A Feng-Shui Master Advises LES Gallery on Redesign

by Paddy Johnson on February 24, 2015 · 1 comment profile

P! Storefront

P! Storefront

Three years ago, Project Projects co-founder Prem Krishnamurthy launched P! in an inconspicuous storefront space at 334 Broome. The mission statement describes the gallery as “a free-wheeling combination of project space, commercial gallery and Mom-and-Pop-Kunsthalle”—longhand for an artist-run gallery that exists for a love for ideas and art. In the case of P!, artists with hard-to-define practices are almost always a source of fascination; they are artists who are also designers, architects, writers, poets, and sometimes even chess champions. P! artists are polymaths whose professional connections often inform the group shows curated by P! or with external curators.

Now, come March 1, 2015, K., a temporary gallery conceived by P! will take over the newly renovated space for six months. Unlike P!, K. will launch solo or two-person shows that switch over every two weeks. Like P!, which often focused on economic systems, K.’s programming will be dedicated to exploring similar ideas. Real Flow, a collective of artists and curators kicks off K.’s launch with abstract large format process-based paintings that involve holograms, and selling derivatives. Other artists slated for shows include Aaron Gemmill and Matthew Schrader, Mathew Hale, and Wong Kit Yi, among others.

When I visited K., the space was a day away from completion; paint trays were strewn around the edges of the gallery, but all the walls that needed to be removed were gone. The space looked at least twice as big as their former, and they’d not moved.

Director David Knowles and Prem Krishnamurthy talked with me about the decision to change the gallery name. “An artist convinced me of the logic,” Krishnamurthy explained. “Since we were going to gut renovate the whole space and have a program with eight exhibitions he said, ‘Well, if you’re going to change the whole program you might as well go the whole way and change the name.’”

Thus K. was born. The name follows P! and is most obviously a reference to Prem Krishnamurthy’s initials. That, however never came up when I asked him what K. means.

“If P! is really excited, K. is very matter of fact,” he began. “It’s K period. Just K. We’re serious.” In other words, the sound, shape, and punctuation of K., suggests the form of the gallery; it follows a traditional model. But perhaps K. tells us less about the speed of programming, which occurs at roughly twice the rate of a regular gallery space.

I suggested that exhibition schedule might be a little ambitious, but nobody seemed fazed.  “The strenuousness of an exhibition idea has never swayed us from doing anything before, so I don’t know why it would now,” Knowles told me through laughter. Krishnamurthy nodded, agreeing.

“We’ve done moderately ludicrous things before,” he said. “I mean, the second show we ever did changed every week and rearranged all the pieces in the show, and that nearly gave me a heart attack. We did a 24-channel installation with the Yams [collective] that was installed in three days and up for four.” Later he reminded me that gallery shows in the 1970’s used to be two weeks long.

Those times were different, though, as Krishnamurthy himself pointed out: There were fewer galleries to visit and people lived closer to the galleries they exhibited in. Now, galleries are everywhere.

And yet, both P! and K. remain distinctive. Some of the best qualities about K.’s new space, for example, are entirely invisible. “There’s an orange gourd in the ceiling [above the door] that’s going to bring prosperity into the space.” Krishnamurthy told me, having followed feng shui master Mr. Ye’s advice. Mr Ye was introduced to the gallery back in the days of P! through artist Wong Kit Yi. Now, he was invited to give feedback in the design process with architects Leong Leong. “Ye made sure there was a place where the person sitting in the gallery would have sunlight—so they would not become stupid.” Also, there will be a bench near the window to keep money from flying away. Krishnamurthy told me they plan to put the gallery press releases on that bench.

The whole project seemed so thought out, I began to wonder whether P! would feel the need to return to their former gallery design and floor plan at the end of K.’s six months program. Stranger things had surely happened at P! Krishnamurthy didn’t think so, though. “You can never enter the same river twice,” he said, loosely paraphrasing Heraclitus, “because you are not the same person, and the river is not the same river.”

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