The art arrives to the museum (all images by Jason Andrew)

Editorial note: This Curator Diary is an editorial feature documenting curator and local Bushwick hero Jason Andrew’s trip to Asheville, North Carolina to mount an ambitious exhibition of work by Jack Tworkov. The column will explore the day-to-day process of curating, a behind-the-scenes look into what a curator actually does.

Andrew is curating Jack Tworkov: The Accident of Choice, which opens on June 17 at the Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center (56 Broadway, Asheville, North Carolina) and runs until September 17, 2011. The exhibition starts in 1945 and viewers will watch the artist develop from narrative and traditional imagery to very heavy abstraction in the early 50s. Look for more Curator Diaries from Jason all this week.

Day 1: Monday, June 13

Smartphone photos from Day 1, including a view from the plane, a beautiful gate in Asheville, and a mural on a city wall. (all photos by Jason Andrew)

Plane scheduled to depart at 10:55AM. Arriving early to the airport is like my favorite thing! Car sick. Pass security with out a hitch. Totally atypical. I thought for sure they were gonna pat me down again and I take with my fresh bottle of Clinique’s “Happy.” McDonalds. God I love McDonalds. McDonalds is a little like Abstract Expressionism: it’s totally an American phenomenon; It’s totally accessible at this point. MoMA mounting the BIG Ab Ex show last fall was like McDonalds bringing back the McGrill.

Sucker for architecture magazines. Not that I read ’em but they do look smart on a coffee table. I walked away with Elle Décor and a pack of Dentyne Ice.

Thinking about Noguchi and Ruth Page. Land in Asheville. Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. At the museum. So sexy walking into a totally empty white space, like heaven. I have spinach + beets. Meetings. Labels. Coordinating the trucks. Museum closes.

Schedule meetings with Asheville’s resident dance company. Schedule studio visits with Jolene at Flood Gallery. Can’t wait. Schedule meeting at Masonic Lodge for ‘Happening’ event I’m producing here in Aug. Proof labels. Dinner at Tupelo Honey Cafe. Pork chops. Yup. Gimlet. Yup. Write lecture for Saturday. Republican debate. Mitt Romney scares me. My family in Utah is cheering for him. Emails: I won GBP 950,000. It’s 12:30AM. Bed.

Day 2: Tuesday, June 14

Images from Day 2 of the install of the Jack Tworkov show in Asheville, NC, including (clockwise from top left), art handlers unloading the art, art being placed for the show, dinner with friends (including Jolene + Jinx), a view of a corner of the show, including a few paintings by Tworkov.

Morning. 5:30AM. God I hate it when I’m up this early! Nightmares continue. Thing is that I know, in the dream, they are nightmares … stare up at the sky light above the bed. Birds. Morning run and … pullups. Pass by pharmacy cause I’m almost outta toothpaste. Not open til 9.

Gorgeous sunny morning. Emails. Shower. Dress. Green Sage for tall soy latte, where everything is recycled. Exhibition labels. Biscuit and eggs. They known their biscuits here in Asheville! Phone call. Truck arrives. Artcore. Work unloaded. Big breath.

Condition reports and unpack. 7 paintings. 18 works on paper. 2 original works from 1952 by Robert Rauschenberg + 7 photographs. 4 photos, portraits of Tworkov, by Rudy Burckhardt and Arnold Newman. Letters from R Rauschenberg, Franz Kline, Stefan Wolpe.

Work looks amazing. Lay out the show. Relay out the show. Shuffle. Remove. Put back. Pull. Show looks solid. Always great when the show you thought you curated actually looks better than you imagined it would. Local paper features photo of Tworkov but labels him Rauschenberg. Oops.

Drama: email from designer for the show catalogue. Totally forgot to give museum details to wire $ to compensate for the work. He’s pissed. Sending $$ pronto to keep him on the project.

Lunch in house. Check in with Jolene to meet up for dinner. Jinx, a stellar artist living and working here will join us.

Edit wall text. Simplify to accommodate general audience. Pumpkin bread ‘n ice coffee. Finish up. Can’t wait to see what I think of the show tomorrow. Love the physicality of the work in relation to the space. Will hang entire show tomorrow.

Emails. Coconut water. Run. Groceries on the way back. John Cage + Abstract Expressionism. Tootpaste + Hummus. Emails. Respond to questions from designer regarding catalogue (this catalogue is gonna be the death of me!).

Call from Jolene, she’s downstairs. Jump in shower. Clinique. Dinner with Jolene + Jinx at place called Boca on Lexington Ave. Eat at the bar with a gorgeous bartender named Aubrie. A night of one liners from Jinx: “That’s better than the Bible, “Rothko was a sleeper,” “Warhol is a hero,” “Asheville is the hole in the bible belt.” He tells me about his new sculpture called “Super Natural,” a combo of a shotgun and baseball bat that “would start a bidding war between Sammy Sosa + James Bond!” I’m still in love with his work titled “Chicken Shooter,” which I saw in 2009.

Wine bar. Asheville. Henry the trumpeter. Home. Bed. 1:30AM.

*  *  *

I think I’m a little more unique than most curators; I juggle a lot of things in my head all at the same time. In the back of my head I’m trying to process planning out how the week is going to work out with the truck arriving and getting labels structured, and then at the same time I know at the back of my mind everything is going to have to be reworked because the space is going to be different than I imagined.

We can’t have oil paintings hanging above vents that blow cold air, for example. Trying to map out the show, you have a gallery plan that is sent to you, but then there’s the practicality of installing, seeing works actually within the space, there’s a lot of different things you’re dealing with. The first step is very abstract, mathematical. You have 126 running inches you have to fill with paintings. But then when you stand in the space there’s the organic process of how visitors are going to move from one work to the next.

One of the works [in the show] has a seven-inch mat around it. So that work looks much more important than I wanted it to look. A photo that you thought was 5 by 7 is actually 2 inches wide, a very small snapshot of Tworkov’s studio. You’ve seen it reproduced so large in all the books and catalogues, you think it’s going to take up so much space. It’s this little tiny thing that now you’ve got to create this space around.

The 10 or 12 inches you hoped to have between each work is going to be 24 inches, because of the ambulatory experience of the viewers. I’m much more physical; to me, the physical experience of the works is much more important than the mathematical measurements. Tomorrow I’m working with an art handler and I’m anxious because they hang everything on a medium line [the acceptable center height of hanging art], but I don’t believe in that. The work wasn’t created to be centered on a wall; it was created on a floor, on the ceiling, on an easel that had a slant. The experience is going to be much more organic.

The black and white photos I brought have a lot of power, and there’s a sensitivity to the other pieces of art. The photo draws so much attention immediately whereas an abstract watercolor is not going to hold itself the same way a big photograph will. The photos are all very dense, black and heavy, totally mid-century New York.

As told to Kyle Chayka

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

2 replies on “Curator Diary: Jason Andrew & Tworkov at Black Mountain College”

  1. I enjoyed reading Andrew’s “play by play” as he curates this exhibition and hats off to hyperallergic for publishing.  To see and hear in “close to real time” as these events unfold, adds a whole new dimension to curating.  Seeing the people involved from the truck driver delivering the work to the Black Mountain staff working with Jason, only enhances and enlivens the humanistic painting style and philosophy of Tworkov.  Now I want to make the trip!

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