Cleopatra’s, located at 110 Meserole in the heart of Greenpoint, is two years old this summer. The art gallery and project space, run by Bridget Donahue, Bridget Finn, Erin Somerville and Kate McNamara – all fresh veterans of established New York galleries and museums – is bringing in even younger talent this summer. The latest exhibition, Superficial, which opens tonight is guest-curated by Jasmin Tsou, the 25-year-old director of Kimmerich Gallery in TriBeCa. Jasmin spoke with Idiom this afternoon about David Batchelor, reproduction technology, and beautiful banana peels.
Idiom: Can you explain the concept of the show to me? Why is it called Superficial?
Jasmin Tsou: Damon Zucconi pulled this quote, and I think it says a lot about what’s going on in the exhibition. In Chromophobia, David Batchelor’s cultural history of color, he writes that “Western philosophy is used to dealing with ideas of depth and surface, essence and appearance, or basis and superstructure, and this just about always translates into a moral distinction between the profound and the superficial…if appearance masks essence, then make-up masks a mask, veils a veil, disguises a disguise. It is not simply a deception; it is a double deception. It is a surface on a surface…How things appear is one thing; how things appear to appear is another.”
I was thrilled to organize this show—and while obviously there is a lot to discuss—ultimately, I chose each of the works because I was just drawn to them for whatever reason. That might sound facile or silly, but I think emotionally determined decisions aren’t made enough of in the art world. I really admire each of the artists in the show for not once apologizing for making totally beautiful work.
Idiom: How did you pick the artists? How does their work relate to each other?
JT: It was rather simple. Each of the artists manipulates reproduction technology—specifically printers and scanners—in order to expose and exaggerate surfaces. Of course the show isn’t about the technique, but seeing each of the artists work in this way got me curious. It was also very funny for me to see this cross-over, because each of the artists is very different in their practice. Oliver Michaels is a brilliant video artist. I had been a fan of one of his video Train, 2004 since I first saw it a few years back, but I hadn’t been familiar with his prints until recently. When Oliver explained to me his process of printing, I was reminded of Andrei Koschmieder’s work that is really devoted to this sort of manipulation of printers to paint with printer ink. Damon Zucconi has a reputation for being an “internet” artist, which really doesn’t do justice to the fact that Damon makes sculptures, prints, and all sorts of matter based media.
Idiom: There’s a certain literalness to the show that’s refreshing. Were your curatorial decisions at all a response to the sort of pseudo-intellectualism that’s so often at play in discussions of conceptual art?
JT: Yes! I’m so glad you brought this up. It’s a real problem. This sort of nonsense has been hammered really hard into so many young artists, to the point that a lot of them are fearful of making something that just looks good. I’ve been on studio visits where artists will apologize when they make some perfectly rendered banana peel: “Oh, I was just trying something out. Pretend like it isn’t even here!” The whole time though I’m just staring at it because that banana peel is the most compelling thing in the studio!