In Dialogue with Alexandra Rutsch Brock
The group exhibition In Accordion Time, Unfolding : A Pandemic Archive marks the opening of Ursa Gallery, an experimental gallery showcasing contemporary art and design located at the historic Arcade Mall in Bridgeport, Connecticut. This art venue was founded by Cris Dam and conceived in collaboration with Dustin Malstrom. Cris was also cofounder of Dam Stultrager in 1998 – one of the earliest galleries in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Co-curated by Alexandra Rutsch Brock and Patricia Miranda, the exhibition features mail art in the form of accordion-fold books and digital dialogues by the London Calling Collective over the challenging past year. It runs through February 12th, 2021.
How did Artists of the London Calling Collective form and what is your vision?
In the spring of 2019, during the #metoo movement, Patricia Fabricant and I planned a trip to London to see the Sixty Years exhibition at the Tate Britain. The exhibit was curated from their permanent collection of works from 1960-present, dedicated to women artists working in Britain over the past 60 years, as part of their ongoing commitment to increasing the representation of women across its galleries. The airfare was very inexpensive, and we asked friends to join us. The group grew to the seven of us, loosely connected to each other.
We went in October 2019, and visited 7 museums and multiple galleries in 5 days, from morning to night. We would gather back at the AirBnB after 10 pm and discuss and debate art until the early morning, then get up and do it all over again. We had the most exciting, educational and enjoyable time together. While we were away, we used WhatsApp for communication and jokingly titled our group chat London Gang.
When we returned, we continued using the App to communicate daily. As time went on, the Pandemic happened and we all became extremely close, chatting on Zoom twice a week. This impromptu art trip turned into a tightly knit, strong, intimate, resilient, innovative cohort of women. We renamed ourselves the London Calling Collective, recalling the long history of women artist collectives and of course The Clash.
What is the genesis of this show at Ursa Gallery?
When lock-down happened, our bond grew over dozens of messages each day and two Zoom meetings a week. This resulted in 25,564 posts, which amounted to over 3783 WhatsApp pages dating from October 3, 2019 to October 13, 2020. Information, advice, anxieties, about the pandemic and the world were discussed, along with shared meals, recipes, books, films, artists, exhibitions, art opportunities, things seen out the window, nightly sunsets, flea market finds, politics, protests and actions, and personal stories. We printed out the yearlong dialog and wallpapered the gallery with 890 pages. The rest are on a pedestal, a physical tribute to our virtual communications.
Alexandra Rutsch Brock, Looking, 2020, gouache and thread on Indian paper, 15×8”, WhatsApp color prints on walls and pedestal- Photo courtesy Daniel Johnson
What is the premise behind this exhibition?
This exhibition highlights seven women sheltering in place while remaining connected through the digital space. The dialogue flowing between WhatsApp and Zoom, the book collaboration, and also our individual works, reflect the bonds between us as individuals and as a group, as we reimagine community for life during and after a pandemic.
The show includes artworks by seven artists. Tell me a bit about the featured work.
We wanted to create a physical collaboration of our solitary yet shared experience. We were inspired by Christina Massey’s wonderful USPS community project that we were all participating in. Jo Yarrington created seven small accordion-fold books that could fit easily into NYC mailboxes. We each started one in May 2020 and passed them along in the mail throughout the summer and early fall. Through improvisation and overlap, the diverse language of each artist responded to the others’ interventions using a wide variety of media. The last person created the cover, and we completed them in October, nearly one year to the day after we returned from London.
The installation-as-environment features our seven collaborative accordion-fold books, 890 pages of the yearlong WhatsApp conversations papering the walls of the main room and 50 individual works throughout the entire gallery space.
We chose the accordion form because it represents a complex conversation in time. It folds and unfolds, refracts and accumulates, parts in a single inextricable whole, which we saw as a perfect symbol of this newfound friendship, especially during these tumultuous times.
It is intriguing to look at the many different works by the seven artists on the walls, finding similarities and links throughout the conversations on the wallpaper, as well as the visual connections made within the books. Many of the other works were also created in the past year.
What would you like to share about your future plans?
This is our second exhibition as the London Calling Collective. The first was at the Harlem location of Odetta Gallery in August 2020. We hope to have many more opportunities to exhibit together. I love working with this tireless, talented and brilliant group of women. We have all supported each other so much this past year, through laughter, tears and art.
Installation Photos : Daniel Johnson
In Accordion Time, Unfolding : A Pandemic Archive On view thru February 12, 2021 Saturdays 12-6 & by appointment Ursa Gallery 1042 Broad Street, Bridgeport, CT 06604 718.431.4567 On view thru February 12, 2021 Saturdays 12-6 & by appointment Ursa Gallery 1042 Broad Street, Bridgeport, CT 06604
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: email@example.com