Home Sweet Gallery: Nomadic Artist Dawn Kasper Settles Into Summer Group Show Chez Zwirner

'Every now and then I hear birds'

  • During this year’s Whitney Biennial, Dawn Kasper had set up her studio inside the museum and was living there during the day, spending her nights in a rented room in Greenpoint because the folks at the Whitney wouldn’t let her stay over. When boxes of her stuff—which included books, records, televisions, VCRs and a bed—was moved out of the Whitney in late May, she was going to head back to Los Angeles. She did not have a permanent residence in New York (or in Los Angeles, for that matter). But days before she was planning to leave, Jay Sanders, one of the Biennial’s curators, introduced her to the art dealer David Zwirner, whom she had met only briefly when she was working with one of Mr. Zwirner’s artists, the late Jason Rhoades. Mr. Zwirner, whose gallery is on 19th Street, happened to be leasing a temporary 4,000 square foot space on West 20th Street, next door to a building that he owns, and is in the process of renovating. The idea was to use the temporary space as storage because it had a large basement. He told Ms. Kasper she could have the space to herself for three months, and do with it whatever she pleased. She has now curated a group show called “Fuel for the Fire,” which includes work by, as she says, “friends and friends of friends,” but that’s not all.

    “I’m actually living here,” she told us when we visited the space on Thursday before the opening of the exhibition. “I’ve been living here pretty much most of June. I didn’t really want it to be an extension of the project at the Whitney; I’m trying to take the focus off of me and put it onto other artists. But I’m living in what I think was the old director’s office. It had this fancy glass table. But it’s really nice.”

    She walked back to her makeshift bedroom, which was windowless but large and comfortable. There is a bed and an oriental rug. In the basement there’s a kitchen with a fridge (the counter had a few boxes of cereal sprawled across it) and a shower room. Ms. Kasper is particularly excited about the shower room with its nice tile floors and good water pressure, a step up from the Whitney, where she used the public restroom in the museum’s basement.

    “It’s pretty cool!” she said. “It’s cozy.” Then she paused. “Except every now and then I hear birds, not to sound too crazy.” She got real quiet and we listened. “It’s not happening now. The acoustics are really creepy. Any little sound, even if it’s just the air going on, it’s like, ‘What was that?’ But anyway, I like it!” Another pause. “The bird thing creeped me out the first time.”

    The show, which is open through the end of July and, Ms. Kasper says, was inspired by a Newsweek article about the multiverse, includes ceramic masks by Rachel Mason, knit fabrics by Liz Collins, as well as pieces by Karen Adelman, Joan Jonas, Eve Fowler and about 30 others. There was, at least when Gallerist visited, no wall text and no checklist. Everything was installed casually, like this was Ms. Kasper’s house (and it technically is) and she was displaying her art collection in the living room. There was incense burning and soft lighting.

    Tucked in the corner room by the entrance is Ms. Kasper’s studio. A familiar sight after the Biennial, it is what you might call a vaguely ordered mess. There’s Letters from the Earth by Mark Twain, a Derrida reader, a guitar, three small amps, a stack of two TVs with three DVD players and a VCR, bags of clothes, Gertrude Stein’s Wars I Have Seen, a Freud reader, boxes marked “journals,” “course readers” and “photographs,” a record player, a large tape recorder, two Walkman tape players, one Discman, and a painting table on which rest brushes and a sheet of paper bearing the words “The Appearance of Reality.”

    Asked if she likes living in the heart of the Chelsea gallery district, Ms. Kasper said, “It’s different. I don’t think I could do it everyday. I mean, I could. If it were free. I don’t think I’d pay to do it.”

    (All images courtesy Dawn Kasper)

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