In Conversation : GO FIGURE

Spoke Art
Feb 9, 2017 12:34AM

We recently sat down with assistant director Jessica Ross of SPOKE NYC to discuss her most recent curatorial endeavor, GO FIGURE - a group show.

Featuring works from sixteen different artists from all over the world, the exhibition is a varied showcase of what contemporary illustration can mean in 2017.  Take a look at our interview with Miss Ross below the jump.

  • How did you first conceptualize the show? Was there a specific theme or style in mind? 

GO FIGURE has been bouncing around my brain for a few years now. I’ve been following many of these illustrators for a very long time and haven’t seen a gallery exhibit that really showcases what is happening in contemporary illustration so I thought it was time to remedy that.

  • As a curator, what is your artist selection process like? Is there something specific you look for? 

I typically visualize what the space will look like right off the bat and definitely try to choose artists that work together aesthetically without being too similar. I want explore the different varieties of illustration and find a way to change the way it is viewed in a gallery and it’s inherit connotations, while simultaneously pushing those limits and creating an exhibition that looks and feels cohesive. 

  • While the roster of artists is wide-ranging in terms of location and experience, there is a definite unifying aesthetic in their work. How would you articulate this ‘movement’ in contemporary illustration? 

I would say most of these artists work commercially as professional illustrators in one sense or another. I think even though their styles might converge at some points, they definitely each have their own unique voice and aesthetics and this show was meant as a way to give them the sort of freedom they may not receive every day in their commercial work. 

  • In your view, how has illustration evolved and transformed with the digital age?

    A lot of the contemporary artists I’ve worked with developed their practice during an age “screenic culture”. More and more, work is validated by it’s apparent reach online, albeit Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. Viewers have been conditioned to look at work in a new way, which can be both good and bad and can also result in artists tilting their work to be more Instagram-able or social media friendly.

    While this age of information opens a lot of doors for artists, curators and viewers alike, it can also alienate works that simply just don’t translate online - that’s where I think the gallery comes in. Without doubt, there is just no substitute for viewing work in person. 
  • How do you think illustration translates from its commercial usage to a gallery setting?

I want to propel the way illustration is viewed in the art world, specifically in a gallery setting. While many of these artists come from a commercial background, I think it’s important to give free reign to explore their own practice extensively, without the constraints and demands of client-based work. This show is meant to be a kind of  expedition into the personal side of practicing illustrators, a set of work exempt from prescription, free to exist within a four walled space.

  • What’s the most exciting aspect of being a curator? What’s the hardest?

My favorite part about organizing exhibitions is being able to create a community of artists that I really respect and admire personally and so I really enjoy creating shows that I would want to see myself as an art lover. The most challenging is would be the editing process, I tend to gravitate towards large group shows and I think keeping it tightly curated can be difficult at times but ultimately rewarding. 

  •  Can you tell us a little bit about a few of the artists featured in the show? What can we expect from “Go Figure” ? 

The exhibition is definitely a wide ranging look at contemporary illustration. I want to showcase artists from all over the world and show this visual thread through all these different parts of the world. For example, Moonassi hails from South Korea, while Santiago Salvador Ascui is from Chile. Even thousands of miles apart, each artist is exploring what illustration means to them in their own unique way, I find it incredibly fascinating. I believe the exhibition will be a good snapshot into what’s currently happening in contemporary illustration, on an international level. 

GO FIGURE is on view at SPOKE NYC 2.4.17 - 2.26.17 

Check out the entire collection via Artsy here

All photos courtesy of Lanee Bird

Spoke Art