AO Interview and Go See: Kathy Grayson, curator of ‘New York Minute’ at MACRO Future in Rome featuring Terence Koh, Dash Snow, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Banks Violette, Jules de Balincourt, Nate Lowman, Steve “Espo” Powers, Scott Campbell, Cory Arcangel, Ryan McGinley, Aurel Schmidt and more through November 1, 2009

October 12th, 2009

Kathy Grayson, center, at the opening of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

New York City has been the center of the contemporary art world for over half a century, and while contemporary art production and dissemination has been influenced by globalization, with new centers of of activity gaining recognition around the world in cities such as Berlin, Moscow, or Shanghai, there’s still something about New York that attracts new and established artists alike. ‘New York Minute’ is an exhibition produced by the young Italian philanthropist Pierpaolo Barzan’s DEPART Foundation to bring the energy and sense of community found in New York’s downtown art scene to Rome, hosted by Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma (MACRO).

‘New York Minute’ brings together sixty artists who live and work in New York, or are involved in its extended network, and showcases new tendencies in art that have developed out of that community. Curated by Kathy Grayson, director of New York’s Deitch Projects, the exhibition groups those new tendencies under three headings: the brash and gritty street punk aesthetic of artists such as Dash Snow, Terence Koh, Aurel Schmidt, the rainbow inflected wild figuration of Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Paper Rad, or Jules de Balincourt, and the new abstractions of artists including Tauba Auerbach, Xylor Jane, and Dan Colen.

The opening night brought thousands of young Romans looking to vibe on the energy brought to the city by the New York contingent. Kathy Grayson answered ArtObserved’s questions about what makes the New York scene so special, how ‘New York Minute’ is spreading its infectious communal energy, and what the plans are for the future.

New York Minute [Art in America]
Minute Made [Artforum]
Sixty New York-Based Artists Featured in Exhibition at Museo D’Arte Contemporanea Roma [ArtDaily]
The Heart of the New York Art World Beats in Italy at the “New York Minute” Show
[Paper Magazine]
It’s a New York Art ‘Renaissance,’ Argues Upcoming Show
Wine-Maker Uncorks New York in Rome [Bloomberg]
New York Minute with Dash Snow, Aurel Schmidt, Barry McGee and Others [The Fader]
“New York Minute” exhibition

The logo of ‘New York Minute’ by Chris Johanson via Depart Foundation

Paper Rad, via Depart Foundation

Brittany Taylor for Art Observed: New York has been the center of contemporary art for many decades, but with globalization and the Internet there’s been a shift away from such a centralization. Many of the artists in ‘New York Minute’ are also active in other cities like Berlin and San Francisco, but New York obviously still has a strong community. Can you explain how the city functions as a scene for artists who tend to be, if not necessarily nomadic, at least are part of other communities around the world?

Kathy Grayson: New York is a meeting place for lots of different people, and the center of not just the art world but the fashion music magazine design stuff too, so here is where most of the crossovers happen. Even if artists just come through New York when they have a solo show or something, that is when they make connections to other artists or other creative types and that is when they become part of our community here.  Underground media is plentiful here; people like Aaron Bondaroff carry all these underground zines or CDs, so if you wanna know know some cool Tokyo comic drawers or some secret Providence noise musicians, you can get that stuff here in New York.  New York is also full of great artists who live here and hang out on a daily basis. Terence Koh’s ASS Gallery is a perfect example of where I hang out with like 10 of these 60 artists on a regular basis, from his art shows, parties, made up art shows, performances, porns, or concerts.  One artwork in ‘New York Minute’ was made almost entirely through the Internet in a year-long series of emails and data exchanges from New York artist Cory Arcangel and Providence collective Paper Rad.  And then presented here at Deitch. So that element exists in the ‘NYM’ community as well.

Aurel Schmidt, via Depart Foundation

Installation view of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

AO: You said, “The hard part was making it authentic and yet being sensitive about not putting New York on a pedestal.” Some of the artists in the show have gotten criticism for glamorizing a lifestyle and prefacing that over a more conservative attitude of artistic dissemination. What were some of the nuances and decisions you had to make to deflect criticism about feeding into a cult of celebrity?

