utterly thrilled to be able to present some of that work at PeepSpace and to share so many artists’ work with my community.
PeepSpace, Contemporary Art Project Space Flat File 2020 through December 23rd, 2020 Gallery hours: Sat 11-7, Sunday: 12-4 For more details here.
Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org