Interdisciplinary artist Fabiola Jean-Louis weaves a narrative that blends past and future, fact and fantasy, afro-futurism and Black girl magic in her photographs and paper sculptures. We sit down with her to discuss her Re-Writing History series.
Brooklyn-based artist Damien Davis explores historical representations of Blackness through digital printing and new technology in his Blackamoors series.
In 2015, the Jenn Singer Gallery opened in one of New York’s most picturesque neighborhoods – Gramercy Park. Upon opening her doors, Singer, a gallery owner and curator brought a unique approach to the art world. Trained as a dancer, Singer’s exhibitions are thoughtfully choreographed, inviting, and provocative. We had the opportunity to talk with Jenn and discuss her work as a gallerist, her passion for curation, and the Jenn Singer Gallery’s latest exhibition – Emily Weiskopf: Pixan Paths // Higher Roads.
How did you grow into art curation and eventually into directing your own gallery?
I’ve always been surrounded by art in one way or another – first as a performing artist, and then about ten years ago I transitioned into art consulting with several different galleries, first on the West Coast and then back in New York. During the depths of the recession I was lucky to find a job at a gallery on Madison Ave, as no one seemed to be hiring. It was there that I had my first chance to curate a pop-up gallery in Bloomingdales. I was given a lot of freedom and responsibility to direct the pop-up and loved it. After a couple of years with that gallery, I was hired by a contemporary gallery in Chelsea and worked closely with the owner. He taught me a lot about the business of art and we installed shows together. I learned so much of what to do and what not to do from him – and he valued my feedback and input into the process of curation and exhibition planning.
As a result, he instilled a lot of confidence in me, though I never thought having my own gallery was attainable given the realities of New York real estate and the intimidating overhead. However, in November 2014, I was getting my hair cut next door to what is now Jenn Singer Gallery and asked my hair stylist about the tiny vacant space next door. It all bloomed from that moment in his chair, as I visualized the gallery – it actually seemed possible. The space is less that 200 square feet and presents its own challenges as I curate shows. It’s been fun playing with those limitations. I try to get a sense of the narrative and energy of each artist’s collection of work and let it flow from there. As I install, I try to let it breathe and want the space to feel expansive even though it’s so small in size.
Your website mentions your passion for and commitment to dance. Does your experience with dance inform how you curate?
I’ve been dancing since I was five years old and studied with incredible instructors including Paul Mejia and Suzanne Farrell at the School of American Ballet and at NYU Tisch School of the Arts where I graduated with a B.F.A. Dance will always be a part of me and it’s my home base when I need to center myself – ballet class is more therapeutic for me now than it was when I was performing, though (confession!) I haven’t taken a ballet class since opening the gallery.
During a brief stint of living on the West Coast (a much needed a break from New York at the time), I was offered a part-time job at a wonderful gallery representing California artists in Laguna Beach. I’d studied art history for fun, and always had a secret fantasy about working in a gallery surrounded by art all day. My first day there, I sold an oil painting and fell in love with the process – watching people fall in love with art; knowing that an artist was going to get paid because of people’s desire to live with their art – it was a beautiful thing given that my background was dance (an expensive art form to train in and one of the least supported).
It was an incredibly natural transition into the visual art world. Opening receptions feel like performances to me – I have to be on and I want the audience to have an experience and leave wanting more. I believe the discipline and commitment it took to become a dancer helps me every day in the business of art and keeping the gallery running. And, the exposure to classical music, artistic scenery, beautiful choreography, costuming, etc. from such a young age helps to inform and guide me as I choreograph my exhibitions and put all the pieces together.
From Miriam Cabessa’s evocative paintings to Delphine Diallo’s photo collages, your current contemporary artist exhibition is largely populated by an incredibly diverse group of women. As a woman in the arts yourself, do you receive any pushback from the decision to feature mostly female artists?
No pushback at all! In fact, I’ve only received positive feedback about my female-centric program. I am not anti-male and will not leave wonderful artists that I want to work with off the list just because of their gender, but I do love that I represent so many fantastic, talented female artists. It’s important to me because there is still so much discrimination and misogyny in our society. When I was looking at artists for the gallery, I couldn’t believe how many amazing female artists I’d happened upon that were not represented. It’s personal because when I look at the list of the top-selling artists, biggest galleries, most successful working choreographers, etc, I see a lot of men. I just want to see things a bit more balanced out. A little more yin and a little less yang, if you will.
Pixan Paths // Higher Roads, Emily Weiskopf’s solo exhibition, opens April 30th in your exhibition space. What initially drew you to Weiskopf’s colorful abstractions?
When I initially met Emily in her studio, I was immediately drawn to her use of unconventional, industrial materials – abstract works on aluminum incorporating roofing paint, gravel, tar, enamel, and plaster. She was about to undergo major spinal surgery, as months earlier she was involved in a nearly fatal car accident. Her story, strength, passion and obvious talent sold me on working with her – and her work sold itself.
Why is curation so important to both the artist and the collector?
I see the curator as one who helps interpret and convey the artist’s message to the world. Artists put so much passion and energy into their work – it can get very cerebral and can be very personal. To help decode that for the viewer, allowing room for their own interpretation of the work, is my job. I can speak about the work in a different way than the artist, revealing tidbits, secrets, insights and glimpses into the soul of the artist that the collector wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Connect with the Jenn Singer Gallery and see their latest exhibitions:
Amelie Mancini is a French artist currently based in Brooklyn, New York, creating desert-inspired prints.
Sitting down with an artist is always an enlightening experience. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about their process, the inspiration for their work, and how they see themselves within the larger art culture. This is what we discovered when sitting down with Miriam Cabessa at her first solo exhibit at the Jenn Singer Gallery in Gramercy Park titled, Anthropometry. The cornerstone of our conversation: her evocative paintings, and her unique method for bringing them into the world.
