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Alex Ahn and Ari Lipkis in Andrea DiStefano’s “Divide II” at TEMP Gallery.
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TEMP, a recently opened art space in TriBeCa, is altering the standards for a traditional art gallery. Founded by NYU art history grads Alex Ahn and Ari Lipkis, TEMP was the result of nine months of planning—from the duo’s decision to partner up, to the meticulous selection of artists, to the final installation of artworks. Housed in an expansive two-level gallery, the exhibit is so engaging and fluid that you’d never think this was their first show.
The pair’s opening exhibit, Working On It, which is on view until Oct. 14, explores the culture of being a 20-something in New York City—feeling the rush of everyday life coupled with the pressure to have a stable career. The show seems very personal, as it is very much in line with the pair’s own experience in New York, not only as bustling post-grads, but also as part of an enterprising class of young curators and gallery hopefuls. As an exhibit, the show traces themes of youth and uncertainty that, though prevalent in our twenties, permeate all stages of life.
Yet, there were many hurdles to overcome before all the works were hung and the gallery opened—from art insurance, to curatorship, to getting the physical space ready. If there’s one thing these two young owners have learned during these past couple of weeks since the gallery opened, it’s that just asking for help goes a long way. For example, unfamiliar with the matters of art insurance, Ahn and Lipkis were quick to find an art lawyer to advise them. The lawyer’s hourly fees, though, were astronomical—way past the already strained budget of 20-somethings trying to start a gallery. The lawyer, however, was sympathetic to their cause and told them where to find everything they needed to learn on the Internet. The two laugh over the situation and how terribly it could’ve gone, but are quick to note how helpful people are when they know you’re young and ambitious.
The gallery is decidedly progressive in its rigorous curation and devotion to artists. When the duo met at the beginning stages of the project to try to shape their ideas into a concrete business plan, it became evident that the gallery was to function more as a non-commercial art space than a traditional gallery—a place for experimentation and art discourse. While most galleries around Chelsea provide a sterile environment that functions more as as a space for art dealership than art curation, Ahn and Lipkis are focused on providing museum-worthy shows that speak to the viewer.
For Working On It, the pair visited a number of artists’ studios, not only to view an artist’s works in consideration for the show, but also to ask if they knew other artists whose works could tie into the theme of the exhibit. In this way, the two managed to extend their network of contacts, allowing for a more expansive support group that could provide material for future shows.
It is in this fashion that they discovered the work of Sandy Kim, a Brooklyn-based photographer whose aesthetic is distinctively “NYC-under-ground-youth-with-a-morning-after-hangover” and is thought to have inspired the music video for Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” A group of 45 photographs taken by Kim over the past three years covers the western wall of the gallery. The photographs send the viewer for a trip down fire escapes, through parties and concerts—even into the idleness of simply lying in bed. These works, while of familiar subjects, capture a certain philosophical fragility that is characteristic of people in their 20s—one that extends from the collision between the still-present notion that the world revolves around you and the opposing forces that push you into accepting banality.
The show’s repertoire of artists provides an insight into the many dimensions of contemporary art. While artists like Wilson Parry and Matthew Morocco explore the idea of layered identities that are nonetheless all self-constructed, other artists like EunSun Choi explore the exact opposite—namely, the inability to control your representation in a world characterized by the widespread use of social media.
Simultaneously, pieces like Laura Hudson’s “Art Opening 1, 2, and 3” shift the focus from that of a “viewer viewing an artwork” to that of an “artwork viewing the viewer.” Her paintings begin to mimic the environment of the art gallery, in that they bring to bear the awkward con- templative gaze we allot each artwork before deciding we’ve spent the socially acceptable minimum and can thus move on to the next. Overall, all cynicism aside, Working On It presents a richly articulated account of what it means to be a 20-something New Yorker in the early 2010s.
As a gallery with an artist-minded program, TEMP provides young artists critical exposure. For artists, their 20s symbolize a crucial time in their artistic formation, during which they’re expected to find a distinctive style or voice and gain recognition. While most experiment with various mediums, each of the twelve artists included in Working On It are relatively little-known. The gallery’s Manhattan location is pivotal in introducing early-career contemporary artists, as, no matter how much ground Brooklyn has gained in the art scene, Manhattan still commands global attention. These artists can thus continue to develop their aesthetic while gaining valuable insight as to the metrics of the art world.
The gallery, however, will not permanently remain in TriBeCa. While its future location is to be determined, TEMP remains committed to its ethos as an incubator for innovation, stemming from partnerships with curators, artists, gallerists, and everyone along the way.
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