A Bold New Trajectory for Dorsch Gallery by Thomas Hollingworth
Installation view of Mark Koven’s A Stone’s Throw at Dorsch Gallery Oct. 11- Nov. 8, 2008.
The evening of October 11th was markedly rejuvenating. Of course it was Wynwood’s Second Saturday Gallery Walk which always gets the blood flowing but what made this night different, apart from the afore mentioned SCHADENFREUDE and the lack of our regular late night haunt, Twenty Twenty Projects was a quite unexpected coupling at Dorsch Gallery between an exhibition of mutual dependence and a similar, developing partnership within the gallery’s administration. Setting out on the monthly marathon with the intent of hitting up a number of targets including Hernan Bas at Snitzer, Kris Knight at Spinello, The Continuing Adventures of our Heroine at Castillo and David Rohn’s politically inclined performance ‘Mr. and Mrs. Candidate’ outside Artformz, I did not expect that before I rushed to catch post-shooting jokes at Clifton Childree’s final performance at Locust Projects that I would find myself propelling an already clammy body at speed to chants of “Run Forrest” to Dorsch Gallery on a promise of an interventionist exhibition involving rocks and a truck load of sand.
The show in question was by Mark Koven, a mid-career conceptual artist now deeply invested in the social realms of art; orchestrating settings, communal situations, and paradigms to pressure socially loaded interactions. For his current exhibition ‘A Stone’s Throw’, Koven deposited 21 tons of sand into Dorsch’s main gallery. In addition to inviting patrons to contribute their own sand, the artist presents the opportunity to engage in the cooperative and sustainable act of making and skipping stones. Only when you have made a stone to replace the one you will skip are you permitted to proceed.
Koven explains, “This cycle of blind social interaction is a form of letting go of something we may perceive as a created possession; we relinquish our sand/dirt and our stone to someone we may never meet. In having our sand and stone added to the mix and later cast by another, my hope is that it brings us to question our views of individuality, anonymity and personal property.”
Stone making (left). Setting stones (right).
Immediately upon entering the gallery one is confronted with a table upon which bowls of paste, dirt and Vaseline together with a healthy supply of wet wipes are regimented. The floors to either side of the table are littered with stones. Some drying in aluminum molds, others ready to be picked up on route to the main gallery. On the opening night (and later at subsequent lectures) an excitable throng of visitors hurriedly making stones before scampering the length of the impressive expanse of dunes affected an atmosphere more synonymous with a village fate than a contemporary art gallery.
The press release states: “Koven’s works evolve from an intense research-based process in which he consults sources as diverse as US Nuclear Import Laws or health statistics. Some consistent themes in his work, which are applicable here, are social and legal constructions of property, Jerusalem and bible literature and lore. For this exhibition he discovered a Harvard study on human behavior: it observes that humans are the only animal with the ability to throw a projectile with speed and accuracy. This ability has had physiological and psychological effects on our species’ evolution.”
Despite these fascinating revelations, the interaction and cooperation are the most interesting elements to this exhibition. The symbolic use of stones of course also brings much to the table in terms of human anthropology (tools, weapons and the mirthful act of skipping) but it is the community driven symbiosis that carries through with most momentum. The prevalence of this exhibition’s sense of harmony is made all the more pertinent in context to the recent unifying addition to Dorsch Gallery’s staff.
As many are no doubt aware, Brook Dorsch along with many of his piers has battled for years against our common adversaries of time and fluctuating local markets to present a regular and interesting program of exhibitions. Save for occasional support from, the responsibility of the gallery has fallen squarely on his shoulders, in addition to the demands of an involving and specialized day job. Keeping any business afloat under such strenuous circumstances is no mean feat, especially in the art world. However, for the first time in the gallery’s history, Dorsch has help in lightening his load in the form of Tyler Emerson-Dorsch, who recently joined her husband in running the gallery.
