What great feedback I’ve had on the first part of this blog series about how to pull off your solo art show. The comments and emails have been very lively. And I’m excited to bring you the second article in this series. In the second part of Behind The Scenes of A Solo Show series, I’m going to continue with curating art work needed for the show.
Curating Art is Like Writing A Story
First off, let’s define what I mean when I say curating. Since I write a lot, a writing analogy will be appropriate. Curating art is like writing a story. You choose the right words, put them together in a way that makes sense and then edit out what’s not needed till you finally have a written piece that’s easily readable.
So by that token, my main aim for curating art for this show was to have a selection that is cohesive or easily readable to the viewer. In order to do that, I decided to come up with a theme. (Just like you’ll come up with a topic to write about). My theme as I talked about in this post was “Reflections”. However, that’s too broad. I needed to drill down a little more to narrow my focus. (Again, the analogy here will be – you need a subtopic when you write an article)
A Story About Black and White Stitched Drawings
My subtopic then for curating art in this instance became, “Black and White Stitched Drawings”. Each piece was going to be a stitched drawing. Each piece would have a twin, which is a reflection of the original piece. I decided that for each pair, one would be on a white background and the second, on a black background. That was about it. Everything else was free to evolve as I went along. And evolve they did.
Originally, I thought I’d have a black and white show. I thought I’d stitch an exact copy of the reverse side of each piece. But as I went along selecting and putting the artwork together (curating art work), I started thinking differently. I asked myself: “what’s stopping me from creating something that’s not quite an exact reflection of the front side?” That’s when I started creating multicolored reflections.
Multicolored Reflections Side by Side Might Look Better
Then as I moved on to creating multicolored reflections, I toyed with the idea of arranging each reflected piece next to the original. But as I arranged them on my design wall, I thought there was too much contrast in jumping from a white background immediately to a black background. This meant refining my curating yet again.
Also at this point, you’ll notice that I’ve started introducing some color into the purely black and white drawings. I was wary of creating a monotonous show. I felt adding a little color to some, not all of the pieces, will keep the viewer’s interest. You can see for yourself that there were so many angles I wanted to explore but because I’d set a theme to start with, that constrained me.
One of the things that make us creative is the multiplicity of our thoughts. We like the freedom to go where we want to and to create what we want. To put together a successful solo show, though, you need to find a way to rein in this tendency to wonder around endlessly exploring exciting and creatively interesting ideas. A show theme thus helps you in curating art cohesively and avoiding this pitfall. A show theme also helps in writing your artist statement and promotional materials for the show.
A Place for Everything, and Everything in Its Place
Finally, I decided to have one wall exclusively for the black backgrounds and another wall for white backgrounds. I felt this arrangement would be easier on the eye and more pleasing to the viewer. Yet believe it or not, when installation day came, this is not exactly how the pieces ended up being installed. (Check out installation photos here). It was a mix of all the ideas and arrangements I’d previously toyed with.
The lesson for me in curating art is that you can’t tell which pieces will work together till you see them together (which has had a major shift on my view of the jurying process and how work gets rejected). Personally, I was able to continually refine my selection and arrangement of the pieces for the show because I always had them up on my design wall. And I could see how well (or not) they worked together.
This also goes to confirm an important adage in art: “Visual decisions need to be made visually”. Although it’s a good idea to draw on paper a plan and artwork layout for all the pieces that are going to be in your show because it gives you a reference point to work with, nothing beats seeing the artwork together in reality (on a wall).
What do you think of the jurying process now that you’ve read my experience with curating art work for my solo show? Join the discussion below and look for subsequent parts of this Behind The Scenes Series. If you didn’t get to read part 1 in the series, you’ll find it here.
You may also be interested in the other titles in this series:
1: Planning for Your Solo Show
2: Curating Your Solo Show
3: Laying out Your Artwork
4: How to Promote Yor Solo Show
5: How to Write a Press Release
6: Installing/ Hanging Your Art Show
7. Opening Reception