How much do you know about Singaporean contemporary art? ArtBlitz LA contributor Mariél Frechette was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon talking with gallery owner and director Kelsey Lee Offield about the evolution of GUSFORD, and their current exhibition, “Cicadas Cicadas,” featuring emerging Singaporean artist Genevieve Chua. As stated in the press release, “Cicadas Cicadas begins the Unnatural History Drawings series with its approach derived from the taxonomy of museum specimen classification systems. Presented as a site-specific installation, this show draws from the unique life cycle of periodical cicadas to explore larger notions of potentiality and the idea of a grand escape.”
First off, why should people in LA come see Cicadas Cicadas?
It’s important for people to come and see what’s coming out of Southeast Asia, and Genevieve is a great example of the beautiful, intellectual, thoughtful and critical work coming out of Singapore. I really like the way she thinks about culture and histories, the environment and biology. Viewers can treat Cicadas Cicadas as an opportunity to see what’s coming out of that region. A lot of people just have no idea.
How does Genevieve fit into your program more generally? How do you see GUSFORD evolving as a whole?
Every single artist that I work with has been chosen based on how they work in the studio. As the gallerist and representative for the artists I find how they go about thinking about something and then creating it (and particularly what happens between those two points) really important and informative. An artist’s studio practice, for me, tends to indicate whether or not that artist is going to have longevity in the art world, so I spend a lot of time being with them and understanding their practice. I happen to love to travel, so if my artists want me to hop on a plane and fly out tomorrow to see something in their studio I’ll do it. Absolutely.
When you look at the roster of artists GUSFORD represents they might not all look exactly alike. There’s a lot of difference as to what the visual outcome is, but they’re all very thoughtful producers of art.
As a gallery, what would you like to provide for your artists?
I want GUSFORD to be a space where artists can think about a show – a complete body of work – bring it to fruition, and have a space to exhibit it. It’s a huge challenge. Emerging artists go from group show to group show often just showing single pieces. I want this to be a space where young artists are given an opportunity to create a cohesive body that starts and is created within the same time frame. I want to give artists the opportunity to sit down and bring to life an entire body of work.
Does having your gallery in LA give you more freedom to develop these young artists?
I was drawn to the LA art scene because it is garnering more credibility and viability. I really was interested in the idea of being able to come out here and not be restricted by the age-old rules that are very firmly established in New York, London, Berlin and Paris. The art world takes offense to you coming in and breaking the rules in those already firmly grounded systems. I knew if I came to LA I would have more freedom to create a program that was my vision. I also knew that by opening my space in Hollywood I would have even more latitude to upset the rules and guidelines with the intent to cultivate my business plan and create a platform for my artists.
How do you think GUSFORD distinguishes itself from other young galleries in LA?
We’re very true to our program and we don’t let a lot of things waver with that. It’s very much an artist-driven plan. We run our shows a little bit longer (the average GUSFORD show runs 8 weeks), so that people have a chance to see the work. I mean, I want people to have the chance to see the work, to have someone write about it, and then to allow those people who read about it to have the chance to see the show. It’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine to read a review in a magazine, look it up and find out the show closed yesterday when the article came out today!
Also, not everyone gets art in LA. It’s a very new audience here. I love to bring people in here and explain to them what this art world that we talk about is – to be a space where you won’t be judged. I will talk you through it. I’m a very patient human being. Come on down and talk about art!
And Gusford? (Offield’s English bulldog and the gallery namesake).
Sir Gusford. Nine years old. That is my child, for sure. And best friend. I’m trying to get my hair color to match his face.