Interview by Laura Mylott Manning
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacob Rhodes the Director of Field Projects and Guest Curator Jesse David Penridge.
Read more to learn about the artist-run gallery space and how the exhibitions come together.
Laura Mylott Manning: Please talk about where you grew up and your path to the arts?
Jacob Rhodes: I grew up in Oxnard California, a mostly Hispanic migrant working town on the coast of California, about an hour north of L.A.
There was a great Punk scene there, we called Nard-Core. I played drums in a few different bands, as well as writing songs, making artwork for the flyers, album covers, acting as a band manager and getting people to practice on time…which is harder than you think.
The Punk scene is tied into DIY politics, which for me was all about one’s own responsibility in creating the place you belong. If you didn’t have a scene for the kind of music you were making: Make One! If no one wanted to produce your records: Learn to Produce and Do It Yourself! If you wanted to go on tour: Go out and find places and other bands that would help you put together a tour! I liked the agency DIY Ethics provided, and the community of like minded individuals, who enjoyed sharing their knowledge.
I was working in a video store when I ended up meeting a co-worker’s girlfriend. She was a recruiter for Otis College of Art and Design. I showed her the mixed media work I was making at the time and she suggested applying to art school.
Nobody in my family had ever gone to college before. My dad is a car and machine shop mechanic. And my mom worked as a cafeteria cook at a local junior high.
I applied to Otis at the age of 24. I was able to get the loans and was accepted. I wanted to get the most out of the program by always asking questions, staying after class and bugging my teachers. I was invested at a level that was different then the students right out of high school. I worked with some exceptionally smart and interesting artists who were also great teachers. Francis Stark was there, Bruce Hanley, Richard Hawkins, Larry Johnson, Martin Kersels, Meg Cranston, and Soo Kim, to name a few of the many. All of whom took my stubborn independent curiosities and helped mold them into a critical world view.
LMM: What did you do after college?
JR: After undergrad I was hit with a massive amount of debt. I have a military family, my dad was in Vietnam, and both my grandfathers were in the Korean War. So I joined the army to pay off my student loans in 2002. Part of joining the army was about a social debt or working class guilt I felt as well. Most of the people I grew up were Mexican first generation born with parents that were illegal aliens. I was one of the only white kids and I recognized my privilege from a young age. I felt lucky to have a house, streets, and a certain amount of safety. I wanted to give back to the country. Another part of joining the army was to figure out my masculinity and the hyper-masculinity within my family…This is a search that still continues today in my work.
I ended up being stationed in Alaska for subarctic infantry training. During my time in the army I continued to work on my project from undergrad called The Candy Skin’s, a fictional group of skinheads whose politics revolved around their ability to create and wear perfect (Candy)skinhead uniforms. I wrote a fake history for the Candy Skin’s starting in the mid 1960’s through the 1985. This includes a discography (most Candy’s are in bands), flowcharts of sewing circle gangs, which pubs and tennis matches changed the course of the uniforms color palettes, sewing circle slang and their meanings, as well as detailed drawings of the four basic Candy Skins Uniforms and their Lap-work. Lap-work takes place after you have finished working on your next uniform and before your shaved head hits the pillow. It’s a time for young Fresh-Wraps to use their honed sewing skills to express their love and homage to the Candy Skin culture. They usually make quilts to show off at the Tennis Matches and pub crawls.
LMM: After the army you were accepted to Skowhegan and then to Yale for grad school. Can you talk about your experience?
JR: Skowhegan was an excellent way to transition from the military to civilian life. There was a cabin, a lake, a studio and bunch of driven individuals. Yale on the other hand was an exercise in futility. The program changes every year and I think my year was just a lot of missteps and people stuck in their own tar-egos, student and faculty alike. But, while I was at Yale I had a gallery in my studio called the Wolf Suit Gallery. I would exhibit alter egos or fake people who made work that I felt was clichéd Yale work. You could also show there if you had applied to Yale and didn’t get in. It was fun, with a lot of those kinds of projects it was about me enjoying it and joking around with other students, not taking everything too seriously. It was a release from the rigidness of the socially savvy cutthroats in the program. I was trying to hold a mirror up to the situation but at the end of my 2 years I think I only succeeded in helping Yale fix it’s hair.
LMM: When did you open Field Projects?
JR: Eventually I moved to New York in 2009 to be a participant in the Artist in the Marketplace program at the Bronx Museum. Everyone in the program was wondering how to get their work seen by the right people. It just made sense to me for us to create our own space to show work, but I think everybody else in the program felt like they were doing enough just getting by in New York and having a studio practice. I always want a little bit more out of things than others.
It’s similar to how I worked with my bands. I enjoy making things happen for other people that I have a stake in. I think there are a lot of great artists here in New York but only so many places for work to be shown. I wanted to provide place where great work could be seen.
I originally started Field Projects five years ago in 2011 with the artist Keri Oldham Now we have a staff or four people Rachel Frank, Jason Mones, Blair Murphy and myself.
