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WPA Explores Alternative Art spaces

From WPA: Washington Project for the Arts
By Deena O. Hyatt
December 12, 2013  |  weblink

WPA speaks with James Huckenpahler at Furthemore.

WPA: What do you offer with this space?
JH: Embodied philosophy: ideas in physical form, and the space around them to look, consider, and discuss.

WPA: Do you sell art here?
JH: We’ve sold a few things, but not much. We’re not a commercial gallery. That’s not our intention. The space is for our students, our colleagues, sundry folks. There’s an intellectual community and we like to get them all together to check out ideas.

WPA:  What was your favorite show/event/exhibition that you’ve hosted?
JH: They are all my children. I love them all. The process of collaborating with José, Ethan, and our interns and community has been really rewarding for me; José really brings out the best in my thinking about what a creative community might be. The Personal Effects exhibition may be the clearest single example of that; the idea came to José in a dream, and when he told me I knew we had to do it. It was a show that I wanted to be in! But that kind of collaborative spirit is in everything that happens at Furthermore, regardless of who is taking the lead.

WPA: Any shows where things didn’t go so well?
JH: Knock-on-wood, no disasters so far. We always have backup plans for our backup plans, and we’re good at solving problems. The bigger problem that we haven’t found a solution for yet is financial sustainability, but it’s something that we discuss regularly. I’m not sure what business model might work for us. We probably have to invent our own solution.

WPA:  Are there other alternative spaces in DC that you would point artists and art lovers to?
JH: I really admire Pleasant Plains Workshop (PPW) right now. There are all of these funky, weird experiments happening in different corners of the space, totally unselfconscious and unpretentious. Pretty much the opposite of me!

WPA: What inspires you to exhibit an artist? What compels you to host a show?
JH: There are things we want to see. Rather than wait for someone else to do it, or complaining that no one else is doing it, we do it ourselves.

WPA: What are you looking for in art or are you playing a more passive role where you let it come to you?
JH: José and I have a pretty broad range of interests, but I think our criteria for the space boils down to:

1. What art do we want to see, ourselves?
2. What art do we wish we’d made, ourselves?
3. What art do we want to share with our students and our community?

For example, José and I both teach, and we think every art student in DC should see Jeff Spaulding’s work, so we’re working on a retrospective. He is not as visible as we think he should be, so we’re going to try to do something about it. We’ve got an idea for a project with Renée Stout, same story.

JH: DC urgently needs more in-depth arts writing. Really substantive considerations of visual culture are few and far between, so Washingtonians have very little exposure to the ideas that their local artists are wrestling with. I’m not talking about regurgitated press releases, but rather, discussions of how the work that’s being made here and now reflects both global changes (in technology and economy, for example) and the significance of work being made in the city that has been the de facto capital of the world.

DC needs an alternative space that is similar in scale to, say, the DIA Center (Dia Art Foundation). Not quite another museum, but an institution that has a faster metabolism than the Hirshhorn, and is international in scope.

DC needs some organization or mechanism for getting DC artists visible in other cities. Exchanges happen through various institutions in DC, but not often enough, and not in a dedicated, programmatic way.

DC needs someone, perhaps DCCAH (District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities) or perhaps a benevolent tycoon, to step in and provide low-cost real estate for the gallery scene. I can think of half a dozen gallerists who need decent exhibition space that is easily accessible. Meanwhile, the Dupont Underground languishes…