Cabessa has global roots. Living in New York for more than a decade, her heritage spans both Morocco and Israel. Art is in her DNA. Her father was a jazz trumpet player, who, when he could no longer find places to play in Israel, worked as an artist, creating reproductions of Picassos to make ends meet. Cabessa’s work is about her own need for self-expression, both sensual and feminine, her paintings give voice to women whose experiences have long been overlooked in art and the world beyond.
“When you look at art history I can’t base my own [work] on women painters. [I asked] how do I bring something that is not the [male] tradition to painting? I started using tools that you use to clean the house – squeegies, rugs, an iron. I used black paint, garbage cans, plates, cups. It was a comment about women and the arts. Instead of cleaning, I’m making it dirty.”
With Cabessa’s work, there is an interaction with each piece. A conversation between the artist and her canvas that the viewer can experience. Books, letters and personal objects make up the work that is in Anthropometry, and it’s as if each piece is an x-ray or impression from her life. “I wanted something real. I’m not creating an illusion. I’m creating an action and that action becomes the image,” says Cabessa.
Having left behind the paint brush years ago, her paintings are made literally by hand. “Yves Klein used models to paint and actually used them to create the painting. He was standing there with a suit and telling the women what to do. I took it another step using my own body and objects that I put on the surface. So I’m having a little discussion with Yves Klein. I’m doing something that is much more feminine. For me it’s translating a feeling, emotion and even an understanding.” Cabessa loves the challenge in creating each piece. “In my work I want to be challenged,” she says. “I’m challenging myself to create a different image.”
The works themselves are deeply personal and transformative – changing our perception of the materials as we take in the larger work. A nondescript book spine becomes an erotic allusion. Love letters take on the shape of landscapes. Open pages are formed into a sunset. “I like the transformation in art. Something you take and you touch it and it becomes something else,” says Cabessa. “Every image here has a different energy to it and I am the tool.”
Anthropometry is showing at the Jenn Singer Gallery until December 22nd.
Images furnished by the Jenn Singer Gallery:
Sunset 3, 2014
Oil on canvas
40 × 40 in (101.6 × 101.6 cm)
VB 97, 2015
Oil and spray paint on canvas
40 × 40 in (101.6 × 101.6 cm)
Full Trash Can, 2015
Oil and spray paint on canvas
40 × 40 in (101.6 × 101.6 cm)
A Letter from My Mother, 2015
Oil on panel
12 × 12 in (30.5 × 30.5 cm)
A Love Letter 2, 2015
Oil on panel
12 × 12 in (30.5 × 30.5 cm)
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_gallery type=”flexslider_slide” interval=”0″ images=”5487,5489,5506,5497,5485,5496,5479,5481,5500,5507″ img_size=”full” onclick=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Bushwick is a hub of creativity. Artist studios, cool cafes, and an abundance of street art is what makes this neighborhood stand apart in the borough. It is home to many artists, including photographer, Gregory Prescott. Prescott, who has lived in this 3-bedroom home for two years, has created a space that is a true reflection of who he is as a photographer. Part home, part studio, this light-filled oasis is where he creates, away from the hustle and bustle of New York City. “I am my own inspiration,” says Prescott when asked about the design of his interior. “My decor is all a part of me and who I am. The African art is cultural. My favorite animal is the zebra, so you see a little of that here and there. I like clean lines and shapes that can be seen in my photography and in my home. Red is my favorite color so that as well can be seen throughout my home. My space is a reflection of who I am.”
The space has a mix of clean-lined furnishings and collections from where Prescott once lived – Houston, Texas. “During spring and autumn there are a lot of outdoor festivals in Houston and there you will find a lot of African art retailers and vendors, and that is where my pieces were purchased.” His collection of masks are a beautiful backdrop in the home’s living area. And African figurines sit atop his red bookshelf that’s used for display.
Throughout the space you can spy a few of Prescott’s stunning black and white photographs. Many exploring the human form. His book, HUMAN, sits on the coffee table, a monograph of his work in portraiture.
A walk outside and you enter Prescott’s studio. It’s an unconventional space, with a black backdrop, and the natural light of the outdoors that’s used to create stunning photographs. “It’s all about my backyard. The majority of my work is shot back there. I love natural light so I take advantage of the warm months to shoot new material. It is my studio plus it is an oasis.” It is where some of his most beautiful photographs are produced, including one that we have hung in our own home. It is, as Gregory puts it, “photography for the soul.”
Photographs by Gregory Prescott[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Join us as we present two interior design lounges featuring our own special blend of modern design and cultural style. Designed to express a warm, authentic Brooklyn vibe, the spaces will feature vintage and handmade furnishings from Patina Rentals, colorful walls featuring eco-friendly ColorHouse paint and a curated selection of artwork from local SaatchiArt.com artists. Together with live graffiti art, designer talks and music from DJ King Leo, the AphroChic REMIX Lounges are sure to keep the cultural beat going all weekend long.
The event takes place May 8th through the 10th at the Brooklyn Expo Center. For the full schedule and tickets visit our Facebook page.
Today is the final public day for Design On A Dime. It’s one of our favorite events in New York City, as you get to shop great design that’s been curated by some of the city’s top designers all for a wonderful cause – benefitting formerly homeless adults living with HIV/AIDS. The event is open until 5pm this evening. Oh, and you just may see one of our pieces in Danielle Colding’s beautifully curated vignette. Our limited edition batik pillows made in collaboration with Rwandan artisans through Indego Africa are available. Enjoy!