A graduate of CCS Bard (Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture), Tyler has been working in a creative capacity in Miami since 2002: First at MAM in the Director’s Office under Suzanne Delehanty, then in the curator’s office with Peter Boswell, Lorie Mertes and Cheryl Hartup. Around 2004 she curated her first show ‘Labyrinth: the backward path’, which included work by Jiae Hwang, Jacques de Beaufort, Rob de Mar, Pepe Mar, Phoenecia, Kammy Roulner and Diego Singh. Following this she became director at Fredric Snitzer Gallery before leaving our fine city a year later for grad school. In between her two years at CCS she assisted on the catalog for the Franz West retrospective at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Having curated a show entitled ‘Act Out’ for her thesis that included video, installation and performance works by Vito Acconci, Cheryl Donegan, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Sturtevant and Hannah Wilke, Tyler has since returned to Miami where she is now employing her experience for the benefit of Dorsch Gallery. Here follows an interview:
Brook, can you explain how Tyler’s involvement came about?
We met at the closing reception of Jay Ore’s exhibition [at Dorsch Gallery] in 2004. Jumping ahead a little, I was excited when Tyler volunteered recently to join me at the gallery. I had hoped that she would come on board since we met so when she volunteered on her own, I was like “YEAH!” There are no titles between us. The gallery is a huge part of me and it’s great to be able to share that along with everything else! I’ve always worked during the day and so now with Tyler’s help we are operating regular hours and still continuing to brainstorm into the night. It’s very much a joint passion.
Tyler, since your initial arrival to Miami in 2002 you have found yourself in a director’s role at two prominent galleries. Was this a goal for you?
I was 22 and fresh out of college. No – I had no idea then where my life would lead me. I wanted to be a curator, but my training up to that point had been mostly in art history – mostly studying the work of artists in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, whose lives had ended long ago and whose bodies of work had been thoroughly studied by many before me. I soon discovered that art history was in the making here. I met artists, curators and collectors who were all bidding for their own place in the future’s archive of this time. This was life changing. I threw myself into the scene as much as I could (I’m pretty shy), looked around, took a lot of notes, and tried to do what I could.
Tyler, what is your approximation of the Miami art scene today?
It’s changed even since I left in 2006. I am excited to find online publications like yours getting the word out about art in a more generative, rather than antagonistic way. Critical writing on art is extremely important in that it has the potential to add to the life of a work of art in the minds (as well as eyes) of a community. There are more galleries and positive changes taking place in Miami’s museums – In this regard I speak more about educational and exhibition programming and some new curators rather than the new buildings, but if the new buildings help generate excitement and support for good programming, then I am all for them too! With the amazing attendance and energy at the first Second Saturday this year, as well as impressive attendance at some of the talks at museums this summer, I feel as though there is significant and substantive support for the local art scene. Jim Drain’s talk at MoCA on ‘Flaming Creatures’ was completely full. There are groups talking about art in interesting ways, such as Ruba Katrib’s Theory Night, Morning Lectures at MAM and the Black Mangrove Collective. I’m sure there are more I don’t know about! The impact of the fairs is undeniable, but serious shows are happening here all year around and it is getting better every year. The advent of these discussion groups is great, as well as another model for extended engagement – as seen in the Fountainhead Residency.
Brook, you have been a successful Miami dealer now for over a decade and one of the first spaces along with Locust Projects to open in Wynwood. Like Locust Projects your gallery has not only weathered the storm but is constantly improving. What changes have you seen and how did you direct your gallery in response to those changes?
This November the gallery will enter its 17th year. In the early 90’s there were only a few galleries that showed local artists and from that there developed this Do it yourself (DIY) attitude, so a really tight community between artists developed around spaces like mine, the Box, Locust and later-on the House and Wormhole Laboratory. There was a comradery about the scene. And then with the advent of the first Art Basel Miami Beach, things started to swell, and many of those local artists felt the pressure, also many new galleries started popping up and that allowed for more spaces to show. In some ways the competition this caused was and is good, because it pushed everyone to get better. In other ways I feel a loss for the excitement and community of that earlier time.
I have always tried to improve the gallery, little by little, development-by-development, adding what I can to the experience of seeing art. I have always felt that the gallery is a cultural venue to see good art and things that will stimulate good community and culture and I try to keep the energy up by programming performance art, dance events and concerts for people like Arthur Doyle, Pong, numerous local acts and The Sub-Tropics Music Festival, and events like Lia Rodriquez’s ‘Such Stuff We Are Made Of’ (the only USA dates were the Walker Museum and Dorsch Gallery), The Dixie Dingo Biennial Super 8 Film Festival, and the up-coming Tere O’Connor performance ‘Rammed Earth’. Miami needs a venue that is willing to host this type of programming. I also try to stay involved with community organizations such as ISAW and Tigertail Productions.
