“The condominium building at One, Grand Army Plaza, designed by Richard Meier, has a longstanding tradition of ambitious loan exhibitions by contemporary artists in its common rooms and public spaces. Initially, these were curated by Suzy Spence with active oversight from the arts committee of building residents and its president of several years standing, Ana Delgado. Both Suzy and Ana are themselves visual artists. In the year or two since Suzy stepped down, curators have been appointed for a single year with a remit to produce three exhibitions. My stint at this honor coincided with the lockdown year, but despite not being able to share the exhibitions with the general public or staging any receptions, the building and the artists I had invited persevered and the exhibitions took place.
When Equity Gallery invited me to curate their summer exhibition I persuaded them to allow me to honor the nine artists who participated in my three 1GAP Gallery exhibitions. The irony is that a small artists space on the Lower East Side will be open to a socially distancing public while the magnificent premises where the original shows took place were sadly not. Luckily, the last two of my exhibitions were superbly documented by the photographer Adrian Wilson whose work is also represented here.
The opening 1GAP exhibition, in the spring of 2020, was titled Vital Presence in acknowledgement of the unusual exhibiting circumstances. Indeed, the pandemic would be touched upon in the next two exhibitions as well. The artists in that initial show, the most restricted of the three in terms of outside visitors, were Drew Lowenstein, Fran O'Neill, and Fran Shalom, each represented at Equity Gallery by a painting that had been in that show. A video of the installation by Kate Prendergast with commentary by the artists, provided some interface of the venture with a larger public.
Next came a solo presentation of work by Jennifer Riley that included a site-specific installation that lent its name to the title of her show, Schmetterlingshaus (Butterfly House). This large, ambitious mural in steel and other painted elements was intended, by Riley, to reflect the experience of kids growing up in a modernist condominium building under lockdown. Rather than dismantling it at the end of her show, I had it carry across to the third exhibition, Unfurled (in Brooklyn through August 24) of six artists: Riley plus Willard Boepple, Erin O'Brien, David Rhodes, Jason Stopa and Kim Uchiyama. Adrian Wilson will be represented by his superb photographs of Riley's installation. "Unfurled," as a title, reflects the formal qualities linking the six artists while also celebrating the sense of relief at coming out of lockdown.
"The Secret Garden" in my show title at Equity Gallery references Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic children's book replete with all its strangely timely comments on health, recovery, entitlement and privilege. For the curator, this show is a wonderful opportunity, in tight quarters, to test the overlaps between the artists in my year at One Grand Army Plaza, to make one show out of three, and three weeks out of a year.” — David Cohen