Sue Scott Gallery

Bearing Witness to Lush Life

David Goodman
ARTLOG, July 2010

I caught up with Franklin Evans and Omar Chaud-Lopez, curators of Lush Life, while they were in the throws of their installation at Lehmann Maupin gallery. The exhibition, which spans nine Lower East Side Galleries, brings focus to the strength of community and collaboration—both natural tendencies to artists and to this historic downtown neighborhood.

David Goodman: I wanted to talk about the formation of Lush Life and how neighborhoods downtown are changing—how the art scene has changed the composition this neighborhood in particular.

Franklin Evans: I had a thought that there are a lot of galleries down here, and that it would be interesting to have something happen. The Lower East Side feels more like a community; more shared and more people working together. I talked to Omar because he works with so many artists and loved the idea. It slowly evolved and became larger than just a big group show. We decided on Richard Prices’ Lush Life because it was the book that was continuously suggested to us. Price talks critically about the idea of community, so our idea is torn from the pages of the book. There are all of these different communities down here and historically they’ve coexisted—it isn’t until a big event, in the book, that they all start interacting. And we’re focusing on mimicking that premise.

Omar Chaud-Lopez: It’s about a community within a community. As an art community, you have to be aware of the response to a particular energy. The neighborhood is composed of many different people—Hispanics, Chinese, the new commerce and boutiques to the old Jewish community, the projects … it has everything and it coexists together. Hopefully, it will always continue to be that way and not just become another characterless neighborhood in a big city

DG: I can only imagine that with so many galleries participating that you both had to act as curatorial diplomats.

FE: That’s an interesting point. I think that it’s almost too idealistic to think that people are going to work together. At the same time, this project could not have happened if all nine galleries hadn’t come together.

DG: How long did it take to put the entire project together?

FE: We started in last December—so about six months.

DG: Was there something that was absolutely surprising that you found out, about the work or about the process of building the whole project?

FE: Maybe the most surprising, and most positive aspect, has been to the efforts the galleries put in to figure out how to fit the project into their exhibition program. For example, Eleven Rivington, which represents our final chapter, used their back office and still figured out a way to talk about the work in context to the book.

OC: All the galleries have been amazing and the artists as well—they all understood what we were doing and they have been extremely supportive. There is a sense of collaboration that actually surprised me, because you never know.

DG: Are there parallels between the way you, Franklin, work in your studio and the way you curated the shows?

FE: Not that much … just because the two practices are so different. For me it was a rich investigation of other artist’s work.

DG: Was Price included in the project?

FE: He wasn’t a part of the curating, but he was a part of the process. Risa Needleman of Invisible-Exports, met him at a cocktail party after we had already gotten started and he mentioned to her that he was excited by our project. He is not really an art world person per-se, but he is a New Yorker, so he was excited by it.

OC: We had the opportunity to talk to Richard about the process and he’s been amazing. He’s given us a great input. With Invisible Exports, he created a film of a walk through of the neighborhood and he visits all the different areas that he refers to in the book—the actually places that inspired him to write the novel. The novel is fictional but there is a lot of truth in there.

DG: Right, and a lot of the characters in there, some of the characters from the neighborhood …

OC: He spent a lot of time here observing.

DG: I am interested in how language crosses over—the parallels that can exist between the descriptive language in a novel and with the subjective visuals of artwork …

FE: Yeah, I am hoping that people read the book and sequentially critique each of the chapter exhibitions and have a deeper sense of what we are trying to do with the text.

DG: Is the show a catalyst to connect the communities …

OC: Absolutely. These are collecting galleries and their working together—opening the same night and building the project together. We are actually choosing one artist from each gallery that we are putting in another gallery—all exhibitions and galleries become connected through the context of the story and the work of the artists.

DG: Do you feel that there are aspects of the work that you chose that are more flavorful?

OC: Absolutely. With this show we just tried to respond to each chapter of the book. Each chapter is based in the Lower East Side and touches on historical aspects and also issues relative to the community. The different communities don’t necessarily interact with each other unless something happens, unless there is a major event that brings them all together. It could be like in the book when it refers to the collapse of the synagogue and everyone comes together and they all talk to each other, and they interact because they are all looking at something that is happening that bonds them together. Unless something happens, they tend to isolate themselves in their own communities.

To read this article in its original context, click here.