Pioneering Gallery Paula Cooper Launches Exhibition Series Supporting Young Artists

Casey Lesser
Jan 28, 2018 1:00PM

Installation view, “Jackie Winsor, Linnea Kniaz,” curated by Laura Hunt, Paula Cooper Gallery, January 11 – February 10, 2018. Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.  

For five decades, Paula Cooper has been a New York institution. She was the first to open an art gallery in SoHo, back in 1968, showing artists who would become household names, like Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Lynda Benglis, and Sol LeWitt (and later Sherrie Levine, Charles Gaines, and Christian Marclay, among many others). Right now, Paula Cooper’s main space on West 21st Street is taken over by hulking steel sculptures by Mark di Suvero. But across the street, in its 150-square-foot vitrine, is a much quieter—and riskier—show.

The street-facing room (which is often used to display a single, impressive artwork), is currently hosting an unusual two-person show of Linnea Kniaz, a recent MFA grad based in New York, with Jackie Winsor, a renowned sculptor over four decades her senior. Winsor is on Paula Cooper’s official roster; Kniaz is not. Intergenerational pairings like this are the basis of a series of month-long shows, coinciding with Paula Cooper Gallery’s 50th anniversary. They’re curated by archivist Laura Hunt, an artist herself, who has worked at the gallery for the past three years.

She kicked off the series last November with a show of Robert Gober and Andrei Koschmieder. It juxtaposed Koschmieder’s pipe sculptures with a Gober sculpture, Untitled (Pair of Brains) (1982), which is comprised of two plaster brains within a glass case. “Each brain is similar, but slightly different,” Hunt explains. “That piece is a kind of microcosm of the exhibition series as a whole. It’s two minds, treated equally, in a space.”

Installation view, “Andrei Koschmieder, Robert Gober,” curated by Laura Hunt, Paula Cooper Gallery, November 3 – December 20, 2017. Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.


“I’m interested in connecting the social realm and work of young artists with these historical works,” Hunt tells me as we enter the small white cube on a Wednesday morning. (The space is visible from the street at any time; visitors can request to go inside during normal operating hours.) Each show brings together an artist who shows with Paula Cooper currently, or did in the past, and a young artist from outside of the gallery’s typical orbit.

“It’s really to Paula’s credit,” Hunt reasons. “The thinking behind these shows comes from being aware of the risks Paula took with artists early in their careers. Paula has vision and she is not a follower.”

It’s not uncommon for prominent galleries to recruit staff members or artists to curate shows in the off-season, and invite fresh voices into their spaces. Hauser & Wirth, for example, enlisted then-gallery associates Madeline Warren and Yuta Nakajima in 2014 (and again in 2015 and 2016) to curate a summer group show of emerging artists at its West 18th Street gallery. What is uncommon, however, is to match established and emerging artists together—during some of the busiest months on the art world’s calendar.

#brownupyourfeed, by Mandy Harris Williams, developed in collaboration with Third Magazine. Edited by Allison Littrell. Designed by Gabrielle Datau. Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

Kniaz and Windsor’s show is the second in the series—Hunt has four more planned. Through February 10, three of Kniaz’s sculptures (made from colorful tomato-plant armatures and construction mesh) join Winsor’s 1970 sculpture, Solid Lattice, a stump-like wood cylinder made from thin planks that are nailed together. A fourth work by Kniaz is a subtle carving made into the gallery wall itself, filled in with blue plexiglass (Kniaz’s works are for sale, while Winsor’s piece—which comes from the gallery’s collection—is not).

In conceiving of her pairings, Hunt has considered how the artists think and approach their work, rather than any visual cues or direct connections. With Kniaz and Winsor, she explains, the two artists share a relationship to the outdoors and plant life, as well as an interest in dance, strength, and the body. They also both started out painting, before moving on to more sculptural work.

Jonathan Borofsky, Truth (binary computer code), 1995. © Jonathan Borofsky. Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

The next show will feature the work of artist, writer, and activist Mandy Harris Williams—who Hunt first discovered online—alongside a 1995 steel wire piece by Jonathan Borofsky. The thread between them, Hunt explains, has to do with self-awareness. Williams, who will show text-based work, pamphlets, and an audio piece, creates work that involves social justice and intersectionality, in the tradition of Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, and James Baldwin, Hunt explains. In his conceptual work, Borofsky has been known to reflect on the relationship between the individual and the universe.

“The intention is not to illustrate sameness,” Hunt explains. “It’s more to create resonances. It’s rare in the structure of the art world to be able to put artists at these different stages of their output in a small room together, and to see what happens.”

Casey Lesser
Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Director of Content.