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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Launch of Curator Interview Series! Evan J. Garza

interview by Johon Masterson

We are thrilled to launch our curator series with Evan J. Garza. It was a pleasure getting to know Mr. Garza and we are excited about his upcoming projects. Don't miss the show he recently curated william cordova: this one’s 4U (pa’ nosotros) up at The Mills Gallery, Boston, MA through April 15th.

Share a brief bio, where are you from and how you began in the visual arts.
I am exhibitions and public programs coordinator for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and editor-at-large for New American Paintings. I’m also proud to be the co-founder and assistant director of Fire Island Artist Residency (FIAR).

I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, where I lived for 25 years. I grew up around a lot of artwork. My parents would take us to museums every weekend and on trips. But for as much as I was exposed to art, I didn’t really gave it much thought when I was young. Growing up in a city with such incredible and important museums, like the Menil Collection, the Rothko Chapel, and the CAMH, I naively assumed everyone was aware of art and its impact. (As a kid, the Art Institute of Chicago scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off seemed to affirm this for me.) It didn’t occur to me, however, that art was a formative interest of mine or that it was a bona fide career path for me until I was nearly out of college and had been working in commercial galleries for a couple of years.

After curating my first show in early 2008, I moved to Boston for my partner (now husband), Michael Brodeur, with no job and no network. I hit the ground running and have been going ever since.

You have a vast and diverse résumé (critic, curator, writer) what kinds of experiences have helped you establish where you are today?

Many of the most formative experiences for me have been largely unexpected. I started working in commercial galleries because a friend opened a space and needed help starting out and thought I would be the right fit. My first art review was plagiarized by a monthly arts and culture magazine in Houston, after which the editor fired the writer and hired me instead. Later, I met the man who would become my husband, and he whisked me away to Boston. You can’t really plan for surprises like these to a certain degree; you simply ride them out with equal parts caution and passion, and lots of thought and coffee and cursing.

As well, I’ve always been a writer, ever since I was kid writing bad poems about boys in my livejournal (and it’s best not to go there). I could never have predicted that I would come to write about art, despite how much sense it makes when I look back. My parents collected nudes and work by Chicano artists, and my father was into astronomy. His engagement with those issues – apart from my biologically predetermined/subsequent interest in cosmology – has translated into my own interest in the investigation of big questions, which I recently explored with John C. Gonzalez in a collaboration at sübSamsøn. Artists, curators, and critics are constantly mining new and previously unexplored areas, hunting for answers and implications, understandings, and the influential nature of major events across time. They’re just big questions of a different sort.

Who have been your greatest influences throughout your career?

The artists that I’ve had the fortune to work with. By pushing the limits of their respective practices, they frequently force me to do the same to mine. William Cordova and John C. Gonzalez have really done that for me. Highly-engaged and thoughtful curators like Bill Arning and Jose Luis Blondet have also been greatly influential to how I think about exhibition-making and my relationships with artists.

Was there a point in your arts trajectory that caused you to completely change your direction?

Early on in my career in Houston I worked for commercial galleries in directorial positions. I enjoyed working with artists and discussing their work and putting exhibitions together. The transformation from idea and studio to physical site was an exciting process to participate in. However, I came to realize that I preferred to talk about relationships and art history and ideas and concepts and about practice and theory. Most of all, I learned to really value the friendships I formed with artists, based entirely around our relationships to, and engagement with, those ideas.

A month after moving to Boston in May of 2008, I got a job at a nonprofit space as the curator and gallery manager for Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in the South End. This produced a noticeable shift for me. It felt right to focus on exhibition-making, on the programmatic engagement of issues in contemporary art and global culture, and to do this while continuing to work directly with artists, which I also get to do now at the Museum School. That distinction is very important to me and was not immediately clear early on. I needed the experience of working in both contexts to discover which was the right fit.

Your current project is at the Mills Gallery in Boston, william cordova: this one’s 4U (pa’ nosotros). Please share how this project was realized and whether there were discoveries along the way.

