JTT Gallery Pioneers the New New Lower East Side
"I got some Asian pears for us," said art dealer Jasmin Tsou when A.i.A. arrived at JTT, her gallery, which is under construction at 170A Suffolk Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side. "They're really embarrassing to eat—you get juice all over yourself—and since I already feel nervous, this way we can both be awkward."
A veteran of Maccarone and Kimmerich galleries and Karma, the West Village bookshop and gallery, Tsou considered independently curating shows as a potential career. But when White Columns director Matthew Higgs asked what she really wanted to do, she realized she wanted above all to start a gallery. Tsou raised funds to support the new venture by staging a successful tiny project booth at the NADA art fair in Miami this past year.
By the time of our interview yesterday, she had partly sheet-rocked the 500-square-foot space, a former electrical store located in a neighborhood with a growing roster of galleries. When Lisa Cooley opens her new space this month at 107 Norfolk, she'll be just a block away.
JTT's inaugural show, which opens Feb. 29 in conjunction with James Fuentes Gallery, features the work of New Jersey artist Bill Walton (1935–2010). Living in Philadelphia, the artist exhibited mostly in the City of Brotherly Love.
"He was a printmaker by trade," Tsou said, "but he also served in the Navy and was an engineer, so he could do things with his hands. He was interested in ink on a plate and the way it resembled a painting. He painted wood to look like steel, or napkins to look like a printer's sheet."
Though Tsou's roster is still in formation, she has several shows planned. "My second show will be Borna Sammak, and the fall show will be figurative painter Rebecca Kolsrud, who was featured in curator Alison Gingeras's 2011 show "Grisaille" at Luxembourg & Dayan.
Looking at some images of Walton's work, Tsou recalled her favorite story about him. "In 1964 he saw an exhibition of Minimalist artwork at the Philadelphia Academy, and he just went home and changed his occupation on his driver's license from printmaker to artist." One imagines that the gallery-staffer-turned-principal can identify.