Behind the Scenes: Kristen Dodge
Kristen Dodge is from Boston (don't get it twisted), and she's representing Red Sox fans in a city full of Yankees. After several years in Boston where she served as director of judi rotenberg gallery, which shuttered this summer after 40 years of programming, Dodge has taken her new gallerist reigns to the Lower East Side of New York and is running full gallop in her new space, DODGEgallery.
While in Boston, Dodge created a dynamic program of contemporary artists with rotenberg co-director Abigail Ross, which Nick Capasso, senior curator at the DeCordova, said, "became one of the most important places to see advanced work in Boston"—a goal that she is already hard at work executing in her new home in New York at 15 Rivington Street, just around the corner from the New Museum.
Dodge works hard, she expects artists to be hard-working as well, and—to no surprise—she admits that the work she's drawn to is rigorous. I spoke with the young New York dealer this week to talk about leaving Boston, why she decided on the Lower East Side, and her plans for her new space. —Evan J. Garza
EJG: You were director at judi rotenberg for a number of years before recently moving to New York and starting your own space, DODGEgallery. How did you end up in New York? And why the Lower East Side?
I worked at the rotenberg gallery with Abigail Ross for 6 years. My first day on the job was one of those moments in life when everything falls into place and you find yourself exactly where you need to be. It was an incredible run, and very hard to sever myself from both the gallery and Abi. When I first told her that I needed to follow my own dream, take the leap, grab life by the balls—however you want to say it—she was immediately supportive and excited for me, or relieved to have me off her tail!
I spent a few months weighing the pros and cons of Boston versus New York, and it became very obvious to me that I would have a more balanced lifestyle in Boston, my home, but that I would find greater opportunity in New York. I decided that if I was going to make this commitment and the number of sacrifices that it entails, and ask our artists to do the same, I needed to position the gallery in New York where there is endless and unparalleled opportunity. So I spent about five months traveling back and forth to New York to set up the business. I had some incredible friends who let me sleep on their couch, and so many friends and family who offered their unwavering support. I'm also incredibly lucky that Patton Hindle was willing to pick up her life in Boston and move to New York to join the gallery.
So why the Lower East Side? This is one of the most exciting gallery hubs in the city—it's the newest generation of spaces, and continues to grow steadily. I've heard that nine new galleries opened in L.E.S. this fall. It's more renegade than Chelsea is now, there's a greater opportunity to stand out, and find memorable, unlikely spaces [in which] to open a gallery. Visitors like the sense of discovery that the neighborhood offers too. How fantastic is it to walk past a kitchen supply store and stumble into a contemporary art gallery?
Dave Cole: Unreal City, installation view, 2010
EJG: How did you find/decide on your space? How is it working out?
I worked with a realtor who introduced me to another realtor who gave me the line, "Do I have the perfect space for you!" I'd been looking all over and came close to putting an offer on another space. There were two blocks in L.E.S. that I had narrowed my search to: Orchard Street near Miguel, Lisa, and Untitled, and the block I'm on- around the corner from the New Museum. As soon as I walked into this space, I fell in love. It has two levels with two distinct gallery spaces (one of my goals for combining curated exhibitions with solo exhibitions) and used to be a sausage factory. (I have the sausage press.) It's an incredibly memorable space, architecturally distinct. If you visit hundreds of galleries in a week, you'll remember physically being in this space.
It was a challenge to be patient in the process of negotiations, because I knew what I wanted and I wanted to get moving. The build-out took about four months of solid work, believe it or not. I was lucky to have a landlord that is an architect, and a husband who has a great eye and invaluable knowledge stemming from his years working at the ICA in Boston.
So here I am in an incredible space and loving every minute of it. I have great neighbors- and the foot traffic is comparable to being at an art fair. There are some days when Patton and I look at each other and say, ‘This is insane!’ I'm meeting people I greatly admire on a regular basis and I have the opportunity to introduce them to artists I strongly believe in. There's a very satisfying parallel between the output and the immediate return that we're experiencing every day because of our location. I'm working harder than I've ever worked in my life and losing track of what a day off feels like, but there is never a moment when it is not perfectly clear to me that I'm where I need to be, doing exactly what I'm doing.
EJG: You're just around the corner from the New Museum. How has the traffic been? Are other galleries following suit and moving nearby?
The New Museum is one of my favorite institutions in the city. I know why people criticize it, but I think they're showing great work. I saw Ryan Trecartin's work there for the first time a few years back and didn't know what the fuck to do with it. That was a great experience. More than some other museums, to me, the New Museum is not trying to gage what people like, they're installing work that's current and challenging. I was at their opening for the exhibition Free, curated by Lauren Cornell, last week and at another event there last night. I'm also around the corner from Lehmann Maupin, Sperone Westwater, Salon 94, and neighbors to Eleven Rivington, Sue Scott Gallery, and Thierry Goldberg Projects. I'm in very good company.
Installation view. Dave Cole, Salt Print (La Somme, 1916) I-IV, 2010 | Pure sodium chloride (table salt) heated to liquid state and crucible-poured into impressions from the tracks of the first military tank, 5 x 21 x 34 inches each
EJG: How did you decide which artists to take on for DODGEgallery?
We're starting with seven artists, all of whom I helped bring to the rotenberg gallery and whom I've had the opportunity to work with for several years. It's extremely important to me that we have a solid relationship with the artists we're opening the program with—this is an incredible opportunity and a risky endeavor in many ways. There has to be a track record and a developed trust between us. That said, there are a few artists I'd love to work with, believe I'm the right gallery for, and am in conversations with now. Otherwise, I'm doing studio visits and spending my time listening, absorbing, and getting a sense of what's out there before making moves to expand the roster.
EJG: There's a strong presence of New Englanders in your roster, with many coming from MFA programs at the Museum School (SMFA) and RISD. Are you representing for Boston and Providence in New York?
Ha! Maybe I'm also representing Red Sox fans in NYC! But seriously, there is some serious talent in the Boston and Providence area.
EJG: You represent Lorna Williams, who we featured in edition #69 of New American Paintings. She, and others on your roster, create work that's sculptural as well as painterly. Tell me about this and the type of work you plan to show at DODGEgallery.
I'm drawn to work that engages the body and that asks something of a viewer. I find that work that deals with space actively achieves both of these things. I'm drawn to a lot of art all of the time, but for the most part I'm drawn to what I find to be rigorous. That means ideas and materials. I also want the artists to be rigorous in their practice, and in their commitment to working professionally as an artist. The whole meandering un-showered poet scrap dabbler genius is a bunch of bullshit to me. Being an artist is hard work and takes tremendous drive and resilience.
EJG: What do you have planned for DODGEgallery coming up?
Dave Cole: Unreal City ends November 7, and then we're opening three exhibitions on Saturday, November 13, 6-8pm. William Stover (Boston friend!) is curating an exhibition called The Natural Order of Things with Ellen Harvey and Jason Middlebrook. Sina Najafi of Cabinet magazine curated Tim Davis into our project space in the upstairs bathroom, Gallery Number Two. I'm also very excited to be exhibiting ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES a.k.a. Doug Weathersby. This is his first solo show in New York! I've been obsessed with Doug and with his work for years. So I think we'll have three pretty banging shows in the gallery next month. After that, we're doing Pulse Miami. Never a dull moment!