Peacock Interventions

Baltimore, MD | by March 15, 2012

If you were one of the atten­dees at DC’s (e)merge Art Fair this past Sep­tem­ber 2011, you prob­a­bly remem­ber The Free Art Booth set up in the park­ing garage, and maybe you were lucky enough to walk away with a piece.  Maybe you also remem­ber the two jovial guys run­ning the booth, giv­ing you infor­ma­tion about each artist and assur­ing you that, yes, all the work really was FREE.

Sean Naf­tel (Queens, NY) and Chris Atten­bor­ough (Bal­ti­more, MD) are those guys.  They met back in 2008 as grad­u­ate stu­dents at Bur­ren Col­lege of Art in West Clare, Ire­land.  Though Sean came in as a painter and Chris as a pho­tog­ra­pher, the exis­ten­tial cri­sis that so often plagues grad­u­ate stu­dents did not spare either of them, and they bonded over their mutual con­cep­tual con­cerns of under­stand­ing space and place through cul­tural ref­er­ences and com­mu­nity.  Now, some four-​​plus years later, Sean and Chris have con­tin­ued to col­lab­o­rate under the name Pea­cock Inter­ven­tions, orga­niz­ing site spe­cific hap­pen­ings and inter­ven­tions that often cre­ate a con­text for peo­ple to rethink their under­stand­ing of art and its inher­ent value, and to become per­son­ally invested in the expe­ri­ence of cul­tural exchange.

(E)merge was the third incar­na­tion of The Free Art Booth, the first set-​​up occur­ring back in Ire­land while Sean and Chris were still stu­dents.  At this early ver­sion, they real­ized that some­thing tran­scen­dent occurred when peo­ple received an orig­i­nal work of art for free, donated by the artists who were eager to have their work seen and to help reg­u­lar peo­ple to start their art col­lec­tions.  In 2009 they set up the sec­ond incar­na­tion, Free Art Stand, at the SEVEN Art Fair in Miami. They told me that through the three ver­sions, they have exhib­ited and dis­trib­uted hun­dreds of orig­i­nal works of art from at least 15 coun­tries, and that pieces have ended up in the hands of notable pri­vate col­lec­tors as well as in the col­lec­tions of the MOMA and the Women’s Museum in New York City.  Even more impor­tant for Sean and Chris are the rela­tion­ships that result, among the exhibit­ing artists (for Emerge many of the works came to them unso­licited as artist learned about the project through word-​​of-​​mouth) and between the artists and the collectors.

Sean and Chris and painter Erin Treacy (Queens, NY), have also col­lab­o­rated to estab­lish Rov­ing Project, an umbrella orga­ni­za­tion that helps inde­pen­dent cura­tors to orga­nize tem­po­rary exhi­bi­tions of con­tem­po­rary art in slack spaces around the world.  So far Rov­ing Project has been asso­ci­ated with exhi­bi­tions from Eli­cott City, MD to Kansas City, MO to Ire­land, Scot­land, and Italy.  In each instance, whether orga­nized by Sean, Chris and Erin, or any of their inter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tors, they are inter­ested in uti­liz­ing spaces that will ben­e­fit from an infu­sion of cul­tural vital­ity; they pro­mote projects that are multi-​​beneficial, cre­at­ing oppor­tu­nity for artists to gain expo­sure, for com­mu­ni­ties to encounter con­tem­po­rary art, and for aban­doned or under­used spaces to expe­ri­ence new life.

Ply­wood Gallery, in North Baltimore’s Belvedere Square, is the most recent of these projects, and where I met Sean and Chris for our inter­view.  Ply­wood is a joint ven­ture between the guys of Pea­cock and Nel­son Carey, the owner of Grand Cru, a wine bar two doors down from the gallery. Chris pro­posed the idea of a tem­po­rary gallery that could also be used by the wine bar for tast­ings and spe­cial events, and Nel­son was sold. The store­front that Ply­wood now occu­pies had been a jew­elry store that fell casu­alty to the eco­nomic down­turn, so luck­ily it was already set up with gallery qual­ity light­ing and needed only a good clean­ing and a fresh coat of paint to make it a proper exhi­bi­tion space.  At the time of the inter­view, the absur­dist work of Ten­nessee artist, and fel­low Bur­ren Col­lege of Art alum, Hali Matls­berger, was on view.

Maltsberger’s show was the third in the space since its’ open­ing in Octo­ber 2011, pre­ceded by solo shows of work by Ian Umlauf and Jim Lucio.  So far the work exhib­ited at Ply­wood has reflected Sean and Chris’s inter­ests in the de– and re-​​construction of cul­tural asso­ci­a­tions to place, but they are cur­rently restruc­tur­ing their pro­gram so we’ll have to wait and see what comes next.  On the gallery web­site, they claim that Ply­wood will only occupy the space until another ten­ant is found, but my fin­gers are crossed that it will be a while before that hap­pens.  Bal­ti­more needs another exhi­bi­tion venue for smart, rel­e­vant work, espe­cially one so com­mit­ted to com­mu­nity participation.

 

The week before Christ­mas they orga­nized a Hol­i­day bizarre and open call for art from around the area.  Artist Mei Mei Chang of DC (fea­tured by TSV on May 20, 2011) was one of the par­tic­i­pants, along with artists of all career points from through out the region.  They also orga­nized a bon fire that was set up in the Beleveder Square park­ing lot and the guys from the wine bar brought carts to vend bratuwurst, oys­ters, hot cider and wine.

 

To see more work by Pea­cock Inter­ven­tions: http://web.me.com/cjattenborough/PEACOCK/interventions/interventions.html

 

To learn more about Rov­ing Projects: www.rovingproject.com

 

And to learn more about Ply­wood Gallery: www.plywoodsite.org


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