Seymour Polatin: A Drive To Curate

44 Posted by - March 19, 2017 - SPACES

Last month I received an unusual invitation to view an art show in a car. The curator/gallerist/driver was Seymour Polatin, and he invited me to schedule an appointment for a ride in ‘gallery1993.’ He would pick me up, and I could see the show on exhibit as we drove around. Intrigued by this out-of-the-ordinary art viewing experience I immediately said yes.

 

Seymour and I agreed to meet at the grocery store next to my house at 6 pm. He asked if I would like to see the text he had written to accompany the current show, and let me examine the pieces in the car before we set out. The show on view was Comfortable hand, a solo exhibition of Allen Brewer’s sculptural work. It was a ‘please touch’ show so I pulled the wooden works in the backseat pockets out for examination and turned the front seat collection of nail polish-covered rocks over in my hands. Brewer’s work is simple yet imbued with thoughtful action. His nail polishes are all purchased from the 99 Cents Store, a place he frequents, and mixed together to create new colors with which he paints the rocks. As we drove out into the surrounding neighborhood it was clear that Seymour and Brewer had had deep discussions about the work. It also became clear that this is what Seymour endeavors to facilitate with his one-on-one viewing model: a deeper discussion about the work.

Comfortable hand is the ninth show Seymour has curated in his 1993 Crown Victoria. These shows began in Boston, where at one point he was a cab driver. He begins each show with an opening in which the car is parked at a thematically specific location. After that, the only way to see the show is to book an appointment, in which Seymour drives you around in gallery1993.

 

And then we crashed, or rather a car crashed into us. I’ve certainly never been to an exhibition before where the curator/gallerist had to jump out and exchange insurance information with a vehicle that had just backed into the gallery. The gentleman that he is, Seymour apologized profusely. But that’s part of the excitement of gallery1993; there is risk and uncertainty at every turn. The terrain is constantly changing.

 

Seymour is interested in the possibilities for art to interact with art, and how environmental choices dictate the viewer’s experience. He points out to me that work is different than the presentation of work, which is his practice. Seymour is beginning a new curatorial project at a space in Chinatown, which he calls ‘seymour2017.’ The oeuvre of shows he has planned will function as a novel in time: each show is a chapter with the exhibited artworks as characters. I recently attended overture, the first in this series of curatorial enterprises. The small box-like gallery contained four pieces of work–one each wall–by artists Tita Cicognani, Catherine Fairbanks, Miller Robinson and Benjamin Turner. The floor was covered in white sand, and the gallery walls in white tarp. We were made acutely aware of our existence in this space as every shift of foot scratched the sand and marked our movement. For this project Seymour uses art as a material to make new work, imbuing the pieces (which may or may not be shown multiple times depending on the outcome of the story) with new meaning in the context of his book. The idea invites complex poetics through the arc of narration in the same space over time. And yet each show will inevitably exist on its own.

Seymour realizes the importance of specifics and necessity of attention to detail. From his writing to the tactful consideration of exhibition details it is clear that every decision is purposeful. The balance of these actions are intended to create a specific interactive experience for the viewer.

The key to the gallery hangs off of a piece by Tita Cicognani, the first work you encounter when you walk into overture.

 

To learn more about Seymour Polatin’s endeavors as a curator, gallerist and driver visit http://seymourpolat.in

 

By: Lara Salmon

3/19/17

 

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