KG: Dash never gave a fuck about the art world or his “celebrity.” Ever. He just ignored, as I continue to have to ignore, the weird reactionary stuff about the way he led his life or the art he made. If people make guys like Dash and Terence Koh celebrities, I couldn’t care less. Seriously. I just got an email from someone complaining about the “sensationalist, shock-value, worthless photography” filling my show. And its just too funny. Dash’s photos were selected by Jade Berreau, the mother of his daughter Secret, and all the photos were just romantic happy photos of sunsets and pregnant mom and cute baby. There was not a single shot of partying or drugs, and still, still stupid losers can’t see past this role they have cast Dash in. They looked at these happy photos and just complained anyway. So fuck em.
In terms of making sure the show overall didn’t feel like a cool cool kids club that was a clique, I definitely went out of my way not to do that. Every chance I had I showed ways this community is inclusive and growing. I included many artists who don’t have celebrity or even gallery representation. I made sure there was a zine room where you could make your own zine, free posters in JD Samson’s area, and a shop where you could buy all the zines and artist multiples and all that stuff and participate.  The vibe was an inclusive one, with lots of energy, not just showing off.

Gardar Eide Einarsson, via Depart Foundation

Opening of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

AO: ‘NYM’ is clearly an attempt to define a number of new movements in an era that’s often been described as ‘post-everything.’ Do you think it’s important, from an art historical perspective, to continue to define artistic tendencies, or does it have to do more with a curatorial mechanism?  Where do the names, ‘street punk,’ ‘wild figuration,’ and ‘new abstraction’ come from?

It’s very important to locate tendencies among new art because it tells you about the state of our generation. It helps educate people about what is going on to provide a framework for looking at what ended up being a very diverse group of artworks. I see all the connections because I am a part of the community and so I arranged the show to be legible and engaging to someone who may not be familiar with a single artist on the list. I think anyone who comes to my show will be able to learn a lot about what the young art scene is like and see these connections from my placement of works and selection of works, not just from the wall texts.

Assume Vivid Astro Focus, via Depart Foundation

Installation view of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

AO: And more broadly, why do you think that these are the movements that define downtown New York? Is it because the artists working within them are so interconnected whereas other movements may be isolated or fragmented, or is it simply that these artists are more symbolic of a New York energy?

KG: These artists are the most outstanding members of the scene. The scene is much larger. There are like 300 great creative people related to New York downtown creative community. And then thousands if you expand it even further. There are other “movements” like, I dunno, young artists like those in ‘Unmonumental’ at the New Museum, that make anti-art junk pile art. There are young artists who love irony and rude conceptualism, who like art history jokes, who make art for academics and not for people. I’m not really down with them, and they are definitely a big boring bummer compared to the active community I am a part of.

Dash Snow, via Depart Foundation

A.R.E. Weapons perform at the opening of ‘New York Minute,’ via Depart Foundation

AO: The show comes on the heels of the Met‘s controversial exhibition, ‘The Pictures Generation,’ which takes its foundation, and name, from a seminal exhibition in 1977. ‘NYM’ is a far broader survey of Douglas Crimp’s ‘Pictures’ show, thematically as well as demographically, but do you hope that the show has a similar impact in how what’s happening in New York now is viewed thirty years from now?

KG: I plan on traveling the show around to other world cities and then its final incarnation happening in New York City, finally. I think the book we made is going to be very memorable as well. I know the show is the first to capture this important snapshot of what is going in, and for that will probably be remembered as important. But who knows! Scenes change in New York rapidly. Every 20 years a new big thing comes along and dominates culture here and then is torn up and rethought by the next generation. It’s only natural.

Rosson Crow, via Depart Foundation

Opening of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

AO: Many of the artists didn’t follow a typical path of MFA to gallery or museum, but started out in more underground economies like music or comics and animation (the members of Gang Gang Dance, Brian Chippendale of Lighting Bolt, Paper Rad). How has this influenced the evolution of a community?

