Legendary East Village gallerist Gracie Mansion talks about the various turning points in her life and career, including:  Her early days in the East Village (9th St. between 1st & Ave. A), when she had an apartment to live, and another for her studio, for about $200 total; the genesis of her first gallery, which she started out of the bathroom of that apartment, and managed to stir up a whirlwind of visitors and press; one of her day jobs, at a SoHo gallery, where her boss had her run a ‘museum’ of art by prostitutes; the changing landscape of the downtown NYC gallery world, as she moved her spaces through the East Village, later to SoHo, and then much later to Chelsea; how she learned how to price artworks from legendary dealer Leo Castelli; what it’s like to negotiate with gallery backers, and how that worked out for her; and how and why she changed her name to Gracie Mansion (the name of the New York City Mayor’s residence).

London-based artist and PhD candidate John Walter talks about:

From the U.K, his romanticized version of the U.S. vis-à-vis New York and its high-’80s art boom; and he tries to reconcile the work of some of his early heroes, particularly Julian Schnabel, vs. their oversized egos and macho bluster, while dismissing most of his countrymen (Freud, Auerbach, etc.) for being ‘bad’ for the wrong reasons; his PhD thesis, relating to HIV/AIDS in relation to visual art and ‘maximalism,’ and as manifested through his interactive installation Alien Sex Club, which looked at the social aspects of ‘cruising’ in both analog (gay bath houses, cruise mazes) and digital (Grindr, etc.) forms, through his maximal aesthetic applications; his former apartment Tandoori Cottage, which took on a maximal aesthetic along the lines of some of his work, and how it was something of an experiment in collapsing the divide between work and life; his PhD program, which was in architecture, and which allowed him to produce Alien Sex Club as well as a book of symbiotic writings, and how getting the PhD has been part of his need to diversify to get by as an artist, an artist as “nomadic jester”;  how after returning from Skowhegan in 2012 he was completely broke, had to swallow his pride and take a job at a book shop as part of that recovery, a big wake-up call that led him to the PhD program, part of his new era of strategic decision-making; the flat he and his partner bought in London to get out of market rent; how he’s leveraged grant opportunities to help support himself largely by accessing subject matter outside of visual art (mainly virology); his being an ‘interloper’ in virology, as part of his Alien Sex Club project and his Capsid project, which forces him to acquire a whole new knowledge-base in science; how he takes a very often dry sensibility (virology, science-as-art) and makes it ‘wet’ for an art audience; how despite making a lot of ‘gear’ (artworks), the commercial galleries he’s worked with haven’t worked for him, and how he’s taken the reins for his work as opposed to waiting for his work to be ‘ordained’…and so the market will come later; that galleries tend to trade on the artist’s credentials, rather than their own credentials; the logistics of running his studio/office space, which is just five minutes from his flat, by wearing multiple hats in the same space; how he uses ‘telly’ (TV) as a way to switch off his brain; and we discuss art openings and forming relationships in the art world, in the context of the ‘hospitality’ component of his many installations/performances, promoting a form of welcoming interaction that tends to run counter to what actually goes on at an opening, and how he advocates finding ways into the community through folks that you ‘get on with.’

 

Manhattan-based art writer and budding curator Emily Colucci talks about:

Her place on Avenue C in the East Village, and how she’s managed to live in a Manhattan that’s now cheaper in many cases than Brooklyn; the C Squat next door to her place, which has existed since the ’70s and the city allowed them to permanently inhabit if they brought it up to code (which they did), and which also runs the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, which does walking tours of former squats and community gardens and non-profit art spaces in the neighborhood; the heydays of St. Marks Place and the East Village, and how each generation looks down on newer generations’ scenes as not having the same level of artistic relevance; her cultural blog Filthy Dreams, which she founded as a place for “minorities who don’t even fit into our own minorities,” inspired by John Waters’ quote, and for the queer and LGBT communities; writing about (and taking down) James Franco’s show at Pace gallery, which was his attempted version of re-creating Cindy Sherman’s iconic Untitled Film Stills series…why Pace had the show in the first place, what Cindy Sherman’s reaction to it was, plus Emily brings Filthy Dreams’ take on Franco’s history of appropriating Queer culture while simultaneously publicly declaring that he’s not gay; her curatorial projects, including a past show Party Out of Bounds: Nightlife as Activism since 1980 (which was about nightclubs, activism and AIDS), and an upcoming show on Disco’s legacy, and the two years of work that goes into each show, including relying on oral histories from eras where many of its notable participants have passed away; how exhibitions, unlike articles on art, can actually make a tiny difference in exposing people to things and even changing minds; how it’s terrifying at times being a freelance writer, but because she’s allergic to office work, she wouldn’t trade it for anything, and she always has Filthy Dreams to write for when the other gigs aren’t happening, and how even though she knows there are more readers, she always assumes there are two people reading her blog: her mom and her best friend (though she did get to experience what it’s like for your article to get some serious attention, after her piece on James Franco was picked up by Live Journal).