Kat Chamberlin: TRANSACTIONS

In Dialogue with Kat Chamberlin

BEVERLY’S: Under Construction Sessions Peephole

Kat Chamberlin: TRANSACTIONS for BEVERLY’S: Under Construction Sessions includes works in drawing, glass and aluminum created in response to a year in quarantine and loss of work. In exchange for the year’s shifted labor conditions and loss of independence, the artist uses her 5-year-old daughter’s ideas as payback. The show runs through April 20th, 2021.

Your exhibition at BEVERLY’S is viewed through a peephole in the gallery’s closed gate as well as through appointment. What does the viewer see as they enter or peep?

Within the circle of the peephole one will get a sense of some sort of sinister celebration: a metallic blue aluminum birthday banner spells out ‘Chaos Allowed’. Underneath the banner, a hollow glass tiara rests on top of a sharp aluminum pedestal. On the far walls, hang what seem to be three minimal opaque black square artworks, all bathed in the blood red tint of the iconic BEVERLY’S neon sign. For many artists, writers and night crawlers, the neon is a reminder of the art bar on 21 Essex, BEVERLY’S original location which closed due to COVID’s heavy toll on the service industry. Today, the gallery and project space is literally under construction as it prepares for its grand reopening in May. Stacked plywood, construction tools, ladders, paint are scattered across the room. You might even periodically see someone inside spackling the walls or shifting the location of the art works. It’s a public construction site happening with and around my objects.

Why peep?

You’d have to ask Leah Dixon & Chris Herity to get the full story – they are the co-director of BEVERLY’S. The original art bar was a place where you could find artists of all backgrounds, drinking, dancing and discussing their studio practices while also viewing curated installations by artists in the NY contemporary art scene. BEVERLY’S was a place where art history was made, it was DIY, it wasn’t white box commercial, it was a place where you could also have a few drinks and hook up with another artist. It has a sexy history. These days, the mere idea of dancing, drinking in proximity and even going to see art in person goes against all social distancing laws – yet it is still both tantalizing and alluring – it’s a forbidden speakeasy in a way. The peephole was first inaugurated with Sam Branden’s installation in the space for BEVERLY’S: Under Construction Sessions. After mine, there will be two other peephole shows by Julian Louis and Amanda Mehl. I can’t wait to see what they do!

What led up to this show and what is the idea behind?

Kat Chamberlin, “There’s A Design” (2021) aluminum, 9’ x 8” x .25”, photo courtesy of Beverly’s

It seems odd to transition from this long period of quarantine, unemployment, and the anxiety of the unknown to suddenly emerge out of a white box gallery space. For me, BEVERLY’S: Under Construction Sessions was the right time and place to emerge. Like many others, I lost my day job and access to my studio at the beginning of the pandemic. This time of forced isolation from my previous life and loss of personal independence was coupled with becoming a full time mother, home school teacher, dishwasher, chef and housecleaner. It’s been an identity crisis to say the least. I tend to get manic under constraints, so I started twenty-eight projects within the last year. This intensive time together consumed my vision of the world. At times, I lost touch of who I was. I read Elena Ferrante’s ‘Days of Abandonment’ and could relate to the story of a woman who gets locked inside her own home with her children. She basically loses her mind. It isn’t a pretty sight. I’m interested in our biological impulses and how we handle something as primal as motherhood. I see it as something that is both full of love, nurturing and care but also frustration, exhaustion and madness. In response to this predicament, I decided to take my daughter’s ideas and use them as payback for all this loss of paid labor, identity and independence.

Working with a medical borosilicate glass flame-worker, I wanted to take a more clinical approach to the countless tiaras we made at home together with whatever materials were lying around the house. For me, the tiara is an object that projects femininity and fragility, two features that can be both attractive and repulsive, as they are both infused with risk. Above the tiara, is a heavy welded aluminum birthday banner that reads ‘Chaos Allowed’, my daughter’s own words. Behind the banner, three smoke black plexiglass frames encase detailed drawings of a crown and playground equipment that only reveal themselves under the neon red light. I like to think of the feminine as chaos, full of creation, a deep dark bottomless womb of the unknown – a black hole.

Kat Chamberlin, “I Wear Your Clothes (Prop X)” 2021, Graphite on Paper, Black Smoke Plexiglass, Frame

How do you see this show in context of your overall work?

I’ve been exploring how our physical bodies create visceral reactions that shape our morality. My biology has a huge part in deciding my morals whether or not I like it. Our bodies make split second fight or flight decisions before our cognitive reasoning processes settle on what is good or evil seconds later. This terrifies me – as I know my views are slave to the whims of my fears and attractions. It’s something I had to come face to face with when I had a child and my physical body ruled how I responded to her. My sculptural and image-based works look to objectify repulsions and attractions that create visceral, involuntary responses; I employ the the sensuality of silicone, the fragility of glass, and the sharpness of metals like aluminum to conjure visceral prescriptions of good and evil in the viewer. TRANSACTIONS, is the next chapter of my closer look at the feminine, specifically the relationship between a mother and her child. I think that covid gave people a small taste of what it feels like to become pregnant, to lay low in expectation of something unknown. I remember when I was pregnant and I was anxious about what lay ahead. The doctor told me you hear hooves coming toward you and for the most part you’re imagining a unicorn but more often than not it’s a horse. My fears often look like unicorns or a fanciful crown from a fairytale that emerges from my deep subconscious.

What would you like to share about the venue?

‘TRANSACTIONS’ is the second session of the BEVERLY’S Under Construction Sessions. As BEVERLY’S builds out their new space at 5 Eldridge Street in Chinatown, they have invited four artists to do site-specific installations in the under construction process of BEVERLY’S new home. All Under Construction Sessions are viewable through the peephole in the storefront’s metal roll down gate.

Kat Chamberlin. “Crown” (2021), aluminum, scientific borosilicate glass, rubber, 15” x 15” x 48”

All photo courtesy of BEVERLY’S

KAT CHAMBERLIN TRANSACTIONS March 15 – April 20, 2021 At BEVERLEY’S, 5 Eldridge St, NY, NY 10002

Session 1 : SAM BRANDEN / Session 2 : KAT CHAMBERLIN / Session 3 : JULIAN LOUIS / Session 4 : AMANDA MEHL

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: artspielblog@gmail.com