Featured Curator: Maddy Rosenberg

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CENTRAL BOOKING is an interdisciplinary two gallery space focusing on the art of the book and its integration into the larger art world through exhibitions of all media on art and science themes. I have a very expansive idea of the book form and look for artists who do as well. Besides the more traditionally bound codex books, we specialize in books that push the form, whether it is utilizing the flat wall, or sculpturally situated on shelves, floor or ceiling. We represent over 160 international artists, each with their own page on our website.

The exhibitions showcase an unusually broad variety of work in a series of explorations where art meets science. The integration of the two spaces is organic as many book artists work in other media as well: painting, sculpture, installation and video art. In fact, book art often incorporates these other media itself. Therefore both galleries are distinctive but also have an interactive relationship.

We also have a full programming schedule that includes screenings, talks, original performances, readings, lecture series, discussion panels and workshops. And we publish CENTRAL BOOKING Magazine, a quarterly that not only discusses book art issues, but contains a full catalog of each of our exhibitions.

Do you find yourself focusing on/ featuring certain themes?

The themes of my exhibitions mostly come from what I see that artists are doing in their studios. I collect files on artists whose work interests me and begin to break the work up into categories of thematic relationships. When I feel there is enough work and enough variety of approaches and media, then I have an exhibition.

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What lead to you having the desire to start a gallery? What was the catalyst?

I was never interested in opening a traditional gallery, which is why people often confuse CENTRAL BOOKING with being a non-profit space when they visit, it has more of a look and feel of an alternative space than of a commercial gallery (technically we are a hybrid space, I do have a fiscal sponsor in which to collect tax-deductible donations and applicable grants).

It felt that the time was right, in fact overdue, for me to have a curatorial space of my own. After years of curating with other spaces, I felt the necessity of having complete control over my curatorial vision and decision making. I wrote up a short plan and circulated among my contacts that I was putting together a team to work with me and was looking for a sponsored space to begin with. Having no financial backing and, used to living the freelance life of project to project, sale to sale, keeping a low overhead, I had not much more than good credit to my name. But I did have a career and contacts that spanned a couple of decades, so I knew I would open with a ready made following I could build on. Eventually, the economic downturn was in full swing and a friend of mine who knew I was looking for a space contacted me in June 2009 that he was closing his gallery. Our deal was that as long as he could retain the office area for his business, I was offered the use of the gallery areas to begin my own gallery, until his lease ran out in January. That September I was up and running and the jump start was just what I needed to get established and to be able to afford to move down the hall into my own space in February.

What’s your main focus, as a curator?

I look for art that is both thoughtful and well executed. There also seems to be a note of playfulness that runs through most of my choices, serious play. I am not concerned with the age of the artist or their official art education, but I am drawn to multi-layered work and artists who push their ideas. I am also quite eclectic in my tastes and when I curate an exhibition, I am looking for a variety of approaches to a theme, within all media. I like to build a space, an environment, and so for each exhibition the space is transformed in a completely new way, depending upon the choice of artists.

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Highlight a few of your past shows.

CENTRAL BOOKING’s first space opened with Natural Histories (September–November, 2009) centered around an installation by Judy Hoffman; with Astronomy: The Celestial (March–May 2010) we opened our new space with a book signing by Judy Collins; Anatomical/Microbial/Microcosms (May–July 2010) featured a kinetic piece by Claire Watkins; MacArthur fellow mathematical origamist Erik Demaine and his father and collaborator Martin Demaine contributed to Measure for Measure (February – April 2011); Now You See It: Color and the Mind’s Eye (September-October 2011) had work by Jessica Stockholder and Chuck Close and Mapping the Surface (November 2011-January 2012) closed our DUMBO space with the electronic carved book sculptures of Doug Beube at its center.

Since then, we have had four CENTRAL BOOKING exhibitions highlighting specific Gallery I artists on the road in New Orleans, Berlin, Brooklyn and Easton, Pennsylvania.

Upcoming shows?

CENTRAL BOOKING was supposed to open in September 2012 in our new space in Brooklyn with an exhibition on the theme of environmental science. Unfortunately, the space fell through at the last minute and I have had to re-schedule the exhibition for the spring. I am looking to open CENTRAL BOOKING on the Lower Eastside in time for the new season.

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When did you start curating? Are you self taught? Tell us about your educational background, and what lead you to curate.

Curating was always a “self taught” discipline, it is only recently that academic programs have appeared that are specifically geared to training curators and since I have been curating for about 20 years now, I have never taken a class in it (neither did I for teaching). I come from the tradition of the artist/curator as opposed to the scholar/curator and as such bring the perspective of a practitioner to my curatorial process (no judgment, I think both are necessary to the dialog, my problem is with “curators” that don’t seem to have deep knowledge about their field, no matter what it is). My educational background is in art with a heavy dose of history, literature, creative writing and theater.

I actually began curating by accident, I had work in a group exhibition and the director of the space asked if I would be interested in curating an exhibition at the venue. It sounded like a challenging project and one that could be interesting. In the process, I discovered I was doing more than choosing work for an exhibition but creating an installation with “found” objects. It just seemed a natural extension of my studio practice and a way I could collaborate with many artists simultaneously. I was hooked. The rest, as they say, was history.

Greatest challenges?

I have to say the greatest challenges are economic, nothing surprising. I have a great support team that keeps all the programming going, there’s no way I can do it all without them (exhibitions, quarterly magazine with catalogs, performances, talks, panels, screenings, website, social media, etc). Dealing with hundreds of artists with a multitude of personalities and needs can be a challenge, but it is one with its own rewards, too. Coming from both sides, I pretty much know what expectations an artist should have that are legitimate and I try to make the process as straight forward as possible. It is a constant balancing act and the scale of my program can be very time consuming, so I do try to streamline things as much as possible. And that is just with CENTRAL BOOKING, I still do independent curating and my own studio practice (and the career that goes with it, too). So the juggling can be challenging as well, but that is a self-inflicted challenge that I find I need. I actually enjoy constantly having diverse projects on the burner, it keeps things interesting for me.

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Favorite Aspects?

Just as in any artwork, the realization of my vision is definitely a major reward. Getting to work with some of my favorite artists is also one of the best things about curating, not to mention all the interesting people I meet through having my own space. And the programming, I get to bring the events and people I want to see to me and to my community. That is a major part of it all, too, I have developed an international community that extends way beyond artists and collectors, it plugs into all sorts of people with intellectual curiosity. People enjoy coming to my events, they trust my vision and they have built relationships there with other interesting people as well.

What’s next? Plans for the future?

I have been immersed in the search to find a new gallery space for CENTRAL BOOKING in New York and as soon as the lease is signed and all is set, then I will be able to schedule the new season in our own space. I also like to have exhibitions for Gallery I artists out of our own space, as it gives a number of artists an opportunity to exhibit their larger work or create installations. About to open at Marymount Manhattan College’s Hewlitt Gallery of Art on March 21 is Text Out of Context, highlighting fourteen CENTRAL BOOKING Gallery I artists. I am curating a major exhibition, long in the works, that is coming up next year at Bennington College which brings artists I have worked with in both Gallery I and II together, as the very large gallery space there allows several artists to create installations. I also intend for CENTRAL BOOKING to have an ongoing presence in Berlin and have been working towards that.

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