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Dancer, Zhao Bo, 2009

Mana Contemporary’s Account Manager, Theo Windish, recently co-curated an exhibition with Georgia College & State University’s Blackbridge Hall Art Gallery Coordinator, Carlos M. Herrera.  Scenes from Within: Contemporary Art From China features work by ten internationally recognized artists from China. This exhibition of work in diverse media addressing social and political issues in contemporary China closes on September 23rd.  The Mana Log reached out to Theo and Carlos in the final week of the exhibition to find out more about their involvement and the work in the show.

Q: Theo, you mentioned in an interview with Mana Log that you received a degree in textile arts from Georgia College & State University.  How did you get involved in co-curating this exhibition with  Carlos?  Is this your first experience as a curator?  Do you have an interest in curating other future exhibitions?

Theo: Textile art is the medium that interests me most and that I like to work in.  When you work with textiles on a larger scale, you often have to consider how these pieces can be displayed or presented in small spaces.  As a student, I learned that artwork responds to its environment, and thus, the installation and location of my work became just as important to consider.  I began to love installing my work even more than creating it.  I started working with other textile artists, installing their artwork.  Through these experiences, as well as  studying under Carlos while he was my professor, I had the opportunity to learn more about installation and museum studies.  I later interned for Carlos in the Museum of Fine Arts and Blackbridge Hall, assisting him with curating and designing each exhibition.  While living in Georgia, I curated three shows, and  I’ve curated six exhibitions  since moving to New York.  I plan to make this my career.

Theo Windish in First Floor Gallery at Mana Contemporary

Q: Carlos, what is your arts background and when did you start your position as Gallery Coordinator at Blackbridge Hall Art Gallery?  How did you become interested in curating a show of contemporary work by Chinese artists?

Carlos: I received a BA in Studio Arts and an MFA in Exhibition Design and Museum Studies. I directed and curated exhibitions in commercial art galleries and community college art galleries in San Diego, California. I also worked at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego in the early 1990s.  In the mid-2000s, I worked at the Orange Country Museum of Art and the Orange Lounge, a digital art venue associated with OCMA.  I have curated many exhibitions on national and international contemporary artists and have worked with art galleries from Los Angeles to New York and in-between those two locations.

I started my position as Gallery Coordinator and Professor of Museum Studies at Georgia College in the fall of 2005. I was asked to establish the Museum Studies program at GC, one of a few undergraduate programs in the United States in this area of study. I’ve been at GC for six years at the helm of the Museum Studies program and managing/curating exhibitions at the Blackbridge Hall Art Gallery and also the Museum of Fine Arts, which houses our permanent art collection, along with presenting special exhibitions.

As for co-curating Scenes from With: Contemporary Art from China, it all started when I went to Miami in 2008, for the Miami Basel art fair and happened upon Art Asia, an art fair showcasing contemporary art from Asia. I was excited; I was able to see contemporary art from Asia, which was a new experience for me. I was like a kid in a candy shop, wide-eyed and looking at all this amazing art from Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, and China, to name a handful of the many countries represented at the art fair. I was exposed to a great variety of contemporary art from Asia.

To see as much Asian art as possible in one day became my new mission, and I realized that I needed to curate an exhibition of art from Asia. Then I met Eli Klein, director of Eli Klein Fine Art. He was so enthusiastic about the artists he represented. Moreover, he was very accessible and personally walked me through his gallery space in Miami. He entertained my questions about the artists that were displayed. I asked Eli if he worked with university galleries, and he said he did. We kept in contact, then I visited his gallery in New York with Theo, and now we have a show of contemporary art from China. This is probably the first time a university gallery in Georgia has displayed an extensive art exhibition of contemporary art from China.

Carlos M. Herrera in Blackbridge Hall Art Gallery

Q: Theo, tell us about some of the work in this show.  Is there an artist in particular who stood out to you?

Theo: Bolin.  His artwork is phenomenal.  It ties together old and new cultural attributes of China and combines many different mediums.  His Hidden series is incredible and can also be seen in three different shows in New York.  Carlos’ great skill is his ability to notice trends.  Chinese Contemporary art is new and recently catching on in the art world.  As Carlos mentioned, it is the first of its kind in the area.  I was very fortunate to be asked to co-curate this exhibit.

Q: Carlos, what other exhibitions have you been involved with at Blackbridge Hall Art Gallery and what else is coming up this year?

Carlos: Wow, to name them all would take a while, but we have exhibited emerging, mid-career, national and international artists in Blackbridge Hall Art Gallery. We have presented contemporary art from all media including photography, prints, paintings, ceramics, textile, digital, sculpture, and sound art (such as experimental musical instruments, installation art, and performance art). Generally, we represent artists that delve in social-political themes, but we have also presented art by folk artists whose themes are based on UFOs and the spiritual world. Our next exhibition will be paintings by Stanley Bermudez Moros, whose Flag paintings speak about cultural identity, immigration policy, same-sex marriage, and racism. We will be displaying a work that was previously shown in another university gallery in Georgia that was removed (censored) from the gallery.  We felt that we needed to show this painting and discuss its themes of racism and lynching. Next year we will exhibit James Luna, who is known for his provocative performance art and installations. We will present a series of photographs entitled, Rock and Roll Photo Coup. I really enjoy the ability to curate exhibitions and search for artists who tie into the University’s mission, linked with a professor’s course, such as the current exhibition ties with my colleague Dr. Roxanne Farrar’s course on Chinese Art History. This is what makes my work at GC and Blackbridge Hall Art Gallery exciting.

Installation View

Q: Theo, what galleries and exhibitions are on your radar this fall in New York City?

Theo: Check out Jack Shainmen Gallery. He currently has a fabulous exhibit of Nick Cave’s artwork, life-sized sculptures of men with microphone heads covered in beads and fabrics.  It’s Willy Wonka meets Alexander McQueen -  a must see.

Q: Carlos, what are your impressions of Mana Contemporary as a new center for contemporary art?

Carlos: It’s an elegant space that offers so many resources for artists, collectors, galleries, and museums, including framing, storage, shipping, artist’s studios, and gallery exhibition spaces. If I were in New York, I would use Mana Contemporary’s resources because the facilities are state of the art, and the staff I met was very professional. The studios and gallery exhibition spaces are terrific. I enjoyed MC’s huge art and music event in May, where I met a lot of artists, dealers, and collectors. It was a great networking experience, and I look forward to visiting again soon.

– Tema Stauffer