How hard can curating be if all you have to do is choose a bunch of work you like and hang it on a wall? I spent a large part of my twenties dismissing the profession for this reason, along with the fact that I never trusted anyone but artists to deal with relational aesthetics. It’s impossible to maintain an attitude like this, though, particularly if you spend a lot of time visiting galleries. At this point I’ve seen enough artist-curated summer shows to know that artists are no better than anyone else at putting together exhibitions. Good curation is usually much more than simply inviting the greatest talent possible, and entails consideration of how a vast number of variables will work together, including material, composition, approach, size and thematics.
However rare the exhibition that achieves success while working within these parameters, the results should not only highlight the most engaging aspects of the artwork on display, but build connections among them. Probably the best example of this in Chelsea right now comes from curator Ingrid Chu’s group show at Moti Hasson, Greener Pastures, Permanent Midnight, an exhibition that brings together the philosophically ambiguous work of five emerging contemporary artists. Essentially a landscape show, Greener Pastures capitalizes on the more visible formal themes within each work, underscoring their aesthetic and thematic relationships.
In undoubtedly the strongest room in the gallery for this reason, the west portion of the show features an elegant white twiggy sculpture on mirrored acrylic by Emilie Halpern that she flanks with two opposing photographs of the earth and moon. Katie Holten’s El Universal, a series of roundish white spheres resembling beat-up soccer balls or the earth’s surface, also fill a small corner of the room, adding a lighthearted touch to the space. The achievement of the pairings here lies largely in the connections between scale and material; the sculptural objects add unexpected textures and amorphous forms to what might otherwise be a predictable pairing of small and large planet photographs with uniform surfaces.
Groupings of relatively dark works dominate the east corner of the gallery. Holten’s trees made of cardboard and black gaffer tape suggest a somber future [see image on facing page], as does a bleak semi-abstract landscape painting Joy Garnett created from various Google-related activities. Mirroring Holten’s random thicket of trees, Franklin Evans and Dike Blair’s works hang on an opposing wall at various heights. These abstract pieces not only add vibrant color to the show but create a tempo that suggests a feeling of near aberrant exuberance toward the American landscape. Of course, just as the title Greener Pastures, Permanent Midnight posits, such terrain reveals as much hope for the future as it does trepidation.