Curator of the Month (February 2006)
My first strong impressions of Isolde Brielmaier were formed while sitting in a park in Madrid with a group of curator/writer/artists friends...all playing hooky from the ARCO Art Fair for a day to enjoy the city. I had just met her, but immediately liked the way she studied the rest of us as, after days of brutal networking and partying, our conversation descended into a fairly gossipy review. Here, I thought, when I began to notice her quiet reaction to the bitchfest, was a true non-judgemental student of humanity.
Indeed, Isolde seems more open to more people of all walks of life than just about anyone I've ever met (she does a delightful impersonation of her father explaining how their family is like the United Nations). With the sort of classic elan that makes one think of movie stars, she seems to relate to whomever she meets almost immediately. This remarkably open attitude is apparent in the exhibitions she curates as well. With an obvious love for popular culture, her bleeding-edge exhibitions tend to explore social issues of identity and desire from a global, mostly metropolitan perspective. One she co-curated with Trevor Schoonmaker (her co-founder of the nascent Brooklyn Institute of Contemporary Art (BICA) – www.bicany.org), slated to open in 2007), was hosted at Jack Shainman gallery in Chelsea last summer. As Holland Cotter noted in his review of the exhibition, though, Living for the City was striking for "how completely unlike anything else in Chelsea the show itself looks" (see installation view above).
Based in New York, Isolde is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College and holds a Ph.D. in Art History from Columbia University. In addition to co-curating the marvelous Co-Dependent exhibition in Miami during the art fairs there, she has curated or co-curated the CityScapes – New Territories Exhibition Program at ARCO with Kenichi Kondo, Simon Njami, Christopher Miles and Nelson Brissac (Madrid, Spain, 2006); the Panorama Program at Eyebeam with Tumelo Mosaka and Mahen Bonetti (Fall 2005, NYC); Engaging the Camera at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art (October 2004, Atlanta); and Salad Days, a group exhibition at Artists Space (July 2004, NYC).
Here are a few links to other exhibitions she's curated:
- "WORK IT! Images of Women in Hip Hop"
- Embodiments, Lalla Essaydi (see installation view below)
- Rewind, Re-Cast, Review
- Maximum Flavor
As always, I emailed the Curator of the Month my questions. Here are some of Islode's responses:
EW: Robert Storr recently (http://www.frieze.com/column_single.asp?c=255) argued that curators are not "artists," despite an increasing chorus of art world types insisting the contrary. Do you think curators are artists? Why?
IB: There is obviously a fair amount of creativity involved in curating – in thinking through and conceptualizing how artworks relate to each other and how that “conversation” can be articulated visually and spatially. But are curators artists? Not sure about that one. I curate because I love working with artists and I very much enjoy collaborating in the creative process of presenting art to the broader public in a way that honors an artist’s vision. Not really because I fancy myself an artist….
EW: How do you most frequently end up doing a studio visit with an artist? Is there an approach or set of circumstances that dominates in the way that happens?
IB: I very much enjoy doing studio visits and I learn so much from the experience! Studio visits are about exchange – of information and ideas – and are very much a learning experience. I am interested in getting a sense of an artist’s history, creative progression, thought and work process, how they see themselves, their work and it place within the broader world. But these visits are also very much organic. There is no formula for me. I simply go and remain open because I never know what might unfold and what work I may see. I love suspense!
EW: Who is most underrepresented in gallery exhibitions today? In museum exhibitions (if that is different)?
IB: I would say that although we’ve come quite a ways, artists of color and women artists are still ghettoized. Hard to say when this will fully change, because the “art world” very much mirrors broader society and this is still very much the case.
EW: What are your thoughts about the state of art criticism today, especially withregards to the curator's role in shaping it (if any exists)?
IB: In addition to being focused on artists, I am also very much concerned with audience. Artists make work to be seen, consumed and engage and I am very interested in how this process of presentation occurs particularly when we have such varied kinds of audiences today. And how do we broaden that audience? To whom are we as curators really speaking? Art enthusiasts and collectors? Students? Academics? Other curators? The general public? I still grapple with these ideas when thinking through a show from start to finish and they are very important to me. It’s all about continuing business not as usual….