A new gallery is opening on Meserole Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, next month, and according to its eponymous director, Christopher Stout, it will have a “program of showing subversive and difficult art.” Stout told Hyperallergic that the gallery will “focus on performance and video work … art making that confronts socio-political issues, particularly with a profound anti-commercial approach. This kind of work, Stout explained, “tends to deal with or come from artists whose practices have a queer identity or feminist identity, or anti-capitalist concerns.”
This for-profit space is a departure from the programs cultivated by the nonprofit community resource that Stout had founded in 2013, from which the Christopher Stout Gallery is an offshoot. The Bushwick Art Crit Group (BACG) was created by Stout to be a local artists collective, a space for artists to nurture and develop their individual practices by sharing ideas and comparing their differing practices in a supportive setting. BACG has by most accounts been successful in bringing Bushwick artists together around group projects. They have a monthly lecture series consisting of 10-minute talks that are attended by between 90 and 150 people each time. They have also created a series of filmed interviews with artists in their studios that has been uploaded to a YouTube channel. The group cohesion has facilitated BACG mounting significant projects — gallery shows, discussions at major art fairs, and a panel discussion held last fall with feminist leaders and a member of the Guerilla Girls. According to Stout, these projects have not gained much traction. “They have gotten lost in the discourse, perhaps because they could not shake the moniker of [being produced by] a ‘crit group’,”
BACG is an uplifting and encouraging project for those wearied by the art gallery system’s overdetermined obsession with status and economic capital. Yet Stout is mindful of the imprimatur the marketplace brings and recognizes that for-profit ventures capture a certain esteem that nonprofits do not command, and thus particular doors will be opened by the new venture. Nevertheless, the opening exhibition seems intended to clearly indicate the commitment to exhibit troublesome, distressing art.
The Christopher Stout Gallery will open its first exhibition on October 2 with work by Phoenix Lindsey-Hall that engages an uneasy confluence of politics regarding masculinity, queer identity, and violence. The exhibition, titled Shepard, takes its name from the young man, Matthew Shepard, who was killed in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998 after being beaten, tied to a fence, and left to freeze to death. The show consists of porcelain replicas modeled on the wooden fence that featured in Shepard’s death. Lindsey-Hall’s practice deals with aestheticized reproductions of weapons used in hate crimes carried out against gays and lesbians. This work is a compelling and telling choice — it purports to add to the vocabulary of symbols by which the collective recalls and recounts the struggle against sexuality-based hate crimes.
In embracing this type of program the gallery takes on another considerable struggle that has long bedeviled conscientious participants in the art market: constructing a display space that will turn a profit while staying true to a conviction to show socio-politically meaningful work.