something i never do in the gallery…

is hang salon-style.    i have a well-earned reputation as a give-every-work-of art-the-space-it-needs kind of guy.  i’m the only gallerist i know who regularly leaves a couple (or more) of the walls of the gallery completely empty…    so people familiar with the gallery may be surprised by the current hanging of my office.

hanging “salon-style” has been seriously out of fashion for decades.   it’s academic (conservative)  and, well, not modern (god forbid!).  but  when it’s done well, it can be a really interesting way to look at art.    there are places in my house – a narrow and very vertical stair hall,  a powder room, or one wall in a bedroom – where i hang nearly floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall.  it’s not just a way of living with a lot of work that you love.   it’s a manner of curating.   teasing out relationships between different artworks and making you think about what they mean or how they were made.

above:  works by (top to bottom, left to right) michael light, john o’reilly, shahzia sikander, chris balantyne, john o’reilly, jay defeo, liliana porter, jay defeo, brad brown and john o’reilly.   click the image for a closer view.

for this hanging, i started with about 60 pieces and spent 3 days (off-and-on) moving things around, taking them out and putting new things into the mix.   i ended up with about 40 pieces on three walls.

above: reed danziger, marco maggi, brad brown, jutta haeckel, a sculptural object by marco maggi, crystal liu, driss ouadahi, two pieces by susan marie dopp  and a drawing on an antique etching by ruth marten.

for a salon-style hanging to work,  it needs thematic relationships unifying the miscellany of art.    here, i’m playing with two disparate themes concurrently –  the over-arching being the modernist form of the grid.   a gouache and graphite drawing by susan marie dopp (click the image to make it bigger, the detail is quite beautiful):

an oil on linen by driss ouadahi:

the pattern on the floor of this ruth marten drawing:

then look what happens inside the grid here:

taking my cue from marco maggi’s piece in which slide mounts “frame” a grid of tiny drawings on aluminum foil, i juxtapose the formal theme with a second theme of “explosive”  mark-making.

paintings on paper by jutta haeckel (above) and reed danziger (below)

a detail of this shahzia skinader from 1997…

you’ll note i’m also repeating soft, fleshy-pink tones from one work to the next.

on another wall, works by marco maggi, gideon rubin, liliana porter, jay defeo, ruth marten, marco maggi (the next 4), jim campbell and a sculpture by nicole fein.

the rectangular  form in the jay defeo drawing repeats the rectangle of the appropriated postcard in liliana porter’s photograph and the two small marco maggi drawings on aluminum foil.  the grid of round LEDs in the jim campbell piece relate to the circular marks of ink in nicole fein piece, maggi’s convex mirror and  the round stones in ruth marten’s drawing.  these works have a subdued or dully metallic color palette -  the steel ruler, aluminum foil, reflective mirror, graphite of the maggi pieces, the silvery-grey background in the porter photo, and electronics of the campbell.   the exceptions — the punctuating red of the porter and fein and the blinking LEDs of the campbell — animate the arrangement.

a really good salon-style hanging is difficult to pull off.   it’s easy to use a single medium — say drawings, or photographs —   but not very interesting.     unexpected juxtaposition of oil paint and metal and aluminum and paper, 2-d and 3-d, very low tech with very high tech makes this wall dynamic.

the final component is arrangement.   i generally begin with the largest or most visually heavy pieces.    balancing them within the room, i then arrange smaller works in relationship to them.    it’s the same process i use when i’m laying out an exhibition.   i look for a rhythm — with an occasional syncopated beat.  the direction a piece “moves” visually has to be taken into account (look back at the defeo in the photo above…    if i’d hung it where the campbell is, your attention would have been directed away from the rest of the artwork).   the gaze should be drawn from one work to another within the arrangement.    again, it’s like curating an exhibition.   i’m leading my viewer through a show by the order/placement of artworks within the space.   like this:

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