In response to the need to get the word out about the gallery around the country, I began putting together shows – like Miami Valise which I took to Canada – and participating in art fairs, like the Nova/Bridge Fair in Chicago and Scope Miami. My response to the changes was basically to try to always improve the gallery, as much as I could, every year, and I am still doing that. The good thing now is that with Tyler at the gallery we are able to respond to those changes even faster!
Flyer for Classroom. Oct. 11 – Nov. 8, 2008
Tyler, are Mark Koven’s experimental/experiential sand piece “A Stones Throw” and “Classroom” [a recent advent of educational/informational talks hosted in the galleries project room] part of the recent ‘extended engagement’ you mentioned?
Brook and Mark have actually worked together for a long time; their first collaboration being 2003, when Koven put together Come – an exhibition of lenticular photographs that showed close-up views of touches and tastes, a hand rubbing fur or a licking tongue. Placed on the floor and ceiling and lit by very directional spots the gallery space was unusually dark. Unbeknownst to most visitors (including me), Mark had hired actors to ‘rub’ viewers. As a result, many people left in an agitated state, experiencing a strange sense of claustrophobia. I came across this exhibition before I knew about the dynamics of intervention in art, so I was one of those folks who left feeling confused. This is not a bad thing. I vividly remember the experience, and it turned out that I became part of the piece that others could observe.
‘Classroom’, however, was my idea. The decision to use the gallery space as a classroom was informed by discussions we had at CCS in the Spring of 2008. It is a frequent practice in Europe’s Kunsthalles to show art of administration. One of the first curators to make me aware of the value of this was Maria Lind, CCS’s new director. Lind also exposed us to the curatorial and educational practices of WHM, Irit Rogoff, Tirdad Zolghadr and Ana Paula Cohen. In addition, the Night School was a powerful model. The Night School is a ongoing artist project by Anton Vidokle at the New Museum in New York. Even the Night School emerged from another earlier endeavor – Manifesta 6 was structured around the theme of exhibition as school on the politically divided island of Cyprus. It’s very interesting to trace the different examples of this combination of school and exhibition, where each effort works and fails according to the specific circumstance. On a more modest scale, I wanted to make a similar – but different – functional gesture that would reflect Miami’s dynamics. This exhibition could perhaps add an awareness of all the resources that are already in Miami for inspiration, teaching and enrichment. The list of lectures includes some of Miami’s curators, a dealer, a news producer, a satellite engineer, a choreographer, a Wynwood developer, artists and teachers and students from the local schools and universities. Their participation is what gives the initial idea of Classroom the real dimension. If just reading the schedule provokes questions about art education and cultural learning in Miami, then the presence of Classroom has made an impact. To read more look for our Classroom Report, in which Brook and I will reflect on and be critical of how our version unfolded.
Brook, Dorsch Gallery has been a worthy investment, one which you put much time and blood into. Like many dealers, even Emmanuel Perrotin, the gallery has been both your office and your home. However, public opinion of your gallery was arguably never quite equal to its formidable size. How would you respond to the suggestion that your job with SeaMobile, with whom I understand you get to fly around in helicopters, encroached upon your time in regard to the galleries programming?
I’ve definitely put lots of blood and sweat into the gallery, along with tons of help from friends, family and artists in the gallery, it was very much a group effort, and I am very thankful for the support. I’ve always been happy with the recognition I’ve gotten – reviews in Art in America, Art Papers, Sculpture magazine, in addition to most every Miami based publication – but in the past it was difficult to keep up with doing the galley’s marketing, at the same time as everything else from painting the walls to updating the website and sweeping the floors. It’s not enough that the gallery has had exposure; with each new show and new artist, it is necessary to get the word out, to see the issues of that exhibition discussed in a wider arena. In terms of whether people like what I do, I’ve always programmed the gallery according to my own tastes. It’s important to stay true to that.
