I spoke to Allan Frame, a personal friend, photographer, and the curator of Bearings: The Female Figure, yesterday over email about how the concept of his show evolved. It is recorded here because I think this information would be a good reference point for the discussion that is currently developing.
Due to the necessary rescheduling of a show slated for April at PS122, Frame was asked by the gallery’s director this February if he would like to put something together to fill the open spot. Frame agreed, not knowing at this point what the content of the show would be.
I had just been to Joan Semmel’s studio and was aware of her new work, wrote the curator who had also just been to the studio of Ann Mandelbaum, then there was my friend Linda Salerno about whose work I had just written a brief piece for her website. They were all doing the female–not male–figure, so I decided to do a show about that, and as I thought of artists, both male and female, there were so many more female artists doing the figure that I knew of that I decided to make it just that, female artists. When I began to think about this direction in light of politics today, it seemed more focused and interesting to exclude men’s versions of the female figure. I wanted to see what would be expressed if all this work on the female figure by female artists were brought together in one room, with the dialogue that occurs from close juxtapositions.
This statement is useful to understanding how the exhibition was put together because it shows an organic curatorial process that starts with a response to the work itself. To my mind this is the most meaningful kind of curation because the art determines the shape of the show.
Jeanine Oleson, whose intelligence, energy and talent I have great respect for, is also strongly represented–by her collaborative photo with Ellen Lesperance, her new floor sculpture, and her hallway project, the Drawing Club. I included two pieces from my collection, by Nan Goldin and Sue Williams. Sue’s wonderful print I had never framed before. And I borrowed two pieces from my friend James Patterson, a collector in Memphis, a print by Kiki Smith and a group of drawings by Nicola Tyson, whose recent show I was very impressed by…There are several women in the show who are teaching colleagues, such as Mandelbaum, Abby Robinson, Christine Osinski,Lisa Kereszi, Rachelle Mozman, and Hanneline Rogeberg…and there are many younger artists whom I’ve met over the years at schools where I’ve taught. Basically, I knew all the artists in the show beforehand, except for Amber Shields, whose work I first saw at last fall’s Art and Commerce show of emerging photographers.
Granted, a lot of this reads like PR, but I like this statement because it reveals the curators intimate relationship with the artists and their art. As the recent debate that has erupted over questionable curatorial practices is fresh in the minds of many, I frankly find the approach a fellow artist brings to the profession to be a breath of fresh air.