Breaking Material Ground: American Medium in Bed Stuy


The free-roving, polymorphous American Medium touches down in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood with a physical gallery space after two years of online and pop-up exhibitions. Self-described as “a multimedia exhibition platform for contemporary art . . . committed to presenting and supporting 21st century modes of cultural exchange,” American Medium is the combined efforts of Daniel Wallace of Philadelphia’s Extra Extra and Travis Fitzgerald and Josh Pavlacky of Portland’s Appendix Project Space (both gallery spaces-of a similarly experimental spirit to American Medium-are now closed).


Appropriately for an organization committed to those “21st century modes,” American Medium has organized a great deal of digital art projects : displaying work on their website by Artie Vierkant and Eva and Franco Mattes, among others, as well as running the webtv platform American Medium Network, which hosts shows from performance artists like Colin Self and Ann Hirsch. Besides their contributions to the Palazzo Peckham, a Bloomberg-funded satellite space to the American Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale, physical shows have been incredibly short lived affairs at a Union Square loft typically used for photo shoots. Wallace, Fitzgerald and Pavlacky take an unusually hands-on approach for gallerists, often doing the fabrication for the exhibitions themselves and even lending their services to other galleries; they helped produce many of the sculptures for Jon Rafman’s show at Zach Feuer last fall.


As the Union Square space is lent to the gallery for intervals of up to only three days at a stretch, seeing anything in the flesh often required precise timing, one obstacle among many that will hopefully be alleviated by American Medium’s new five-year lease on a 1,500-square-foot space on Gates Avenue.


A.i.A. talked to Wallace, Fitzgerald and Pavlacky on Tuesday, two days before American Medium’s grand opening, which will feature an installation by the artist duo Body by Body. They’re also launching a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to help renovate to the space before the first show this spring.                 


MATTHEW SHEN GOODMAN As you’ve done so many disparate things over the past two years, American Medium’s a bit hard to pin down. Do you think of it primarily as a curatorial project?


TRAVIS FITZGERALD That might be a good word for it.


JOSH PAVLACKY We’ve always planned on American Medium being more of a standard gallery endeavor. Getting into art fabrication was mostly a cost thing. With our first show with Jon Rafman [“MMXII BNPJ”], we ended up producing a lot of it ourselves because it was just more affordable. That started this whole fabrication aspect-Jon’s kept asking us, so we’ve kept doing it, and it’s been fun and good for business-but I think we’ll get more back into the swing of curatorial projects and planning shows.


SHEN GOODMAN I’m sure it’ll be easier now with a permanent location.


FITZGERALD The longest we’ve ever had the Union Square space open is three days. Appendix closed two months ago, so I was still in Portland for much of the American Medium shows-I’d fly in, help set up and then fly back. With the new space, we can plan ahead now, and we don’t ever have to do those whirlwind installations again.


PAVLACKY We’ll be able to expand in terms of artists we work with. We’re also trying to make sales of course, so it’ll be nice not to have to show works inside our homes. It’ll be easier to experiment with fabrication as well. If we have our own 3D printer, we can try out 30 different variations on something without having to hire someone else.


DANIEL WALLACE Hopefully the space will change how we’re perceived and our reception in the media. A lot of people won’t write about a show if it’s only going to be up for two days, so it’s been a little difficult to get press.


SHEN GOODMAN It seems like American Medium is remarkably fluid, in terms of being able to work both online and off, and helping artists who might otherwise have a mostly digital practice realize works in physical mediums. Do you find that you’re pigeonholed as a “digital” gallery despite that?


PAVLACKY Yeah, I think a lot of times people focus on the fact that the work is digital, as opposed to asking, “What do you actually like about the art?”


FITZGERALD We were lumped in that way pretty often at Appendix, mostly I think because we were showing younger artists. The art wasn’t necessarily about being online, as much as using the internet as a research library or a tool.


WALLACE: I think that, as a gallery, we’ve come to this really naturally, from how contemporary artists are actually looking at the world. The internet and technology are folded into our lives so directly that trying to make clear lines between what is digital art and what is physical doesn’t make sense, really.


Also, the three of us are this weird crossover: we were all born in ’86, and 89+ is the new thing, right? We weren’t digital when we first started as artists. That wave hadn’t completely taken over, and we felt like painters and drawers still, which I think makes us good at going back and forth between these mediums.