“If Paddy Johnson calls you a star, you must be doing something right,” Matthew Smith wrote in 2011 of Baltimore’s Nudashank Gallery. We won’t argue with that, nor would many people dispute Nudashank’s star power. Since founding the gallery in 2009, co-founders Alex Ebstein and Seth Adelsberger have established themselves as mentors, entrepreneurs, and rigorous curators, both at the gallery and on the road, recently at New York’s Shoot the Lobster and Chicago’s Western Exhibitions. (When we met them this weekend at the gallery, they were on their way to open a second show at the American University Museum.) They’ve done all of this from Baltimore by building a heavy online presence and frequent participation in art fairs, a model which seems to be more and more viable for emerging galleries outside New York. They tell us that most of their sales come from New York and Europe.
The gallery shows emerging Baltimore artists alongside many who have been gaining a lot of acclaim in New York, most recently Gina Beavers, Kate Steciw, and Tatiana Berg. Artists who show with them tend to grab the attentions of places like the Sculpture Center, the New Museum, and Mixed Greens; by now, a show with Nudashank is a seal of approval.
What was the Baltimore art scene like when you started working on Nudashank in 2008? Has it changed?
In 2008, as a result of the recession, there was a dip in gallery activity and artist-run projects. We took that as an opportunity to convert a live/work space in a central artist building into a gallery. We began Nudashank as a open ended project, but it quickly became the focus of our time. We wanted to introduce a consistent and quickly moving program that emphasized painting and abstraction.
Right now the gallery scene is beginning to solidify, receiving support from local institutions and the community as a whole. More galleries have emerged: SophiaJacob, Open Space, Lease Agreement, and Guest Spot. More students are staying in Baltimore after college, so there is a longer term investment in building the scene.
Who are some Baltimore art stars you think people should know about?
Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez is really adept in any medium, he has created a number of beautiful installations, concrete cast multiples and conceptual digital works over the past couple of years. Each new body of work is more exciting than the next.
Jordan Bernier is an artist we’ve worked with since our first exhibition. He comes from a photography and print making background, and recently has been making video work and video sculptures, sound work and serial painting.
John Bohl makes, graphic paintings, primarily on paper, that look either digital or screenprinted. He has been producing an extended small-format iconic series based on forms culled from ambiguous logos and obscure images searches.
Dina Kelberman’s artwork exists primarily in web form. She creates websites that function as additive works of art, such as her image aggregate project, “I’m Google.”
Caitlin Cunningham, like Jordan, is an artist we’ve worked with since the first exhibition at Nudashank. Her work is highly research based, dealing with issues of invasive species, and the misogyny and exotification of tropical cultures in modern art.
Other people producing significant work in Baltimore are Chris LaVoie’s sculpture that draws on themes of collaboration and pedagogy, Hermonie Only’s stark, graphic works on paper and mysterious, geometric installations, and Gary Kachadourian’s immersive photocopied environments.
You mentioned in a 2011 interview with Matthew Smith on New American Paintings that you average 2-4 studio visits per month, usually around the tristate area. Still true? Where do you tend to look?
We still do occasional studio visits when we’re able and tend to base visits on geographic constraints. We do the majority of our research online through Tumblr, artist and gallery sites etc. and reserve studio visits to direct preparation for an exhibition.
What’s the collector base like in Baltimore?
When we started the gallery, it was at the beginning of the recession, so our focus was on affordable works and encouraging collecting amongst our friends and peers. As our program developed and our price point rose, our collectors were largely from other cities. Recently, we’ve received support from a few great people who have progressive taste and recognize our program as unique. There are a few local collectors who are developing smart collections and do a ton of research, it has been really exciting to work with them.
Considering the wealth of talent and projects that exist in Baltimore as largely unfunded ventures, a few more active collectors could really impact the growth and longevity of the art scene.The majority of our sales come from New York and Europe.
Would you say your focus has changed at all since you started?
The first two years involved mainly group shows as we focused on establishing a presence. We are now taking more risks, trusting our instincts, and working to expand on what people may have come to expect from us. We have mounted multi-venue exhibitions in additional, rented spaces, collaborated with outside curators and made our schedule flexible in order to keep up with our curatorial interests.
What’s in the works?
More studio time for ourselves. We curated a group show at the Katzen Museum at American University that opened April 6th. It features the work of Alex Da Corte, Jamie Felton and Baltimore based artists Jordan Bernier and David Armacost. In July, we will be having a solo show with Baltimore based Dina Kelberman whom we mentioned above. She was recently the featured artist for the New Museum’s online exhibition program.