Ruba Katrib


1. You recently curated “The Reach of Realism,” a group show of 21 artists and a collective, which opened at MOCA during Art Basel Miami Beach. Could you explain the title?
Thematically I was interested in: how artists approach ideas of “realism” today; how artists can possibly work with images in an image saturated culture; how they reveal truths; and how artists can work in a sincere manner in a cynical age.

2. Do you consider the show reactionary? Was it based on any particular experience?
The exhibition is almost reactionary. Attitudes of cleverness and cynicism in art are too easy We can nod and wink and feel a sense of inclusion (or, more likely, exclusion). But what about artists who actually are seriously considering what it means to be an artist today, what it means to create images and narratives, and what it means to create “art?” Irony features in the exhibition, but it’s deployed as a tool to reveal rather than to create distance.

3. How collaborative is your curatorial practice, particular to work with the artists and “The Reach of Realism” exhibition?
I usually like to leave a couple things unresolved in an exhibition installation because it’s so different when you enter into the space with the actual works rather than viewing a model. With “The Reach of Realism,” the most surprising part of the exhibition was the area where Martin Soto Climent’s work [Rendezvous, 2003–2009] was installed. He came from Mexico City to install, and while I knew the exact works that would be included, my idea of how they would exist in the space was completely different from they way he placed them. It was wonderful to have that kind of spontaneous installation.

4. You’re working on two solo exhibitions: the first US museum survey of the work of Cory Arcangel, “Cory Arcangel: The Sharper Image,” which opens March 2010; and the first comprehensive US museum exhibition of the work of Claire Fontaine, “Claire Fontaine: Economies,” opening in May 2010. That makes for a lot of firsts. Do you feel responsible as a young curator for representing young artists? Are your duties with solo shows different from with group shows?

These are also the first museum solo shows I’ve curated, which has been an interesting change of pace. It’s exciting to be able to take the time to enter into a single artist’s world for a little while. But these are not just “emerging” artists. In the case of both these shows, these are artists who many people are quite familiar with, but haven’t had the opportunity to see what they are doing in a larger and more comprehensive scale.

5. What was your first job in the arts?
Technically, my first job in the arts was teaching art in after-school programs when I was in high school. My first job in which I gained curatorial experience was one that I initiated with a few colleagues while an undergraduate student. We started a non-profit artist residency program in Chicago called ThreeWalls. ThreeWalls is thriving today, but when we started it in 2002 with only had a small office and some filing cabinets. Fairly quickly ThreeWalls expanded to include a gallery, and living space for the residents.

6. How did you come to work in Miami?
Shortly after I finished my MA in Curatorial Studies at Bard College I was offered the position at MOCA and accepted. I hadn’t spent much time in Miami previously and I took the job because of the institution. I’ve been at the museum for a little over two years now and this time has broadened my perspective on contemporary art and what it means to work as a curator in a museum with both local and international audiences.

7. How do you program the museum given Miami’s seasonal changes in attendance?

I think some of the challenges of working in Miami are dealing with the incredible focus on the city during early December and the potentially adverse affects of that attention on the institutions and artists living here. That attention is also one of the benefits of working in Miami, but there is a lot happening here year round that perhaps doesn’t get the visibility it deserves.

A great thing about Miami is that there is some sense of community here—smaller than in New York, Los Angeles, or even Chicago, but tighter knit. It is rewarding to receive direct feedback from a community and to see the same faces coming back to a show over and over again and developing those relationships. I also think being located outside of the major “centers” allows a wider understanding of the scope of international contemporary art. When I lived in NYC I really felt so consumed by the art world there, which is also pretty provincial. Being in Miami allows me to participate, but avoid getting completely absorbed by the “scene.” Plus whenever I need a break, I can just pop over to the beach.