curator, writer, grants, promotion
Unlike a book, article or video, where the order in which information is presented is central to the experience, an exhibition ought to be able to work when viewed in almost any order. People have a way of darting around galleries, oblivious to a curator's best laid plans.
A show is an immersive, ephemeral experience, one that can be either social or intensely personal. Exhibitions spark imagination, but are always rooted in the reality of the present, unfolding in a physical space filled with tangible objects. The most abstract painting is itself an artifact, yet an aggregate of artifacts becomes a kind of abstraction: a selection that exists only within the boundaries of the show.
I wasn't thinking about any of that, though, when I curated my first major exhibition: a retrospective of the work of Chicago-based photographer, Mickey Pallas
The show featured nearly 200 photographs from the 1940s through the early 1960s and opened at the Chicago Cultural Center. The reception in this beautiful Beaux Arts building on Michigan Avenue was thrilling. Even better was watching people wander through the exhibit during its two-month run. It was fascinating to find out who came and what they thought. I began to understand the unique dynamics and subtle complexities of the medium.
The Pallas show toured to several museums and photography galleries around the country, including a small exhibit at the International Center for Photography in New York.
I curated a handful of other shows on topics ranging from news art (The Art of the Message) to religious architecture (Sacred Space), and organized some restaurant collections as well (most notably the baseball memorabilia collection at the original Harry Caray's in Chicago for which I quite literally stole a base from Wrigley Field...then got Ernie "Let's Play Two!" Banks to sign it).
I was also part of a raucously delightful collaborative exhibition called Par Excellence!, an artist-built, playable indoor miniature golf course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I handled publicity, writing putt-by-putt descriptions, which were picked up by, among others, NPR, and penning horoscopes under the name "Dufferonia"—the goddess of golf. Despite its tongue-in-cheek premise, the wit and craftsmanship of the course took the show beyond a kitschy good time. It was so successful, it briefly became a business.
Whether serious or frothy, exhibitions inspire us to think in ways that no other medium can: through the immediacy of personal experience.
Click on graphic below to see a the show!