We take turns curating shows and have Open Calls every six months. The mission is to really get work seen and to be a feeder space to the other galleries in the Chelsea neighborhood. The Field Projects staff reviews the Open Calls, as well as the Guest Curators and sometimes we invite others art professionals to curate outside shows from the Open Calls. We are all looking at the work and keeping it in mind for our own future shows, and possible exhibitions in pop up and alternative spaces.
Through the Open Call we see a lot of great work and it may not necessarily fit into the framework of the show the Guest Curator is putting together. As a way to create more opportunities and exposure we also highlight artists in an online show, as well as we post work with links to artist websites on our blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Recently we’ve added another component to the Open Calls. Now we set up studio visits with artists that submit and invite curators from different organizations to join. It’s a great way to get more eyes on the work and create community.
In the future I see Field Projects expanding to new locations (Los Angeles, Mexico City, Berlin, etc) using our artist-run model. I would also like to use the website as a platform for other artists web-based projects. The artist Loren Britton was doing a interview project (http://www.fieldprojectsgallery.com/interviews/), but stopped to go to grad school. I would like to extend the life of shows by working with other artist-run spaces all over the world to create traveling exhibitions. I think all my ideas still have to do with a community of makers helping each other be seen.
LMM: How do you find your Guest Curators?
JR: It varies how we find them; Lauren Haynes from The Studio Museum in Harlem curated an Open Call previously. I met her while I was working there as an art handler about three years ago. An Open Call was coming up and I was thinking she would be a great fit. So I emailed her and she said yes.
Jesse David Penridge is our current Guest Curator. We have mutual contacts, I bumped him into him on the train going to Chelsea, and I thought he would be a great talent to add.
Our upcoming Guest Curator is Paulina Bebecka, is the director at Postmasters Gallery. I was really impressed with a show she put together, we had been talking on Facebook and it came up in conversation.
We try to bring in directors and curators with a bigger status or who work with larger art organizations to create more exposure for artists.
LMM: Jesse tell us about your background and how you came to be involved in the arts.
Jesse David Penridge: I grew up in the countryside of New Jersey, but my father was an artist and musician, which meant regular trips to the city. My earliest memories are of the Temple of Dendur as well as the Symbolist paintings in the Met also an RC Cola and hot dog. It was like a fantasy land… Through a long and circuitous way I bobbed and weaved through school studying music, political theory, philosophy and found myself back in New York working in the arts. First working at an art school as the director of continuing education, then as the assistant to the director of the Museum of Arts and Design, then as director to a few different New York galleries… but I blame it all on my father putting me in front of too many Paul Klee, Juan Gris and Max Ernst paintings as a small child!
LMM: I enjoyed viewing your curatorial project Signaling to ^the Cipher^ towards a Segway the current exhibition at Field Projects. Was the theme of the show determined by the artwork viewed in the Open Call or did you approach the process with an idea already in mind?
JDP: I had no preconceived idea, the only thing I came to the table with was a blank notebook and well I suppose my own personal likes, interests and bases. Lets be honest, as objective as anyone tries to be we all have our own vantage points. I was really excited to tackle the idea of seeing a lot of work, a lot of media and a lot of variation and crafting a show (or in a way – shows) from the selection. As it happened about half way through I started putting pen to paper with themes and mixing matching and positioning possibilities. It was an amazing process!
LMM: The press release for the exhibition states ‘Science and religion…are systems for making sense of the human condition…they function as narratives… they provide framework that give us purpose…’ Please discuss the role of narrative in the show.
JDP: Narrative is really a shorthand in this context. It’s a shorthand in this sense for something on the order of ‘worldview’. This show takes as its starting point, our shared history, politics, science, engineering, and anthropology. The narratives of how things come to be, the lessons that we are all taught and in a Lyotardian turn, upends these larger narratives and replaces them with discrete subjective truths.
LMM: Do you have any upcoming projects or ‘dream’ exhibitions you would like to curate?
JDP: Yes – too many.
Signaling to ^ the Cipher ^ towards a Segway, curated by Jesse David Penridge, features the work of Austin Ballard, Rory Baron, Sarah E. Brook, Pat Byrne, Abigail Collins, Sean Dustan-Halliday, Carla Edwards, MaDora Frey, Tricia Keightley, Myeongsoo Kim, Alison Kudlow, Mary NaRee Laube, and Jessie Rose Vala.
May 5 – June 11, 2016
Field Projects is located at 526 West 26th, Street, #807, New York, NY.
Jacob Rhodes’ Candy Skin Quilts can be seen at Danese Corey Gallery in the show COMMON THREAD curated by Brent Auxier. June 2 – July 29, 2016
Show #32: ICICLES IN CAVES, curated by Jacob Rhodes with work by Erika Lynne Hanson and Rachel Schmidhofer. June 16 – July 30, 2016
For further information please visit: http://www.fieldprojectsgallery.com