Curator Kelcey Edwards wants to contribute to the East End art scene while working to preserve the history of today’s working artists.
To that end, she will debut “Ghosts of the Inanimate,” the first exhibition of her new venture, Iron Gate East, this Saturday at The Spur at Southampton Social Club in Southampton Village.
As the starting point for her pop-up gallery series, she sought art that was “a little uncommon and intriguing.” She found works that invoked the “aftermath of absence, a lingering presence, otherworlds, spirit worlds.”
“We all need to pause and accept some notions of otherworldliness and absurdity to process the hard reality we’re all living in,” Ms. Edwards said.
She described curating Iron Gate East’s debut show as an intuitive process. “I wanted a diverse range of artists whose work resonated with me personally, whose work resonated with each other,” she said. “They just ticked all the boxes in a funny way.”
She selected worked by three Brooklyn-based artists: Belgian-American Hedwig Brouckaert, Korean-American Jourdain Jongwon Lee and American artist Caleb Freese.
Ms. Brouckaert works with hair, sometimes even stitching her own hair into her work.
In Ms. Brouckaert’s “Illusive Flesh of Light XXIII,” which will be on display in the exhibition, the core image of the piece is a photograph the artist took the morning after her father died, Ms. Edwards explained. “It was a sunburst that came through the window in his office. And then she traced hair. … She was tracing actual strands of hair to create this sort of fantasmic image that you see overlaid the core image.”
Ms. Brouckaert also makes collages by cutting images of models’ hair out of decades of fashion magazines. She traces hair using pins and carbon paper, a process that shreds the images and makes them marred and abstract, Ms. Edwards said.
Mr. Lee will display works from his series “Golem,” a name taken from Jewish folklore. Golems are mythical beings created from inanimate materials. He uses scrap metal and other found objects to create sculptures.
Mr. Freese combines drawing, digitizing and printing to make urban mash-ups with wilderness scenes, Ms. Edwards said.
Curating runs in Ms. Edwards’s family: Her father, James Edwards, is an artist and curator.
She grew up in the Texas art scene, she said, and was the co-founder and co-curator of the nonprofit multimedia studio and exhibition space Iron Gate Studios in Austin.
As an outgrowth of her work in the art field, she began producing documentaries, the best known of which is the feature film “Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines,” on the history of the comic book character Wonder Woman.
“When you think about comic book history, it’s sort of like the history of the news, in a sense,” Ms. Edwards said. “It’s produced with such frequency that there’s not this long drawn out belabored process of perfecting and revising. It’s actually done with an urgency. So when you look at it over time, it is one of the most valuable cultural caches that we have. Every societal impulse and anxiety—it is one of the truest reflections of culture over time. So is any form of media that is produced quickly like that. It is not over thought. It is not conformed.”
A few years ago, she and her husband, Ben Segal, settled in Quogue, and she wanted to add something to the local art scene.
She noted that other Texas art scene curators and transplants she was familiar with also came to the South Fork: Parrish Art Museum director Terrie Sultan and Guild Hall executive director Andrea Grover.
“I am a fan of the art landscape out here,” Ms. Edwards said. “I was trying to figure out what I felt was missing, or what I could add. I don’t like redundancy. I wasn’t interested in just opening another gallery, or doing what somebody else was already doing.”
She aimed to create something experiential that would be pop-up based and partner with existing venues. She found her niche with Iron Gate East.
She said she loves the curatorial aspect: “Picking the artists, writing about them, putting together a cool show, getting people out for it. It’s almost like a cross between what a gallery does and what an art fair [or] art market does, and, frankly, what a museum would do. Because part of my model is: I’m keeping overhead low so I can afford to program performance art and things that don’t sell.”
All three of the artists she chose for “Ghosts of the Inanimate” will be present at the opening party on Saturday, which is important to Ms. Edwards’s goals and philosophy.
“So much of the art world is, for whatever reason, built on this premise of divorcing art from the maker, and these intermediate experiences, where people just see it in a galley and buy it,” Ms. Edwards said. “So there is no connection with the artist. I think art’s depth comes from context, and a lot of that context is the story of the maker. And so, part of what I’m doing is trying to bring out the artists, and create points of contact and demystify it. In a funny way, as far as the art world is concerned—or parts of the art world are concerned—it’s a very radical idea. But there are other people who are on board with it. And down the line, I would like to merge my loves again and be part of a movement ... I would like Iron Gate East to be part of record keeping and storytelling, and being part of that movement to document artists who are making important work today, so that people can understand it. Because we live in a complex time and these are our cultural guardians. And understanding the hard thinking they’re doing, that the rest of us don’t have time to do, has incredible value.”
“Ghosts of the Inanimate” will be on view through May 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment. The opening party is Saturday, February 24, from 5 to 7 p.m. with open bar from 5 to 6 p.m., an artists’ talk at 5:30 p.m. Southampton Social Club is located at 256 Elm Street, Southampton Village. For more information, visit irongateeast.com.
One fine body…