You’ve been director of a new Chelsea gallery, Schroeder Romero & Shredder, for a couple months now. What is your job like?
The director role is new to me, and when first working in galleries it was not a title I fully understood or thought I would some day assume. I am in a unique position in that I did not help form the group of artists we work with, so it’s been exciting meeting them and talking about how we’ll introduce their work to curators, writers and the general public. We’re a small operation so I’m involved in all parts of it-everything from curating to advertising and accounting to shipping and installation. It’s an intimate, all-encompassing way to get to know the artists and the artwork. I am most excited to help define the gallery’s mission-it’s thrilling to help build new ways of looking at art.
What in your background prepared you for this job?
I studied art in college—photography, specifically. I think I was attracted to the sequencing and installation of it, more than the actual image. I also started to miss the darkroom as it turned into a computer lab. My first job out of school was at Matthew Marks, initially as an art handler and front desk sitter. I was naïve to what a gallery actually was, almost completely ignorant to their seriousness, intensity and the overall importance (or even existence!) of sales. I worked there for four years and was eventually involved in publishing, coordinating exhibitions and working directly with artists. I think being part of organizing shows and books tapped into the ideas that interested me in my own work-collecting images and objects, and studying how they interact.
What have you been up to since leaving Matthew Marks?
After Matthew Marks, I spent some time working on my own art, and later got involved with this journal, The Sienese Shredder, through a friend who did their web design. Last year the fourth and final issue was published. The Sienese Shredder was more of an annual book-journal doesn’t quite do it justice-of contemporary art, design, literature, essays, music, the works! It was really eclectic and had hundreds of colorful pages of odd wonderful things: new works by Jasper Johns, an essay by Mark Doty, paintings by Hilary Harkness, and, true to our name, stunning examples of Sienese school frescoes. There was not necessarily a link that tied all the works in a given issue together, and I don’t think it was ever quite understood or appreciated. It was also very difficult to keep a print publication alive with online journals, iPads, and the like.
Schroeder Romero has been around for a while, first opening in Williamsburg in 2001 and then moving to 27th Street in Chelsea in 2006. This fall, after partnering with Shredder, a new space opened on 26th Street. Tell us about Shredder, and how this new partnership came together.
When Lisa Schroeder and Sara Jo Romero opened Schroeder Romero, both had been involved with other galleries for over 10 years and wanted to introduce their own program of emerging and often politically vocal artists in an economy that was for a brief moment-shortly before 9/11-quite strong and already socially charged. The gallery did well and moved to Chelsea five years later. But as we all know, Chelsea was soon to take a hit and the gallery sadly lost its space in 2009.
Shredder is a collective made up of two artists: Brice Brown, who edited The Siense Shredder, where I used to work, and Don Joint, who is also a private dealer in modern art and decorative antiques. Don, Brice, Lisa and Sara Jo have known each other for many years, and conversations of a new partnership started very quickly when, at around the same time, The Sienese Shredder came to an end and Schroeder Romero’s first Chelsea gallery closed. We saw the opportunity to reach a larger audience if we joined forces and opened a new exhibition space.
What are your goals for Schroeder Romero & Shredder?
My hope is that the gallery might be a better way for us to get our collective point across, which is that the way many people view art and literature is too narrow (to combine the two alone is rare these days), and should be changed. Artists should be talking to poets and musicians and at the very least older artists. The gallery will always have a strong contemporary show but will hopefully stretch how we view new art by pairing it with older, influential works. We’ll show two exhibitions simultaneously: one contemporary and one historical, encouraging a dialogue between the two.
How did the first show come about? Will you choose both artists, or will the contemporary artist pick what s/he would like her/his work to be paired with?
Our first contemporary exhibition is new work by Brice Brown. He was scheduled to be the next show at Schroeder Romero when the previous space closed. The show, “Queening,” is filled with sculptural and photographic works drawing on 18th and 19th century design and decorative elements, exploring the nature of the fetishized object-sexual or otherwise—and its relationship to gay identity.
The historical exhibition, curated by Don Joint, is a collection of 19 Century Sèvres porcelain and photographs of the gardens at Versailles by Naomi Savage. Brice’s new work came first and influenced what Don chose for the other exhibition. New work will drive the schedule, and although the artist will not outright decide what work they are paired with, they will hopefully be involved in discussing artists and ideas that provide a larger context for their own work. We want there to be a conversation, and perhaps even a sense of tension.
What pairings are coming up?
Our next show is a more straightforward match: contemporary women painters, guest-curated by Janet Phelps, paired with artists like Lee Krasner, Louisa Matthiasdottir, Nell Blaine and many others. Usually the contemporary show will be a solo outing, but there are no hard and fast rules; a group show made sense this time. We are learning as we go, but I am charged by the idea of the new influencing how we look at the historical-influences turned backwards. This isn’t school though: yes, we want to educate, but mostly we just want to show outstanding work from a much larger range than people are accustomed to seeing in a contemporary framework.