Among Friends

In Conversation
Co Curators of Among Friends, 2018, 2019, 2022

In the summer of 2017, Beth Dary and Patricia Fabricant visited the Museum of Modern Art to see the Robert Rauschenberg show Among Friends. As they were looking at the exhibition, they separated and later found each other at the installation of Hiccups, which consisted of ninety-seven sheets of handmade paper with original Xerox transfer collages zipped together. “At that moment, we both had the same thought—we could hand out zipper papers to our friends to create a great collaborative show,” they recall. Patty had been simultaneously talking with Alexandra Rutsch Brock, who was similarly inspired by Hiccups and had even gone so far as purchasing some zippers. They reached out to their friend groups, and it took off from there. “We had no idea how it would turn out, but we knew it would be a fun adventure,” the co-curators say. Since this art project initiative started during the Trump administration, when women’s rights were under attack. it was important for them to include a charitable component such as Planned Parenthood.

A colorful art piece in a window

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Among Friends, 2024, Left to right: Carter Hodgkin, Holly Miller, Dee Shapiro, Kay Sirikul Pattachote, Margaret Neill

How do you see the evolution from one iteration to another in strategy and curation?

ABP: For the first AF show, we decided to go with the same number of pieces in Rauschenberg’s installation (97 + 3 for each of us) to create one long collaborative work. We set to task making the 9 x 7” zippered papers and thought, well, we’ll each ask our friends to join the project, thinking that if at least 10 people said yes, we would have a show. As it turned out, everyone said yes (we had 132!), and they brought their “A” game. We mounted the show at Beth’s studio in DUMBO during the Open Studios weekend. The artists brought their friends and family to the opening event – it was packed and made for an exhilarating and super fun community event. We have all forged new friendships as a result — this was part of our original hope for the show. And we raised over $2500 for Planned Parenthood!

From there, each iteration grew as our community expanded and space allowed, with the second show at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center and the third at Equity Gallery — both on the Lower East Side, NYC. This year, the show will be at Metaphor Projects in downtown Brooklyn (thank you to artists Rene Lynch and Julian Jackson for opening your space for our venture!). As a collective group, we will again donate a portion of sales to Planned Parenthood. Each show has raised money for a charitable organization – we all felt this was an important component of AF.

2019 Installation at The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center

The first iteration was completely winging it. We did it all ourselves, just the three of us. As the show has evolved, we have become MUCH better sewers and learned what a “zipper foot” attachment is. We’ve enlisted support but are still learning as we go each time. The show has expanded every time (we added a third row for the Equity iteration), and it feels overwhelming at times. We would love to include every talented artist we know, but we want to preserve the intimacy of being “among friends.”

Installing the show at The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center in 2019
2022 installation at Equity Gallery

There are too many artists in this group to mention everybody here, but let’s try to get an insight into your curatorial process and take a closer look at some pieces and how they relate to each other—how you decide what goes where, for instance.

ABP: With regard to the curatorial process, the idea is that we really do know each other; it’s truly “among friends.” The zippered papers are numbered, and the show is hung numerically, randomizing the curation and removing the decision-making part. That results in some unexpectedly magical visual/conceptual conversations, both side by side and in a dialog between the rows.

Detail of wall from 2022 installation at Equity Gallery
A collage of images of a person in a swimsuit

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Among Friends, 2024, Left to Right: Christina Massey, Charles Luce, Jeff Wallace, Anne Gilman, Patricia Spergel

This project is the definition of collaboration and community building. What is your approach to collaborating as co-organizers, and how do you see the involvement of the artists?

We all have very complementary skill sets, which have worked well for us. Alexi is Ms. “Can-Do,” whereas Beth is often more thoughtful – she has drawn our attention to issues that we might not have considered otherwise. Alexi calls Beth our North Star. Patty is the tech/design guru.

The artists are always happy to be involved, especially with this huge installation, which is always a fun effort. Additionally, many other artists have eagerly jumped in, helping with the sewing, packing of the papers, etc. (we lovingly call this part “stitch n’ bitch”). We are grateful to all who have participated in what artist Jason Rohlf called a “big group hug” of a show.

For AF, everything is equal, from the paper size to the price. There is no hierarchy — the artists range from students to showing professionals. We have kept the price affordable, and we have an artists-only reception to give artists a first chance to view the show and purchase each other’s work. The zipper papers are the same each time, which allows individual collections to grow organically.

Community + charity is the BEST part, and of course, the friendships formed as a result.

Artists lined up early to purchase each others’ work outside Equity Gallery in 2022.

You are all artists. How do you see this recurring curatorial project in the context of your art practice?

ABP: It’s about community, and each brings in a bunch of artists the other two might not know, so we learn about other artists through the show. Working in the studio is often a solitary experience, so for all of us, it is a great way of thinking outside of that context, as well as connecting with friends and expanding our network.

The small and specific format has inspired many artists to step outside their comfort zone and/or experiment in new directions. In some cases, this has led to new developments in their artistic practices. We love this!

Do you have plans for additional Among Friends?

ABP: We have plans for a fifth show, which will be the last Among Friends that we do — ending the show on a high note.

We each have a substantial collection at this point!

Organized by ALEXANDRA RUTSCH BROCK, BETH DARY and PATRICIA FABRICANT at Metaphor Projects April 5 through 14, 2024
382 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217 Gallery hours: April 5-7 & April 10-14 12-6pm IG: @among_friends_show Planned Parenthood: