KUNSTRAUM’S 2022 Members Show, ADJUSTED for Inflation opens Sunday, August 14th showcasing 18 works from 14 different resident artists. This diverse 2-part exhibition seeks to foster vital conversations about how we have all “adjusted” our lives, routines, and thinking to meet the needs and demands of today’s rapid and unpredictably changing times. This exhibitionhas been brought together by curator-in-residence, Ashley Ouderkirk.
Ashley is a freelance art writer, artist advisor, and independent curator who currently splits her time between Queens and Los Angeles. Her work and artistic passions remain grounded in intersectional art history while expanding the dynamic relationships between art and audience.
For this show, Ashley personally selected each piece after reflective studio visits with the artists. By doing so she was able to gain a fuller sense of each artist’s unique message. She says, “I see my role as a curator as being like a storyteller— each work is a chapter of the larger tale about our humanity.”
Branches in Blue, 2018 Annette Back, courtesy of the artist
The stories told in this exhibition communicate the personal, social, and political perspectives of the artists on current tumultuous events, and how these ideas can blend together, divert, and transform over time. For example, works explore the complex dynamic between the tangible and digital world, the role of physical and emotional barriers, and the perceived value of art itself. Each topic adds to the overall theme of how we must “adjust” to cope with the obstacles of our personal and collective lives.
The human spirit is known to be resilient. For better or worse our ability to adapt to the most difficult of times has allowed us to endure. While too often we may feel forced into these compromises and adjustments, these artists brought together by Ashley reclaim our current and ongoing obstacles
We spoke with curator Ashley in detail about ADJUSTED for Inflation. Information about attending the exhibition is below.
This show poses questions on how current social, political, and economic changes force us to shift in some way. Overall how are these themes showcased?
These topics, social, political, and economic, have profoundly impacted our lives, opinions, and mental health. The beauty of this being a group show is we can explore a significant sampling of artist viewpoints on all of these difficult overlapping events.
Each artist approaches these topics from a different angle— some philosophically, taking a large step back to see the issue through a cultural lens; others psychologically, pulling inward to examine how this is changing how they thought and felt.
#guns, 2021, Cassandra Zampini, courtesy of the artist
One example, from a philosophical-political perspective, we could consider how opinions and varying interpretations of the 2nd Amendment affect and in some instances radicalize our views on gun control. In Cassandra Zampini’s work, #guns, we see hundreds of individuals posing for selfies holding their firearms. The gestures range from prideful smiles to militant vacant stares; the artist intentionally obscures the images with a metallic silver ink to lure us in. How a viewer perceives this work will vary wildly based on how gun violence has affected their lives. We immediately start recalling how events, like school shootings, have pushed us to have and refine our opinions.
There are 14 artists involved in this exhibition. What unites them?
Kunstraum is a community built by artists for artists. So for this group show, in addition to visual and thematic connections, I wanted to highlight a few of the relationships that were forged during residencies and adjacent studios.
Dreamscape VIII, 2022, Dimana Zaharieva, courtesy of the artist
For instance, Laura Clark’s painting, “Taming the Wild Woman,” is a bird’s eye view into the studio of Dimana Zaharieva’s studio as she’s painting the mural, “Dreamscape VIII”— that’s also included in this show. Both artists are from the same residency cohort, and their studios were near one another. As creatives it’s important to have a group of like-minded people to discuss art topics and help one another.
How are the ideas and our definition of “value” explored in this show?
When planning the exhibition theme, I fixated on the definition of “adjust for inflation” as an economic term, and explicitly on the concept of “real” value. I thought about what determines the “real” value of any given situation in our lives. It’s really our reaction to these life altering problems, specifically our emotional response and then how we choose to shift our perspective to cope. The more complex the problem, the greater the emotional toll, and ultimately the more extreme the adjustment.
The word “ADJUSTED” struck me as the most important component of what I saw in each artist’s work— that’s why it is capitalized, to place emphasis on and acknowledge how we have all “adjusted” our lives, routines, and thinking to meet the demands of this unpredictable time.
Similarly, the concept of “value,” that is what we value and how we value it, is also very relative; we can never experience the same reality as someone else. However, we are all capable of empathy. I think by taking the time with each artwork, you begin to pick up on the pain and hardships, the coping mechanisms, and the solutions.
This exhibition features a variety of different art mediums, from painting, sculpture, sounds, and performance. How does this artistic diversity tie into the exhibition’s theme?
Kunstraum attracts artists of all disciplines, so for a group show to really be reflective of our community, I felt that needed to be embraced and displayed. Additionally, I believe the diversity of media echoes our varying experiences during the last few years. Hopefully, all visitors can find a piece that speaks to them as most relatable to their personal experience.
Thank You for Shopping, 2022 Catherine Herrick Lewis, courtesy of the artist
What is your personal connection to the artwork and ideas explored in this show? How do you relate? Or not?
Collectively, we’ve experienced and are experiencing these tsunamis of crises— covid, mass unemployment, erosion of civil liberties, racial injustices, political unrest, gun violence, inflation, mental health deterioration— and the waves just keep crashing upon us. I thought, “How are people processing all this, because I know I’m struggling with most of it!” From there, I became curious how it was translating into artists’ work: What changes were they making to their practices? How were they adjusting to create through all these hardships? And with each conversation I had with the 14 artists chosen for the show, I was introduced to a different perspective, approach, reaction and way of thinking about these contemporary issues.
As for the economic leaning title for the show, before I transitioned back to art I actually worked in finance for ten years at a hedge fund. In a way, the title is a nod to my former life.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the exhibition?
I believe art can be appreciated on many different levels and any reaction is great. If visitors simply thought the works were beautiful and appreciated the artist’s skill I’m very happy with that response.
Ideally, I hope viewers take that extra moment to pause and digest the story each work is telling. From there, I’d like each viewer to have their struggles— financial, spiritual, philosophical and mental— to feel seen. Many of our frustrations with political parties, and even friends and family with different viewpoints, is that we don’t feel like our problems are being addressed. By acknowledging our current obstacles visually and audibly through each artwork, we are finally granted that moment to process the issues we are experiencing and see there are solutions.
I hope that viewers are reminded of their own inner strengths and their uncanny abilities to adjust in the worst of inflationary times.
ADJUSTED for Inflation runs Sunday August 14th through September 10th at Kunstraum LLC, 20 Grand Ave. You can visit by appointment with guided walkthroughs available by request. Artists: Annette Back, Taisha Brehaut, Laura Clark, Aleksy Cisowski, Giacomo Colosi, Amir Hariri, Catherine Lewis, Rita Nannini, Olga Rabetskaya, Bartho Staalman, Sato Sugamoto, Dimana Zaharieva, Cassandra Zampini, and Sandra Zanetti.
Interview quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Top: Tending the Wild Woman, 2022, Laura Winn Clark; courtesy of the artist