An Interview with Robert Chambers, curator of the Mouthwater Exhibition
What is your curatorial vision for MouthWater?
My curatorial vision is to show the long term impact YoungArts has had on the contemporary art world while giving the latest generation an opportunity to see their work in the context of established artists. I am hoping the general audience will appreciate the consistently high quality artwork the YoungArts Foundation facilitates.
Can you tell us a bit more about the significance of the exhibition title please?
I chose the exhibition title, MouthWater, as a metaphor for a feast of aesthetics in the visual arts that has been generated at YoungArts. I wanted a visceral title descriptive of the hunger, drive and determination it takes for artists to create new work.
MouthWater is a multi-generational exhibition of alumni works. Can you elaborate on the works in the exhibition as well as your selection process please?
I have experience curating multi-generational exhibitions such as Globe>Miami at the Bass Museum of Art on Miami Beach in 2001, the first exhibition of its kind to showcase artists with ties to Miami. This exhibition mixed established and emerging artists in an experimental /installation environment. I was excited to be asked to curate this show for YoungArts and in curating MouthWater I set out to be inclusive of the earliest YoungArts Alum, Eric Rhein,1980 and Nicole Eisenman,1983 while moving into the mid 90’s with Naomi Fisher and Hernan Bas, culminating with a focus on the latest emerging talent. The criteria for my selection process were: Being a working artist, having an intrinsic impact or the potential ability to advance the humanities and lastly, strong originality and concept.
The exhibition opens on September 27 in celebration of National YoungArts Awareness Day. This year it is all about support and inspiration under the theme #myartstory. Can you share a story of support/ inspiration or something that really made a difference in your career?
In 1991 the director of the Sculpture Center in New York City, Marian Griffiths grew curious as to why I never missed an exhibition but also was so shy about talking about my own work. She patiently drew me out of my shell and with her assistant director/curator/artist, Peter Hristoff, made a studio visit and they offered me shortly thereafter my first solo show titled “Breathing Room”. This opportunity launched my career in New York City and led to new exhibitions /residencies such as a residency at Socrates Sculpture Park with Mark Di Suvero.
How do you see your role as an educator and mentor in the arts, whether in academia or at an organization like YoungArts?
The idea of being a teacher while helping my fellow artists has evolved into a rewarding facet of my career as a working artist. I enjoy helping others, especially emerging artists, as much as I do teaching and making art. I have a long history in the art world as an observer/participant and have benefited greatly from mentors, teachers and institutional support on many levels. It gives me great satisfaction to give emerging artists opportunities and guidance and I am honored to be a YoungArts panelist/ Master Artist.