I enjoy my job with SeaMobile very much – although the helicopter part is over-exaggerated – but my colleagues there know that if I won the lottery, I’d be full-time at the gallery in a heartbeat. But at the same time, my day job is great, challenging and rewarding. Plus it gives me access to knowledge and materials I would not otherwise be able to make available for the artists I work with. For instance: Getting a fiberglass radome for Robert Chambers, strange steel parts for Ralph Provisero and Robin Griffiths. It also has taken me to many places where I’ve been fortunate enough to see some amazing art: Olaffur Eliasson in London and Morandi in Venice, all places that I have visited while traveling for work. In the past it was difficult for me to balance both, and many people that know me will tell you that I don’t sleep very much, but now it is starting to get easier; Tyler is there to help and I don’t have to go for a week without any sleep anymore! It’s really the best of all worlds.
Tyler, I feel excited for the gallery, almost the same way in which I might feel excited to work on a classic car. What changes can we expect and what will be preserved?
Brook and I are working through this transition together. We are currently focusing on those artists whose work continues to excite us. There are changes we cannot fully disclose as of yet, but we will update our website as they occur; though I will say that all artists who have worked with us are part of the gallery’s identity. As Brook and I look to the future, we aspire to show an eye for art that will inspire viewers’ trust. And I speak of all sorts of viewers: artists, writers, critics, curators, collectors, newcomers and the curious. We want viewers to be able to expect energy, intensity, thoughtfulness and passion from the art and events at Dorsch Gallery.
You could say that the change to the gallery, with me in the mix, is that the rate of change can now increase. The great things Brook has established about the gallery are very important to me – the regular influx of music, performance art and avant-garde events, his understanding of the community’s tastes and his willingness to take chances. I’d like to see all of these things continue.
Tyler, the gallery seems to have set a new trajectory just in time to capture imaginations before the crush of peak season and your credentials have made a nice impression on the community. Not a bad start. How do you plan to pace yourself?
Thank you! Pacing is indeed important. In the past, we’ve had 3 solo shows per month, unless there was a group exhibition. I’m actually going to slow this down. We’ll keep the shows up a week or so longer. Hopefully, this will give visitors the chance to make it once they hear about it on ARTLURKER! It will also afford the opportunity to allow the exhibition to change in response to viewers’ reactions, to produce an exhibition brochure with installation images, to research more work for the new great show. You can expect more writing, lectures and education programming in a chill atmosphere. Brook and I love what we do, and we enjoy sharing our knowledge and passion with our public. What we focus on is good painting, kick-ass installations and sculpture, skillful art making by artists who are working to make it in the competitive art world. For this reason we’re able to offer these artworks at reasonable prices. By buying works from us, collectors can leave with a great work of art, without severing their wallets. Our clients know that they are patrons for these artists as much as Brook and I are. A purchase really makes a difference for an artist at this stage. We’ll continue to do surprising exhibitions and installations periodically to keep everyone on their toes.
Brook and/or Tyler, so finally, are we keeping the name Dorsch Gallery or hyphenating it with Emerson?
(Tyler) Dorsch Gallery is here to stay, at least for the time being. It is my belief that Brook has put a lot of years and love into this place and this community. I am by comparison relatively recent to all of this! The identity of the gallery comes from its history with him. Its future lies in part in what I can add to this identity as a Dorsch too■
From her first involvement with the gallery co-curating ‘Prescience’, a group show of NY artists which took place this June, Tyler Emerson-Dorsch has been exerting a positive influence over the gallery and perhaps most importantly providing the balance needed to maintain regular hours and manage the space more effectively (or at the very least on more sleep).
Looking into the future, one of their concerted efforts will be to draw curators and artists to the gallery from outside of Florida; especially from cities that are considered art centers. In an effort to ensure this they vow to bring in up-and-coming curators to organize a group show at least once a year. Their first show of this nature will be in January of 2009 where Milena Hoegsberg, who most recently curated a video screening at CRG Gallery, and Megha Ralapati, Director of Bose Pacia Gallery in New York, will co-curate a show on Criticism and its effect on works of art. Hoegsberg grew up in Denmark and spent the last eight years in New York. Ralapati lived in Chicago and now lives in New York. Both are working in several different art contexts. In addition to these somewhat groundbreaking developments, artists that the gallery has wanted to work with either for the first time or again, such as Martin Murphy, Tom Beale and Martin Basher, are indeed being booked[.]
Closing Reception of ‘A Stones Throw’ is Saturday, November 8, 2008, 7 – 10 PM
For more information please visit: www.dorschgallery.com