A New Venue Offers Artists a Place to Think Inside the Box
Written by Genie Davis
Susan Feldman and Jennifer Gunlock at Shoebox Projects
660 South Avenue 21 #3 LA Ca 90031
There is a new experimental art space in Los Angeles offering a place for emerging and mid-career artists to create exciting new work. Shoebox Projects, founded by artist Kristine Schomaker is an alternative art space dedicated to artistic boldness. The passionate force behind Shoebox PR, an artist marketing and management agency, Schomaker believes in supporting artists through collaboration, community and by giving them the resources they need to thrive in the contemporary art world.
The first exhibition in the new venue comes from artists Jennifer Gunlock and Susan Feldman.
According to Gunlock, it was Schomaker’s idea that the pair work together.
“I’ve already been a fan of Susan’s work, and I wanted to show with her,” Gunlock relates. “Kristine Schomaker approached us with the idea of working collaboratively. Her latest endeavor, Shoebox Projects, was just getting launched, so we were the first volunteers to help her iron out the residency format.”
Feldman concurs. “I had also been a fan of Jennifer’s work. Kristine had tried to get us a show together in the past, and when she decided to create a residency project, she invited us to be the first to launch it.”
The project marked the first time the duo worked together.
“The whole thing was an experiment in collaboration, in how our two art approaches can weave together to make a singular environment. We met a couple times prior to the beginning of the project to brainstorm ideas, where we found the themes that excite us both. When we went in to work, it was all process and invention, not having a concrete blueprint as to final outcome,” Gunlock explains.
The process of creating the installation began in August, after Gunlock and Feldman first met with Schomaker.
“My initial plan was to make one long landscape on four sheets of paper as a kind of diorama, but the composition didn’t work,” Gunlock states. “I regularly have to surrender to what the composition wants, which is what we ended up with here. I finished those two pieces in two months, and then we started building the installation.”
The residency officially began in November.
“Susan brought some partially constructed pieces from her studio to begin the skeletal structure of the piece, and I installed my two drawings,” Gunlock continues. “From that point, the piece gradually evolved and is evolving, right up to the day before the closing reception.”
Feldman notes that she spent a good deal of time at the space, which is located in the Brewery Lofts.
“During the first two weeks of the project, I came just about every day, long days into nights. I’d at first loaded my car with what I thought was a lot of wood from my studio, along with my tools,” Feldman recalls. “When I got there the first day, I realized I didn’t bring all that much – there’s only so much my Mini can hold,” she laughs.
At that point she decided to incorporate found wood from the Brewery into her building.
“Every day, I would walk around with Kristine’s wagon and hunt for wood on campus, going through trash bins, asking residents to donate any wood they had and weren’t using. That way I felt the Brewery itself would be a part of the project.” According to Feldman, “Ropes were used to literally tie the whole thing together, and I encouraged Jennifer to add to whatever wood pieces she felt would also tie her work into the structural forms.”
Gunlock describes her two drawings as collage, gesso-transfer and drawing on large sheets of rag paper. “I take photographs of trees and architectural details, make photocopies of them, then use torn up bits of these images to construct the composition. I then use gesso washes to push back some of the images, then refine or even alter the shapes with colored pencil. I also transferred and glued some of my imagery onto a bit of Susan’s structure to incorporate the trees into it.”
The artists have created an entirely unique piece that defies a specific agenda.
“A few inspirations, words and phrases we bounced around included Disneyland’s Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, abandoned privies, secret hiding places, a ladder to nowhere, and a jungle gym. The piece taps into one’s inner child, as a special place the child built or discovered and inhabited,” Gunlock explains.
Feldman agrees. “A big part of the way I work is very Wabi-Sabi. I never really know what is going to happen. I usually start by sitting on the floor and playing with the wood and then start building stuff,” she relates. “My work always involves some sort of ladder-like structures so I knew that would be a major part of the how we began. Climbing up is a theme I visit again and again,” she notes. “Once I built some initial structures, I just started attaching them to each other and to Jennifer’s work.”
The most challenging aspect of the project, Gunlock found, was space.
“We each require a lot of space to make a mess when we are in studio mode, so for the majority of the time, only one of us was there. In fact, I often did work at home and brought it onsite to install.”
For Feldman, the first daunting aspect of the project was the traffic. The artist lives in West Los Angeles and has a studio in Inglewood’s Beacon Arts building. “The thought of driving downtown every day, or doing a triangle drive would wear me out. Once I got into the routine of being there though, it was fab,” she enthuses. And with a nod to her partner, she adds, “Jen’s right about the space in a way. For sure the first two weeks I pretty much had to take over the place because I needed to build structures there on site. I really wished we could’ve had more collaboration time together there.”
Nonetheless, both artists reveled in a sense of fun in tackling the project, and the opportunity, for invention and discovery.
“I had to remind myself that the most important thing I could bring to this project was play.” Gunlock explains. “I knew coming into this project that it was going to influence pieces I make next, and it already has. I’m going to take some of those plywood boards home and play with the idea of a drawing that you can walk on.”
Feldman says that one of the most enjoyable aspects of the project was actually being on the Brewery campus every day. “What was the most fun was walking around with my little wagon, searching for wood, running into friends I know who live there. It felt like I was away at summer camp. I also loved when Jennifer had been there the previous day and I would walk in to discover what additions she had made. It was like finding a treasure at the end of the hunt.”
And now, the treasure is for viewers to find. Gunlock and Feldman’s installation will be on view at a reception Saturday, December 3rd from 3 to 6 p.m.
“Shoebox Projects is a change of place, a change of energy and, we hope, a new spirit,” Schomaker says. “Each residency will end with a solo exhibition or reception where the work was created.”
Shoebox Projects is located at the Brewery, 660 South Avenue 21 #3 in Los Angeles.