What were your formative experiences with contemporary art?
RW: Growing up, I was exposed to art through museums, music culture, and skateboarding. As a result, Caravaggio, Rothko and Raymond Pettibon all get equal shine. I collected baseball cards and made drawings obsessively as a child, so creating and collecting objects and images has been with me for a long time. I received my BFA from RISD.
HS: Growing up in NYC was very influential. I was at museums all the time as a little girl. Calder’s circus at The Whitney, the Impressionists at the Metropolitan, and the architecture of the Guggenheim all left a solid mark on my early memories. I don’t think I would be doing what I am doing now without those experiences.
You founded Halsey McKay in 2011 with the goal of bringing cutting edge contemporary art to East Hampton. How would you define the East End art scene today? Has it evolved with your programming or vice versa?
HS: I am not sure there is a definable scene. Everyone is doing their own thing. We saw the opportunity to fill the emerging/contemporary niche. The history of the area is so rich–there have been interesting exhibition spaces out East for a long time. To contextualize Halsey McKay as a part of that feels great.
In terms of our programming, we don’t really think about the scene or what would work in the Hamptons. Our location is irrelevant to those decisions, though sometimes the artists end up thinking about it when they are making work for a show. It’s always exciting to see how it can be interpreted.
How do your respective practices as artists inform your positions as curators?
RW: Being a person who makes things certainly helps to understand what work is well-conceived versus what is just well-packaged. The camaraderie that exists amongst artists is different than the more straightforward dealer/artist relationship. Being artists and peers first has let the gallery progress and our network grow quicker than it may have if we were working from a strictly business approach to studio visits. It also really helps keep expectations realistic which, in turn, I hope allows for more creative freedom for everyone involved.
HS: When I was in graduate school at SVA, I felt a much stronger gravitational pull towards organizing and thinking about other artists work than my own. It just felt better and the gallery grew out of a desire to support the careers of people we believe in. Being an artist at one point connects me with the challenges of making work and how much care is required to bring it out into the world.
RW: We started the gallery because we had a large group of friends whose work we wanted to share. Ellie brings a broader group into the fold, as she is connected to an audience and groups of artists that we may not have stumbled across otherwise. I think that Ellie, by nature, brings our organic approach to the programming.
Can you tell us about the work by Joseph Hart that Halsey McKay recently exhibited at EXPO Chicago?
RW: We exhibited a new series of works on linen by Joseph Hart. Previously, he had primarily painted, drawn and collaged on paper so these are an exciting extension of his work. The linen works exploit the strengths of his paper work, but the added step of mounting one surface to the other contributes some really nice subtle noise to the surfaces and it’s great that the works were not behind glass.
Your upcoming fall exhibition roster is a series of duo shows: Ian Cooper & Takeshi Murata opens October 3 and Dylan Bailey & Aaron Bobrow in November. What’s most interesting to you about the interplay between these artists’ bodies of work?
RW: We pair all of the shows according to a shifting but conscious logic. Ian Cooper and Takeshi Murata both hint at the absurd while being masters of craft and presentation. They marry ideas and execution with similarly idiosyncratic attentiveness.
Dylan Bailey and Aaron Bobrow have both been on our radar through Ben Blatt and Matt Kenny, whom Halsey McKay also represents. Ellie is close with both Dylan and Aaron and has worked with them before, so now seems like the appropriate time to show them in our space.