In an environment where it is increasingly a struggle for emerging artists to show their work in galleries and for emerging curators to have any kind of guidance whatsoever, NURTUREArt provides a home for many Brooklyn-based artists and curators to put together exhibitions in a professional space.
“We’re really happy to be further east, out this way,” said Karen Marston, Executive Director of NURTUREArt Gallery. “This feels like we have grown up a little bit. The gallery has professional dry walls that are smooth and straight and I didn’t have to dry wall it myself.”
NURTUREArt moved to its current location at 910 Grand Street in East Williamsburg just under two years ago and has thrived as a nonprofit exhibition and curatorial space for artists in the community. With over 1,200 artists in their registry, 65 percent of whom are from North Brooklyn, NURTUREArt has provided the raw material for curators at its gallery and a number of other venues. Each year in early May, curators submit proposals for the gallery’s upcoming season and a group of impartial jurors made up of artists and curators, sift through the proposals and pick the best ideas.
“Being a curator is a different kind of creating, like being a DJ, making a collage of interactions or having a good dinner party with the right people sitting together,” Marston said.
For curator Christopher Howard, who himself is not an artist, the gallery has given him an opportunity to explore the creativity of putting a show together and maintain connections with the art scene in the neighborhood around him.
“This gallery is very hands on,” Howard said. “We get to hang out with the artists, put screws into the walls. Once the show is up, you can’t sit back and rest. You have to generate interest and get people in the door.”
In addition to holding several shows every year, NURTUREArt sponsors lectures, workshops, panel discussions and portfolio reviews at its gallery. Last weekend, Suzaan Boettger, an art historian and critic, held a talk about the iconoclastic contemporary artist Robert Smithson to coincide with the exhibition Enantiomorphic Chamber. Smithson is most well known for his earthworks, including the Spiral Jetty, located at Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, UT, and his sculptures for which the exhibition takes its namesake.
“Do not think museum exhibitions of artists are neutral. Museum exhibitions are authorized by the artists and if they don’t want something in the catalogue, they can remove it,” Boettger said. “An editor once said to me, ‘Smithson never said he was influenced by his brother’s death.’ What am I, a stenographer? I’m an art historian. You make the art and we interpret it.”
Boettger analyzed Smithson’s family history and background, which led him to create some of the most influential contemporary art in the second half of the twentieth century.
“A lot of people say that when psychoanalysis is used, it says that the artist is sick or limited in some way, but the artist is more for being attuned to that and using everything in their power to make their art,” Boettger said. “I’m trying to make his work fuller by saying it came from a source of pain.”
For Kevin Regan, who curated the previous show, “Enantiomorphic Chamber,” with Christopher Howard, having Boettger lecture added depth to the theme of mirror images and the duality of nature. Reagan also enjoyed learning about putting together a curatorial proposal and making visits to artists’ studios.
“Artists are funny creatures,” Regan said. “They can be envious and some have told me that they think other artists steal their work. If you’re curating they’re friendlier to you. I think it’s good as an artist to change the roles around. You have a deeper understanding of what a curator is.”
NURTUREArt’s current show, running until May 3, features the minimalist work of a number of artists contributing drawings and sculptures. The works focus on non-representational images and the strength and individuality of the line.
The fun of experiencing and arguing contemporary art along with the artists who created it in the community they live can be irresistible, even for art historians who interpret works for a living.
“These pieces have multiple meanings and multiple truths,” Botteger said during her lecture. “That’s why it is a work of art and not a telephone.”
Serial Meditations runs until May 3. NURTUREArt is located at 910 Grand Street in East Williamsburg, just steps from the Grand Street L stop. For more information, visit www.nurtureart.org or call 718-782-7755.