I was introduced to William at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard in 2008, where he and I discussed his work for a speaker series with DRCLAS fellow Jose Falconi. I was immediately excited by our conversation, and I knew I wanted to do a project with him, but for his work it would require the right space. I was the curator at Villa Victoria Center for the Arts at the time, and the gallery there was not large enough for what I had in mind. In early 2011, Kristina Newman Scott and the Boston Center for the Arts were very excited about the project and the Mills Gallery was a brilliant spot for the kind of engagement with space and architecture that William is interested in.

There have been several discoveries along the way. A piece William had originally conceived for Boston had to be scrapped because of a problem with the material, and when I returned to the gallery that evening, he and the preparators had fashioned a wall that had been placed flat on the floor. I watched as William cut lines into the sheetrock, and placed stones at the points where the lines collected. The piece immediately reminded me of the Nazca Lines of Peru, which I’ve been interested in for years for their relationship to ancient forms of star mapping. So it was exciting when William mentioned the wall-drawing-turned-floor-sculpture had in fact been informed by the same ancient Nazca geoglyphs. I kind of nerded out and was really excited. It also solidified a lot of ideas about temporality and pre-Columbian forms of architecture in his work for me, and how William is able to bring these ideas ‘down to Earth’ in a sense.

Like most curators, you maintain a mental Rolodex of artists you have worked with, would like to work with. What turns you off/on about working with an artist?

I would argue with any assumption that I maintain a mental Rolodex of names. In a field forever married with name recognition (be it in the art world or art history), I am terrible with names. I can go into great detail about someone’s work – what they showed and when, what it looked like and what it meant, what influenced it, what was at stake, what it was made of, where the artist was from – but it can take a minute or two sometimes to draw up their name. I’ve always been more concerned with concepts and ideas than names. But one cognitive shortfall always seems to enhance another.

I’m really drawn to artists who push the limits of conventional medium specificity and who challenge themselves and the viewer with the materials they use and the physical presentation of that work. I’m turned on by artists who know what they want to communicate and don’t hesitate to do so. I’m drawn to artists who challenge perceptions and create new understandings and new ways of seeing. I’m interested in pioneers.

I’m turned off by artists who don’t know how to talk or write about what they do. And divas.

What is your dream project and why?

I have to be honest and say that I feel like I’m in the midst of organizing it right now. Last summer, I co-founded the country’s first artist-in-residency program exclusively for GLBT artists, Fire Island Artist Residency, with one of my best friends. A couple of years ago we recognized that Fire Island had an extraordinary GLBT history that we felt needed preserving, and we also had a real interest in adding to that queer art-making legacy. Through the project we’ve been host to renowned visiting artists like AA Bronson, Nayland Blake, Marlene McCarty, and this summer we’ll be hosting Jim Hodges, Jack Pierson, Taylor Davis, and Mary Ellen Strom. just included us in their list of top 20 residencies in the United States, and we haven’t yet begun our second year. The most incredible part of the project is knowing that we’re adding to the queer art-making narrative that has taken place on Fire Island while contributing that of the art world at large. It’s a total dream.

Upcoming projects, shows etc..

Apart from my exciting work in Exhibitions at the Museum School, I’m organizing an exhibition for the deCordova Sculpture Park + Museum with co-curator Dina Deitsch, opening January 2013. Paint Things: Moving Beyond the Stretcher will navigate a 20-year history of contemporary artists expanding painting into sculptural and installation forms that have breached the medium’s traditional spatial and material limitations, from the 1990s to the present. It’s a very exciting project, and we’re working with some incredible and highly influential artists. And Dina is a total blast to work with. 

I’m also putting together the 2012 summer program of Fire Island Artist Residency with my co-founder, Chris Bogia. 

Application deadline is May 4!

1 comment:

  1. oio_eri@hotmail...March 22, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    great article! i will definitely make way to the Mills to check out this show.