Question: After an eight year footprint in Chelsea, you’ve taken on the role of curated exhibitions through several projects around the country, including the upcoming Conference of the Birds at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, opening May 3rd. How does this expand your role as a gallerist?
CR Answer: The past few years have provided an opportunity to re-evaluate the ‘gallery’ concept and to push the boundaries of how a gallery performs, both as a business entity and in terms of how it supports its artists. My gallery has a retail footprint in New England, an office in New York, off-site exhibitions occurring regularly in New York and throughout the United States; and we are doing our own creative work in the curatorial projects we undertake. It has been an exciting and challenging period of time. In addition to our outreach to our own client base, we also have been providing private advisory services to select new clients, and to Fortune 500 companies. Our most recent project required us to source 100 contemporary artworks for a collection that now includes commissioned works, site-based installations, kinetic sculpture, video projects, as well as photography and painting. It is a stunning project.
Question: Does the exhibition Conference of the Birds, based on an Ancient Sufi text, correlate with the mission of your gallery? How did you select artists for this exhibition – What was the criteria?
CR Answer: The curatorial projects are an opportunity for me to exercise my own creative approach to how I see art, and how art can support and elucidate an inquiry – whether it is philosophical, scientific, social, and so on. This particular project is one that comes from my personal observations of birdlife here and abroad. I am fascinated by their beauty and despairing of their rapidly declining numbers. I began to see that some of the artwork being done by our artists reflected back to me some of my own philosophical questions around birdlife. That prompted me to put those works together in an exhibition, and the concept grew from there. The project now includes almost thirty artists’ works from countries throughout the world. We are featuring two projects by internationally recognized artists such as Janet Echelman, who recently gave a TED Talk and is working on a major public commission in Philadelphia, and John Grade, who is in the midsts of finishing two major commissions in Washington–one for the new Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, and a second for New King County Library in Duvall, WA.
Question: How does CYNTHIA-REEVES New England, your original gallery in Hanover, New Hampshire, for the last 16 years, support these pop-up exhibitions, and what other types of art programming go on there?
CR Answer: Our program in New Hampshire reflects the international roster of artists represented by the gallery. Notably, the upcoming show features work by Beijing based artist Lianghong Feng. I visited his studio last week, as a matter of fact, to see his new work. The program also continues the conversation we began several years around the convergence of art and science – a thread that links several of the artists we work with closely.
Question: What do you hope to achieve with Conference of the Birds, and are there undertones of environmental awareness and conservation in the thesis?
CR Answer: I have connected several of our curatorial projects to environmental non-profit groups, because I think it is the right thing to do. These are the defining issues of our time, and I am a firm believer that when you link an audience in an emotional / visceral way to challenging issues, their perspective can shift; they actually experience the question differently, and perhaps, ultimately, take a broadened awareness back with them into their lives. For example, one project we did, H20: Film on Water, partnered with WaterforPeople.org, and with Orion Magazine. Both organizations gave us essential information to share with our audience – and that exhibition drew literally thousands of people. We provided outreach programs to the regional schools and worked concertedly with the school age children to engage them around the issues concerning water as a resource. It was a highly effective program. Audiences really responded to the work and several of our private clients acquired pieces from series that we featured in the show. Additionally, the Hood Museum acquired two video art projects featured in H2O for their permanent collection.
Question: How does Conference of the Birds match up to your previous curated exhibitions, “Fabrications” and “H20 Film on Water”?
CR Answer: The prior curatorial projects were designed for a specific space, with specific artists in mind. Conference of the Birds is much more broad based exhibition, featuring the work of a broader reach of artworks. The Fabrications show, which featured work by 20 artists, was a commentary on the inventive ways in which non-thread materials can be used in spinning, crocheting, weaving, etc. The works of Johnny Swing, spinning metal rods… the lyrical work of Claire Watkins who ‘sewed’ with magnetic fields pulling needles in the air… the work was diverse, yet each explored the thesis in a unique way. Conference of the Birds is a project that has a more interpretive quality, referring back to the famous Sufi parable of that name written in 1177. Because it is a parable, and because the intent of the poem is to engender questions in the reader, this has enabled us to broaden the reach of work included in the show.
Question: Where else could you envision these pop-up exhibitions and do you see this as a growing trend among gallerists?
CR Answer: Interestingly, we have been approached by several museums, asking to travel the H20: Film on Water exhibition, and there is preliminary interest expressed in the Conference of the Birds show as well. I would be delighted if some of these plans proved out in the next few years. Whereas I truly enjoy this creative work, and have several other projects already in mind for the next opportunity, I can understand why more gallerists do not take this on. It is a tremendous amount of work, and I guess one has to really believe in the thesis of the show in order to commit the staff time and the funds necessary to do this successfully. I have to say that the people I work with are stellar, and without them – and their full commitment to the philosophical thesis of the exhibitions – this work would not be possible.
Question: What would make Conference of the Birds a total success in your eyes?
CR Answer: If, after having viewed this exhibition, viewers came away with an interest in understanding how the birdlife can thrive, despite the overwhelming impact of human life; if we can begin to make the connection that the survival of birds means, by extension, the survival of many, many species on the planet… if there way any connection made between the way we live our day to day life and the fact that we, as humans, are indeed responsible for the overall health of all species, of the planet at large… if there was one moment when one stopped to think about his or her role…that would be a success.
CYNTHIA-REEVES Projects presents a curated exhibition entitled, Conference of the Birds, on view at Mana Contemporary located at 888 Newark Avenue in Jersey City, NJ, opening on Thursday, May 3rd with a reception open to the public on Sunday, May 6th, 1:00 – 5:00pm.
The exhibition, which features artworks by thirty artists from around the world, explores our collective relationship to birdlife and the ramifications on their habitat and ours. Shuttle buses to Mana Contemporary will run from Milk Studios at 450 West 15th Street in Manhattan during the opening reception.
Conference of the Birds is open Monday — Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm, or by appointment at Mana Contemporary, 888 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ. Gallery personnel to be on site Fridays 11:00am – 4:00pm, weekly, or by special appointment. To schedule an appointment, please contact CYNTHIA- REEVES at: 212-714-0044 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conference of the Birds Exhibiting Artists: Sarah Amos, Subhankar Banerjee, Julia Barello, Ed Batcheller, Elizabeth Billings, David Burdeny, Teresa Diehl, Janet Echelman, Mary Frey, Beth Ganz, Penelope Gottleib, John Grade, Maria Fernanda Cardoso & Ross Rudesch Harley, Ann Hollingsworth, Carsten Holler, Ran Hwang, Nathalie Jeremijenko, Cindy Kane, Milan Klic, Sasha Meret, Danielle Julian Norton, Robert & Shana Parke-Harrison Sibylle Pasche, Jane Rosen, Shuli Sade, Steven Siegel, Hunt Slonem, Leslie Thornton, Randy West and Claire Watkins.