Mar 13, 2017
Brooklyn 100 Influencers: Clara Darrason and Jennifer Houdrouge, The Chimney
Clara and Jennifer are in charge of The Chimney, a gallery in Bushwick lined with bricks and shaped like a big box with one major door, one minor door, and a chimney (the chimney). It can feel dark and foreboding compared to a classic bright, white gallery, and while that doesn’t limit the work, it certainly influences it: shows are curated to dramatize and fill the space. Multidisciplinary and international artists are of particular interest for Clara and Jennifer. This past year, Ukrainian, Iranian, and Colombian artists were featured (but locals are welcome, too)—given the current political folderol, that sense of international community will continue to be a welcome (and necessary) element in their curatorial practice.
What is your curating process like? What does a day look like? A week?
Clara & Jenny: We do several studio visits per month with artists we met through an exhibition, an art fair, other artists we work with, or upon recommendation of curators. On a daily basis, we organize private visits and promote our exhibition through social media. The Chimney is then open to the public on Sundays. For each exhibition we organize a talk with the artist, and a performance. The talk is aimed to emphasize the artist’s philosophical ideas that underlie his/her works. The performance is an opportunity to invite another artist to perform in The Chimney, and to dialogue with the exhibition.
How will your approach to curating change this year, if at all?
Clara: The Chimney opened in June 2015. The first year we focused on building a program of international artists, fostering our community in Brooklyn, and promoting the venue through different networks. This year we are inviting guest curators, and we aim at developing Off-Site exhibitions in Europe.
Jenny: Since the start, our main curatorial approach is to develop exhibitions that address the architecture of the space, its constraints and its possibilities. We wish to offer artists a playing field and so far, each exhibition has truly challenged that existing structure in a variety of ways. We want to see The Chimney as a place where creativity and ideas prevail and will continue having this approach this year.
What aspect of your job do you find the most fulfilling? The most challenging
Clara: Meeting with artists, spending time in their studios, discussing their ideas, doubts and dream projects. Our role as a gallery is to bring those ideas to life within the space, and to offer artists the best conditions and guidance to exhibit a new body of works. The number of galleries in New York can be overwhelming, and we hope The Chimney will remain an exciting venue for emerging and established artists to develop their practice and engage with the rawness of the space.
Jenny: As Clara said, we engage in long dialogues with the artists we work with, sometimes one year in advance and seeing ideas developing, changing and concretizing through the final exhibition is one of the most fulfilling aspect. Seeing the potential impact that certain works or exhibition may have on visitors is also highly gratifying.
In the future, what do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your field?
Clara: Over a year and a half, we have worked with artists coming from all over the world – France, Finland, Ukraine, India, Iran, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico… We are hoping for an increasing cultural diversity and gender representation, and mostly for a preserved freedom of expression in all artistic communities.
Jenny: Since the curatorial profession wide spreads globally, countless possibilities emerge in terms of venues and platforms for curators and artists. I believe that this dynamic allows for an increasing number of artists to have their works shown and supported. I hope this continues!
Are you working on a larger project you’d like to share?
We are organizing the second edition of the Chimney Performance & Video Festival this summer in July during which we will collaborate with international curators, artists and galleries. This is a chance to present every day new works to our Brooklyn community and develop our ties with foreign art institutions. Last year, we invited 17 artists, 2 guest curators. This year we will have an open-call for submission and a section of the festival will be dedicated to politically engaged works.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.