“My aim is to present a variety of work from mid-career artists
who I think have a fresh take on their media and themes.”
Leah Oates is the founder of Station Independent Projects, a Lower East Side gallery in New York City that opened in September 2012.
Prior to opening Station Independent Projects, Oates curated exhibitions in the New York City area with The Scope Art Fair, The Bridge Art Fair, The Center for Photography at Woodstock, Asya Geisberg Gallery, Chashama, Artists Space, Nurture Art, and The Kauffman Arcade Gallery, and in the Chicago area at Randolph Street Gallery, The Peace Museum, and The Noyes Cultural Arts Center.
Oates received a BFA from The Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for Post-Graduate study at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland.
Station Independent Projects organizes exhibitions and events with a focus on artist advocacy. Station Independent Projects specializes in discovering new emerging and mid-career artists that are not represented by galleries and organizes shows to connect artists to broader audiences.
What do you look for in artists when considering representation?
Quality of work, originality, and professionalism. When I planned the gallery roster the artists I chose are all making work that is part of a contemporary art dialogue, yet seems to add to this dialogue rather than be derivative. One specific example is William Crump (appearing in WTP Vol. V #9), whose work reminds me of French painting from the turn of the century, though his is of an utterly contemporary hybrid of painting, collage, drawing, sculpture, and installation. I was looking for classic work that still pushed boundaries in some manner, and his seemed fresh.
What is the core aesthetic that the gallery is founded on?
My aim is to present a variety of work from mid-career artists who I think have a fresh take on their media and themes. The core aesthetic of the gallery is based on work that is classic yet innovative and that pushes boundaries within visual and thematic dialogues. I have to be a big fan of their work and be interested in collecting their work too. I have to believe in their vision completely. I also want to offer the space to guest curators whose work I respect.
Do you promote a particular focus or specialty?
I find that galleries that have a more “narrow” vision can get boring over time on a visual level. I like to be jolted once in a while by art, as well as surprised and delighted. Some galleries focus primarily on minimalist work, painting, photography, or conceptual work, as examples of how galleries plan their programs. I prefer to work with a variety of mediums and themes in art.
What makes your gallery a desirable venue for both artists and art enthusiasts (i.e. art buyers)?
Station Independent Projects is a welcoming environment where the gallery staff actually talks to visitors and where the work is both excellent yet challenging. Each exhibition brings visitors from the press, curators, collectors, and the general public, and if people have questions, we are ready to chat. One summer, I had a couple visit who were from Spain, and they were in New York to collect art. They had visited one of the blue-chip galleries where the staff was not too helpful, so they passed on a $10,000 painting. Then a famous actor stopped in while they where there and he got full attention. Anyway, they stopped by my gallery and thanked me for a completely different, more personable, experience. Mind you, we have had a few famous folks come by Station Independent Projects, but we try to treat visitors equally. One never knows who is making the rounds, whether or not they are looking to collect, so best not to make assumptions. And it is always fun to talk about art with visitors, which we are happy to do.
As a curator, what do you see as differentiating your gallery?
As a curator, I am not necessarily most interested in selling the works; I am equally focused on concepts and themes, and on how different works can play off of one another. I think of each show as a large-scale installation where I am working with other artists to achieve the best possible exhibition. For example, when l am hanging a show, I can mull over how a sculpture may play off and interact with a photograph or a painting, and within the context of a group show, how work can be enhanced or diminished in contrast to the other works. With some works the strengths or weaknesses can be attributed to size, execution, theme, or just to the power of the work. The curator’s job is to establish an optimal exhibition layout. It’s all in the details, as the saying goes, and with group shows, a major detail is the actual installation—the install can make or break a show even if the work is good.
Do you represent emerging or established artists, or both?
More often mid-career artists. My focus has been mainly solo shows for artists who have not had a solo show in New York City yet or who had been shown mainly only in group shows.
What is the cost range of works for sale?
As a curator, what do you want to convey about your gallery, to other artists and art enthusiasts?
When people visit Station Independent Projects we’d like them to feel welcome and at ease and have an enriching visual and intellectual viewing experience. And Station Independent Projects fully supports its artists and independent curators. Some galleries in New York charge a fee for an exhibition and all the cost associated with a show or for public relations work, while Station Independent Projects operates on the old gallery model of fully-funded shows with gallery support.
Station Independents Projects Gallery is located at 138 Eldridge Street, Suite 2F, New York, NY 10002. Visit their site here.
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