Brooke Wise on Curating Art and Life

We talked to the budding art world fixture about how people like her are keeping the scene alive, or creating new ones.

To succeed within either art or fashion takes a relentless and often glacially-paced honing of taste. Garment designers and painters alike refine their personal palettes before the public ultimately explores their own preferences, whether stemming from adoration or critiquevery much in, or totally out. But individuals like Brooke Wise, an artist and budding curator working primarily in New York and LA, are the true gatekeepers of this so-called taste. The Parson’s graduate has an eye for creativity and has picked up the torch (so to speak) in meandering that line between cool and high-brow.

We spoke to Wise about her latest show with George Rouy, as well as how one begins to make a name for themselves in the world of curation.

What are the very first steps to curating a show?

I begin with what inspires me, which comes from a multitude of sources. Most recently it’s been a hypothesis or concept. In February I curated a show in Vancouver at Winsor Gallery called A State of Infinite Division, which was inspired by Michel Eugène Chevreul’s study of color theory. Before that, I had a show at Public Arts in Lower East Side, NY, called A Step by Step Guide to Using Humor as a Coping Mechanism, which was inspired by the notion of dark humor, satire, and mockery as a means of coping with harsh realities.

How does curation compare to, let’s say, production of a video or photoshoot?

You’ll find plenty of commonalities in most creative fields. The art director on set or curator of an art exhibition has a specific vision or creative trajectory. The final product or outcome, whether a group show or a video can be considered art in its own right and takes a group of people coming together to achieve their common goal.

How did you wind up putting together George’s show?

There were two components that comprised this show. I had initially approached him after seeing his work on Instagram and once we conversed we realized the timing wasn’t right. After some time passed and I had started working with an LA gallery, he was one of the first people I thought of. George’s works are huge, require room to breathe and demand individual attention. It was a no-brainer to give him his first LA solo show instead of being part of a group exhibition. The works are extremely experiential, seeing his work in person is incredibly different than online or on a phone.

What excites you about his work?

One of the first pieces I discovered by him looked like an airbrushed contemporary version of Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles D’Avignon’. Once I got to know him and his work, I learned about his process and how it actually wasn’t airbrush at all, contrary to common belief and first impression. The process is similar to that of say, Helen Frankenthaler, where the paint is rubbed and stained, which is how he is able to achieve that surface texture. His work is also loaded with historical reference points and semiotics. It makes them fun to decipher.

People love to say that the LA scene is devoid of art. Do you agree? After living in New York, how does it compare?

I’m not sure that I would say it’s completely devoid of art, but yes it does seem that New York has creative energy and art coming from every crevice, while you may need to dig a bit deeper here in LA.

Do you think that people say the above about LA in terms of art being created there or art being exhibited there or both?

Probably both. It seems that there just aren’t as many galleries in LA. It makes the art-going experience more personal as you have to sift through and find what works for you. In NYC things are louder, may even have more buzz and are easier to find. Openings are different as well. LA openings are on Saturday nights and are very social and informal. NYC openings are mainly on Thursdays, during the work week, and feel more serious.

‘Aloha From Hell’ – what was it like putting this together? Are there any film artists in particular that you’ve learned about by putting on this series? How is it unique? 

Yes! Absolutely. This festival is all-welcoming and non-exclusive to video artists or film directors etc. Instead, I’ve tried to encourage people who don’t normally make video art to try and do so, to experiment and have an audience outside of their studio or friends as spectators. Getting artists or comedians to dabble in video work has been really rewarding. Lauren Servideo (@servideo) was someone I followed on social media who posted 10-second comedic videos on Instagram. She’s very talented and it was an exciting and different experience for her videos to be on a theatre sized screen. Scale really does change the work’s impact on the viewer; it’s completely different than our day-to-dayiPhonee scrolling. James Skinner and Tom Larochelle submitted a few videos, which have since been included in Raindance Film Festival. They’re super talented and definitely worth checking out. Brittney Scott and Kreayshawn worked together and made an ASMR kidnapping video, which was their first time making video art. It was a super successful commentary and parody of a viral trend.

Do you also create your own art?

I do, but it’s taken a backseat. I majored in Fine Arts at Parsons in New York and in my thesis year I fell in love with making enamel painted, metal rolled/bent sculptures. I made paintings and sculptures for a while but right now I’m very content working on curatorial projects. Having a background in art-making informs my curatorial practice as well. It also makes for a different conversation when I visit artists, it feels more personal and less business-oriented. I love how interactive curatorial work is. I get to visit and speak with artists whose work I admire or am drawn to, and I love bringing people together whose work shares a common dialogue or goal. I’ll return to making work, but right now this feels right.

How do you go about choosing venues for curation?

 In the beginning, it was very DIY. I was still in college and had zero budget for shipping, install, equipment etc. I asked around and was kindly given the opportunity to use the Bowery Hotel’s venue space, for one night only, which was normally used for weddings or concerts. The tricky thing was not touching the walls or altering the space, which resulted in me hanging paintings from the ceiling using fishing wire and making up other wacky and unconventional install methods. Also having to de-install the work right after the opening was over was difficult. I was loading trucks alone until 3 am. Now it’s more about which gallery or space makes the most sense with the vision, install, the artists etc. Working with galleries compared to a non-white cube or conventional space is incomparable because they have resources you don’t, they have their own audience and goal/manifesto. There’s a lot to consider, including the people that come along with the space, which can go a long way for a positive or negative work experience.

What other projects are you working on or hoping to work on in the near future?

I have a number of things coming up in the next few months. I have a zine fair that I’ve put together for the first time that will be at Sunset Studios in Culver City LA, called ‘Aloha on Paper’, opening on January 23, 2019. After that, I have my next gallery show, which I’ve curated for Sargent’s Daughters’ downstairs space called Shrine and Sargents Daughters in February in New York. The next Aloha from Hell Film Festival is in the works as well, and that will be the third edition, there will be updates on my website and Instagram regarding dates and who you can expect to be showing work/videos.

Photo: Gabriela Forgo

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