On Collaboration: Photography & _________
Acknowledging the rich history of artists collaborating to create work, the preeminent Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago recently presented “Photography & _____” , an exhibition that brought together photographers and other creatives to create one-of-a-kind pieces. CEG invited artists familiar to the gallery, including painters, writers and photographers, and asked each participant to reach out to a fellow artist to create a collaborative piece.
We feature here some of the interviews where the artists share their process and offer glimpses into the varied challenges of collaborative artmaking. Finding a visual language, neither mine nor yours but ‘both/and’ builds on a narrative of trust. These conversations give us hope that we are heading into a richly collaborative and collective future.
December 1, 2020 marks the 33-year anniversary of Catherine Edelman Gallery, a venue for contemporary fine art photography in Chicago. Since its founding in 1987, the gallery has established itself as one of the leading galleries in the Midwest devoted to the exhibition of prominent living photographers, alongside new and young talent. The gallery showcases a broad range of subject matter, attracting both the seasoned collector and first time buyer. Recently, CEG has expanded its program to include mixed-media photo based art, as it seeks to expand the vocabulary of photography.
Videos and images Courtesy of the Catherine Edelman Gallery
Ysabel Lemay in conversation with Barbara FG (courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery)
Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman: The gallery extended invitations beyond photographers —to painters, poets, writers and other artists—an inclusive invitation for a photography gallery. Can you tell us about the genesis of the exhibition and how the gallery thought about the role of collaboration as you planned the exhibition, which was before the pandemic?
Catherine Edelman: Last October, when thinking about a summer show, Director, Juli Lowe and I decided we should do an exhibit featuring one-of-a-kind works. Over the years, I’ve put together a few shows where I invited non-photographic artists to exhibit alongside gallery artists… it’s an easy way to expand the audience for gallery artists and expand the dialogue between the art forms. I love collaborations as they’re a great way to get artists to think outside themselves and expand their creative process. With this as the basis for the show, we put together a list of artists we’ve worked with or admire and invited them to be part of the exhibition. The onus was on them to choose a collaborator.
Stephen Eichhorn in conversation with Elaine C. Miller (courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery)
BC/LL: As a gallery, did you have some criteria for a successful outcome? What parameters did you convey to the artists?
CE: The only parameter stated was that a photographer or photograph must be part of the final piece. Juli and I invited around 50 artists – writers, poets, painters & photographers – and told them that was the only criteria. We gave them several deadlines, and, in the end, we had 30 different collaborations. Since success is very subjective, we did not set any other criteria and the end result was fantastic.
Matt Eich in conversation with Doug Van Gundy (courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery)
BC/LL: As the pandemic hit and the gallery shut down the physical space, how did the exhibition pivot to adapt to these restrictions? How did the artists pivot?
CE: The gallery did not pivot at all. Juli was in contact with the artists the entire time CEG was closed and let them know the show was moving forward in spite of Covid. We monitored the pandemic very closely and felt confident we would be open by July, and indeed, we opened to the public in June. But all of the artists ended up using Zoom to figure out their projects. And that proved to be both inspiring and challenging,
Colleen Plumb in conversation with Katherine Kassouf Cummings (courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery)
BC/LL: What was most surprising about the results of the collaborations that emerged? How did it go beyond or alter your expectations?
CE: I think the most surprising part of the show was the lack of pieces that directly confronted the pandemic. Since most teams did not start working on their pieces until the winter, I really expected more artists would dive into the current state we are all living through. With the exception of Jeffrey Wolin & Jill Greenburg, whose piece directly confronted their inability to meet in person, none of the other collaborations went in this direction. I found this surprising. I was also surprised by the results, as I’ve never exhibited work without seeing it before it arrives at the gallery. But I truly trusted the artists and was honored that they moved forward working with a colleague of their choosing, to create a piece where each person had to put aside their own egos for the sake of a collaboration. And almost all of the artists said it was an amazing experience, and several are planning to continue working together. As a gallerist, that’s the best possible outcome.
Terry Evans in conversation with Aimée Beaubien (courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery)
BC/LL: Can you share thoughts on the increasing centrality of collaboration in the art world and what this holds for the future?
CE: As the art world shrinks due to the economic hardship that the pandemic has created, more and more galleries are partnering or figuring our ways to work together. I’m not convinced this will last, as the financial burden caused by the pandemic is huge, and autonomy is key for most dealers. I think we will see many galleries give up their physical spaces and transition to online platforms that deliver a gallery-like experience. There are many online companies trying to perfect their program, but as of today, I have not seen one that does much more than our gallery website. I do think it is different for artists. As I said in the press release for Photography & _____, there is a rich history of collaborations in the art world, whether it is an artist collective or spouses creating works together. I think this will continue to happen, with and without the pandemic.
Natalie Krick in conversation with Clarissa Bonet (courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery)
Sonja Thomsen in conversation with Thom Bridge (courtesy of Catherine Edelman Gallery)
Artists collaborators included in the show:
Collaborators included: Alanna Airitam, photographer / Wayne Martin Belger, photographer; Susan Aurinko, photographer / Misha Goro, painter, printmaker; Tami Bahat, photographer / Malka Nedivi, mixed media artist; Clarissa Bonet, photographer / Natalie Krick, artist; Kate Breakey, photographer / Stacey Forbes, poet; Keith Carter, photographer / Cathy Spence, photographer; Matt Eich, photographer / Doug Van Gundy, poet; Stephen Eichhorn, multidisciplinary artist / Elaine C. Miller, multidisciplinary artist; Dan Estabrook, photographer / Nathan Carter, sculptor, artist; Terry Evans, photographer / Aimée Beaubien,installation artist; Jed Fielding, photographer / Elizabeth McGowan, artist; Doug Fogelson, photographer / Monika Müller, artist; Michael Kenna, photographer / Maki Ishiwata, washi fiber artist; Michael Kenna, photographer / Ellen O’Connell, photographer Michael Koerner, photographer / Jae Green, poet and performer; Jin Lee, photographer / Melissa Oresky, painter; Jin Lee, photographer / Calvin Forbes, writer; Ysabel LeMay, photographer / Barbara FG, photographer; Sandro Miller, photographer / Patricia Smith, poet; Arno Rafael Minkkinen, photographer / Chehalis Deane Hegner, multidisciplinary artist; Andrea Modica, photographer / Alice Lichtenstein, writer; Carlos Javier Ortiz, photographer / Michael Genovese, visual artist; Shana ParkeHarrison, photographer / Carl Landa, composer, musician; Robert ParkeHarrison, photographer / John Galt, sculptor; Colleen Plumb, photographer, installation artist / Katherine Kassouf Cummings, writer; David Schalliol, photographer / Amanda Williams, photographer; Fred Stonehouse, painter / Anonymous, photographer; Brad Temkin, photographer / Laurie Lambrecht, artist; Sonja Thomsen, artist / Linda Connor, photographer; Sonja Thomsen, artist / Thom Bridge, artist; Ron van Dongen, photographer / Douglas Wurster, carpenter and landscape architect; Alex Webb, photographer / Rebecca Norris Webb; photographer, Jeffrey Wolin, photographer / Jennifer Greenburg, photographer
Selected installation photos:
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