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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A few questions with Rachel Reese

Eileen Neff
  • COURTESY RACHEL REESE
  • Eileen Neff

Atlanta-native Rachel Reese spent some productive years in the East Coast's contemporary art world. She served as financial director of the storied, now-shuttered Deitch Projects in New York, a position that overlapped with her time as assistant director of Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia. Now, she's back in Atlanta, serving as senior editor of local arts blog BURNAWAY and curating a new group exhibition, Cardinal, that opens at two local galleries simultaneously this weekend. CL caught up with Reese to ask her a few questions about her work.

The exhibition is meant to be a response to Magnus Bärtås' 2006 essay, "IN THE MIDST OF NATURE." What about the essay compelled you? Why did you want to create a visual response?

The essay was written in response to a body of work by Swedish artist, Björn Larsson, and included in a small book published by Journal. Not knowing Larsson's work, I came across this beautiful book at KIOSK KIOSK in NYC in 2006. As an object, it's probably one of my favorite books that I return to year after year. However it's the essay that really drew me in, not only to Larsson's work - a series of photographs taken in the Swedish Ideological Museum - but as a greater explanation as to why I am continually seduced by the use of lens-based mediation in photographing "nature." I've moderated a talk on the issue before and was glad for a chance to realize the concept by curating an exhibition. So, in this way, I'm considering the show a visual essay in response to a written one.

The artists in the exhibition speak to different points highlighted in the text: The use of scopic devices to manipulate a view, the importance of a focused observation point and how that also implies a negation, and one artist, Captain William Jordan, perhaps challenges our notion of a scopic device altogether. Bärtås weaves a wonderful essay about the history of natural history (or "biological" museums, tracing their roots to Gustaf Kolthoff whom Larsson's series was based from), early 18th century methods of landscape analysis and viewfinders, a query into "natural" and "untouched" landscapes (with Yosemite as a case study), but most importantly about the history of observation and seeing, and how that is continually shaped by perception and memory.

The first thing that stands out to me about Cardinal is the decision to curate the show at two separate galleries. Can you tell me how that came about and what the decision making process behind that was?

I produce/edit a publication of artists' writings called Possible Press that began in Brooklyn in 2009. Excitedly, I won an Idea Capital grant this year and was looking for a complimentary location to host the release party this summer. I had been in talks with Jeff Guy of Twin Kittens about hosting a release during one of his summer exhibitions, and he invited me to curate a show in the space. While that was in discussion phases, Marcia Wood approached me about curating a summer show at her space. So, I decided to expand the exhibition into both galleries and it is a perfect conceptual decision. I'm really glad it worked out this way because the show is so much stronger for it, as it not only opened up my approach to curating the show, but it literally expands the exhibition map over a six mile span over Atlanta. The release party for the third anniversary issue of Possible Press (Vol 3 Issue 1) will take place at Twin Kittens on the same night as originally planned. It was all very serendipitous.

John Paul Floyd
  • COURTESY RACHEL REESE
  • John Paul Floyd

You recently took over as editor of BURNAWAY and occasionally publish Possible Press, a newsprint periodical. Can you tell me a little about the balancing act between criticism, curating, and publishing?

I've always worn several hats at once. I work best this way and it keeps me fulfilled. I'm very excited to be at BURNAWAY! We have a lot of momentum and the support is really overwhelming; I look forward to work everyday (if I can call it 'work.') I'm not a journalist, so at times, I approach BURNAWAY with a curatorial hat, and other times with a critic's. For me, it's more important to maintain the same level of scrutiny, integrity and criticality to all of the work that I do and I always ask the same from our contributors. Possible Press is fun in that I do very little traditional editing; it was always important from the beginning that the artist's voice - and by that fact, the way they presented their text - maintained its original form. There are no strict style or copy editing rules in place. I enjoy approaching those contributions as artworks in themselves. I am excited to get back into a gallery and install some work, too! I have missed that.

Cardinal, featuring work by Eileen Neff, John Paul Floyd, Stephanie Dowda, and more, opens on Fri., June 14 at 7 p.m. simultaneously at Marcia Wood Gallery and Twin Kittens. More details.

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