KG: It breathes fresh life into things. Grad schools churn out armies of selfconscious entheorized art, a lot of it, so hopelessly boring and self-referential.  It’s quite a formula there.  Some grad school artists break out of that legacy, and then are joined by other artists who may not even have gone to high school let alone Yale.  The artists I connect with are artists that make art infused with their life and are leading interesting lives.  Physical lives and intellectual lives. They make art about something real, not just about art itself.  The artworks are sincere and filled with this energy. You can just sense that from the works themselves.

Jules de Balincourt, via Depart Foundation

Installation view of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

AO: Rome isn’t typically seen as a city with a vibrant emerging art scene, and Pierpaolo Barzan and the DEPART Foundation are set out to change that. Rome is often seen as a museum more than a city whereas New York is constantly reinventing itself. When you were there did it feel like there was room for the kind of energy that is typical of New York? Was there a lot of “native” response to the show and the opening and do you think the show was successful in engaging DEPART’s aims?

KG: The opening was huge. The energy was there, lots of young people, lots of enthusiasm. It will definitely spice things up there, and we sill see how things go. It’s up to the Romans to see whether this New York vibe is something that is helpful to what they are trying to do and whether it will engender community thinking that has allowed New Yorkers to come together the way we have.

Banks Violette, via Depart Foundation

Installation view of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

AO:Any plans to bring the show to another city or do something similar in the future?

KG: Cities we are exploring right now are Paris, Shanghai and Tokyo. But I would love to do this show anywhere a public institution thought it would be something their city would love. And the show will only get better and better as it builds momentum I think.

Tauba Auerbach, via Depart Foundation

Installation view of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

Artists in ‘New York Minute’ are:

Aaron Bondaroff, Agathe Snow, Alan Vega, Ara Peterson, Aurel Schmidt, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Banks Violette, Barry McGee, Ben Jones, Brian Belott, Brian Chippendale, Brian Degraw, Chris Johanson, Cory Arcangel, Dan Colen, Dash Snow, Dearraindrop, Eddie Martinez, Ester Partegas, Evan Gruzis, Francine Speigel, Gang Gang Dance, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Hanna Liden, JD Samson, Jim Drain, Joe Bradley, Jules de Balincourt, Katherine Berhardt, Keegan McHargue, Kembra Pfahler, Kon Trubkovich, Lizzi Bougatsos, Martha Friedman, Matt Leines, Michael Bell Smith, Michael Cline, Mitzi Pederson, Nate Lowman, Neckface, Nico Dios, Paper Rad, Patrick Griffin, Peter Coffin, Rosson Crow, Ry Fyan, Ryan McGinley, Scott Campbell, Spencer McSweeney, Sterling Ruby, Steve Powers, Takeshi Murata, Tauba Auerbach, Taylor McKimens, Terence Koh, Threeasfour, Tim Barber, Tomoo Gokita, Valerie Hegarty, Xylor Jane, Yuichi Yokoyama

Opening of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

Cory Arcangel, via Depart Foundation

‘New York Minute’ runs September 19 through November 11, 2009 at MACRO Future in Rome. It was produced by >DEPART Foundation, Rome in conjunction with the MACRO Museum, Rome and is supported by the Province of Rome, Adidas, Peres Projects, Wallspace, O.H.W.O.W. Miami, and Deitch Projects.

Installation view of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

Brian Chippendale, via Depart Foundation

Opening of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

Hanna Liden, via Depart Foundation

Installation view of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

Lizzy Bougatsos, via Depart Foundation

Installation view of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

Xylor Jane, via Depart Foundation

Installation view of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

Nate Lowman, via Depart Foundation

Opening of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

Dearraindrop, via Depart Foundation

Installation view of ‘New York Minute’ via Depart Foundation

Joe Bradley, via Depart Foundation

Michael Bell-Smith, via Depart Foundation

Patrick Griffin, via Depart Foundation

Ryan McGinley, via Depart Foundation

Sterling Ruby, via Depart Foundation

Ry Fyan, via Depart Foundation