So, you're tired of the standard museum and Chelsea gallery routine, and you want to soak up the raw energy of the Brooklyn art worldbut you don't have any clue where to start? We feel your pain, so we sought out Kate Wadkins, a gallery manager, visual artist and writer with her ear to the ground of the North Brooklyn scene. We caught up with Kate recently to find out about her latest work, her most abiding influences, and her recommendations for where we should all go next.
SCOUT: How did you first start participating in the Brooklyn art scene?
KATE: My heart is in the Brooklyn punk scene, where I’ve met lots of radical women artists like Lauren Denitzio, Tamara Waite-Santibanez, and Cristy Road. In 2008, I teamed up with these ladies to organize an art show at Death by Audio called Leave Home. Since then, I have continued curating shows with For the Birds, a creative feminist collective. A few years ago my sister introduced me to the talented multimedia artist and former gallery owner Austin Thomas. After working with Austin on some of her social experiments and art openings, I met Bushwick’s major mover and shaker, Jason Andrew, and assisted him in producing his many projects. In January 2010, Jason and artist Deborah Brown opened STOREFRONT, a gallery promoting local and establish artists, and I’ve been there ever since. In June of that year they hired me as Gallery Manager; it has been a wonderful experience. I’ve also begun working on films: last year I got to work with my heroes in Le Tigre on their documentary Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour, and this summer I’m doing production and research assistance on The Punk Singer, a documentary film about Kathleen Hanna.
SCOUT: How would you describe your work to people who haven't seen it?
KATE: I love working with collage and book materials. The intimacy of smaller works has always compelled me, and I use that as a venue to navigate personal and political meanings. Utilizing collage, I collect rough and found materials with intricate patterns, visible signs of decay, and contrasting bright colors to create a disjointed visual narrative. I have recently become more invested in photography; I find comfort in the quiet observation of the bad or beautiful feelings of other places, people, and objects. My drawings are more of an outlet for my goofiness. I’m kind of a huge goofball with a dark side.
SCOUT: What made you want to work with zines?
KATE: Everyone around me growing up made zines, and zines have always been a vital information source for me, so it was a natural progression. I am really fond of the widespread access that zines afford by their low-cost quality. As someone who works in print and collage, zines speak a lot to my artistic process. I recently co-edited and published International Girl Gang Underground (IGGU) with Stacy Konkiel, which was my first experience ever working on a compilation zine. IGGU is an 82-page multimedia zine with a web component about feminist cultural production twenty years after the riot grrrl movement and in the wake of its legacy. The zine was tons of work but so rewarding. There are lots of exciting things going on in the zine world: Cindy Crabb of Doris is raising money to publish a new collection, The Doris Encyclopedia. I curate a zine and print collection at STOREFRONT called Brain Waves, which includes a lot of my favorite local artists and features many works by Pen Fifteen Press, a local press and studio. There is a ton of new work constantly being made in my community.
SCOUT: What inspires your work?
KATE: Lately I’ve been doing a lot of artwork for my friends’ bands, and that is always exciting. I try to tap into whatever is going on musically or lyrically in an album in order to create a concept for the cover art. Shared experiences inspire me, as does the dissonance between the idea of shared experience and isolation. I’m an anxious person, and it excites me to work some of that out visually and textually rather than keeping it all swimming around in my head.
SCOUT: Where are your favorite places in New York to check out new art?
KATE: Well, STOREFRONT of course. My neighbors at iN RiVERS in Greenpoint have had a really active program so I stop by as often as possible. I can’t wait to see Booklyn’s summer program, which I’ve heard will focus on giving a forum for zine and print artists to exhibit in a gallery setting. David Zwirner in Chelsea is a pretty obvious one, as they house some of my favorite artists. I really enjoyed White Columns’ annual retrospective this year; they appeal to the social artist in me. I always love walking to PS1 on a sunny day.
SCOUT: So, it's a Saturday, and you're looking to wander the city. Where do you go?
KATE: My ideal day would start with brunch at Habitat. I would head to Desert Island for some new reading material and spend the morning reading in the sunshine in McGolrick Park. To stave off sleepiness I’d walk over the Pulaski Bridge (to Long Island City) for coffee at Sweetleaf and then to PS1 for an arty afternoon. At night, I would go to Sweet Revenge for a beer and cupcake pairing (it’s no coincidence that many of my favorite places have “sweet” in the title). Then I’d go home and snuggle up to Veronica Mars in bed.
SCOUT: Which local artists would you recommend we start following?
KATE: I already mentioned some above, but I’ll add Andrew Hurst, Aimee Lusty, Shona Masarin, Jeri Coppola, and Mike Taylor. There are too many to name. Hermine Ford’s solo show is up at STOREFRONT right now and it is wonderful. Music-wise, my favorite local artists are Aye Nako and Big Eyes at the moment. I’m also thrilled about the i am not a good enough feminist show that recently went up in conjunction with Festival of Ideas for the New City.
SCOUT: Anything exciting on the horizon as far as your own work?
KATE: I am curating a Mail Art show at Hyperallergic for Northside Open Studios next month, so, mail artists and non-mail artists alike, send away! For the Birds and Her Girl Friday will be announcing our summer plans in the coming weeks as well, so stay tuned.