Exhibition A interview: Stephanie Roach

Stephanie Roach is the Director of The FLAG Art Foundation based in New York.

How did you get involved/interested in contemporary art?

Art was a personal passion throughout my childhood, especially reinforced by frequent visits to museums and galleries with my father. It took on new role in my adulthood as an impetus for self-reflection, challenge and change. I studied Art History and Spanish at the University of Pennsylvania but it wasn’t until I became a Student Board Member at the Institute of Contemporary Art that I envisioned a professional career. I also forged an important relationship with Glenn Fuhrman, who is a Board Member there. When I graduated, I decided to move to Barcelona, Spain for a year to work at a contemporary art gallery called Galeria Senda. I enjoyed being outside my comfort zone and learning about art in a different culture. Eventually I reconnected with Glenn. I always admired his genuine dedication and love of art so it was a logical decision when he described his vision for FLAG and offered me the position of Director in 2006. The rest is history…

First artwork you ever bought or were given.

A Michaël Borremans drawing from my father.

What’s the difference between curating and collecting?

Curating is selecting, interpreting and presenting works, often based on a relationship to one another, thematic or aesthetic. It can involve details of placement and display to create an experience for the viewer. Collecting is acquiring works with an intention to formulate a cohesive grouping based on a common thread such as a particular theme, movement or time period. There are collectors that are definitely more curatorial in their approach to collecting.

Tell us about a few pieces in your collection.

At this point in my life, what I collect is what interests me and relates to my personal experiences. An added benefit is meeting or knowing the artist. My Laura Owens drawing, Vija Celmins print, and Julius Shulman photograph remind me of growing up in LA. Living in Spain broadened my exposure and appreciation for the Spanish and Latin American aesthetic. I followed Dr. Lakra’s work for a while so I love this very bold red pin up drawing covered in tattoos. I worked with an artist at Galeria Senda named Gino Rubert. I had long admired a painting of his with a surreal portrait of a woman and bought it before I moved to New York. It’s a reminder of that formative period of my life and the influence it continues to have on me today.

What can you tell about someone by looking at their collection?

A collection can capture some aspect of the collector’s personality and where his or her creative interest or passion. Like someone’s selection of music, clothes or film/theatre, the art someone enjoys and buys can be an expression of one’s taste and where one may find beauty, meaning, and/or a personal connection. It also may serve a particular objective. Perhaps the collector wants to amass a historical survey of works to donate to a museum or it could be a creative endeavor for personal pleasure or entertainment.

Upcoming show or two you’re looking forward to (maybe plug your beauty exhibition here)?

I’m curating an exhibition on the 9th floor of FLAG called “One, Another” which opens on June 29. It’s a group exhibition that explores coupling and interconnectedness in the realms of love, nature and spirituality. Inspired by the painting “The Lovers” completed in 1963 by Remedios Varo, the show includes an exciting list of artists: Diana Al-Hadid, Agnieszka Brzezanska, Louise Bourgeois, Joseph Cornell, Tom Friedman, Robert Gober, Subodh Gupta, David Hammons, Jim Hodges, Cindy Sherman, Swoon, Rachel Whiteread , Remedios Varo, Fabio Viale. On the 10th floor, we will open a great exhibition “Roni Horn, Double Mobius,” which includes a selection of four of her works.

Also, the Michael E. Smith show at in LA Clifton Benevento opens on July 1. It’s the first time he’s shown in LA. His esoteric and minimalist installation of degraded found materials is interesting. I look forward to seeing the work and his approach.

An artist more people should know about and why.

Fabio Viale is an Italian sculptor who masterfully employs traditional technique with marble but focuses on contemporary subject matter ranging from everyday objects (tires, paper airplanes) to references to well-known art historic imagery. By playing with scale and representation, he infuses an ironic sense of humor and a “double take” quality into his work. In “Souvenir Giaconda”, a piece included in my show at FLAG, Viale transforms the recognizable image of the Mona Lisa into sculpture, in what appears to be disintegrating Styrofoam replica but is in fact a carved marble piece. He translates the soft focus of the painting with what he calls the “Styrofoam effect”, in which all of the corners and the nose is broken. I think that people can appreciate his adept craftsmanship as well as his ability to explore old becoming new again and how these references inform one another. He will make his US debut with a solo exhibition at Sperone Westwater in Spring 2012.