I always envied artists that had multi-year projects, whereas my own work was always one-off pieces. Proxy is my multi-year work.
Proxy opened on January 13, 2013. It is a one cubic foot box, open in front, usually placed on the wall at face level. It has hosted 82 exhibitions so far, mostly one-person shows, with a few group shows and 2-person collaborations. In a couple of cases the gallery is left empty, and what is being displayed is the gallery itself. I am the sole owner and director, and Proxy is part of my art production.
For many years, the gallery was on the wall outside my office at Otis College and had a given internal audience. After covid and my retirement it has successfully moved online only, and in the future, it may move to different public spaces. Proxy is also a traveling gallery and has hosted shows in Los Angeles, Paris and Athens.
I do not look for miniature work. In fact, because the gallery is a framework, it has hosted work outside the box (literally). It can also, for example, sponsor a publication or a performance.
The Proxy website functions though digital photos of the shows, and in that sense, there is a necessary frontality of the photo. The photograph sometimes confounds scale and size, presenting the box as if it is a room.
Proxy successfully addressed a number of problems for me:
Proxy challenges the supplicant relationship that so many of us have with galleries: we hope they will like our work and “give” us a show. In this sense I have been very influenced by the younger generation of students I have taught over the years. I have admired the way they take things into their hands and organize ways to show and promote their work doing away with the conventional “studio visit.” There is a lot of desire solidified around a gallery show.
2. It functions as an antidote to teaching. As a professor I do not “like” or “dislike” the work of students. But as a gallerist, I can finally get in touch with what I really like. I look for work that inspires me to write. (writing: I take pride in never asking artists to write their own press releases. I see my press releases as a way to get a discursive ball rolling—something particularly important for artists for whom this is their first written commentary.)
3. The Proxy Gallery works as a conceptual framework. So, even though it is no secret that it is small, that fact is not foregrounded. The gallery allows me a platform from which I can produce discourse. This is the reason that it is called a GALLERY, not a project space, a space, an experiment, or anything like that. As a gallery it follows all the conventions of a gallery: It has a website, press releases, opening or closing receptions, even some newspaper reviews, printed business cards and the occasional curatorial intern.
Do you accept proposals?
-Yes. Email. firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have external funding?
-No. So far, the expenses are minimal. I do not pay rent, and have no employees, so I have been able to cover expenses myself. My own labor is not paid-since I consider it my artwork.
The website proxygallery.com costs about $130 per year.
I do occasionally pay someone for advanced digital help.
Proxy gallery boxes are about $30 at IKEA and I have bought several over the years.
In case shipping is involved, I pay about $60-80 round trip.
Opening receptions cost me $30.
I don’t pay tax on the gallery.
I don’t have insurance.
Why don’t you make it a non-profit?
I don’t want to. I enjoy the lack of bureaucracy.
Do you ever sell the work?
Yes, I do and have. I do not take a percentage, but simply get the buyer in touch with the artist.
Do you ever reject proposals?
Yes, I do and I have.
How do you find the artists?
Some I know personally, some apply, and some are recommended by artists I know. Or I see their work in a museum and get in touch with them.
Do you have any complaints?
Yes! Artists who never come to pick up their work after their show.
But what about your OWN work?
This IS (part of) my own work.
So is this public practice or social practice?
You should make a book.
I have made 5. They are on Blurb.com. And I don’t like sentences that start with “you should.”
What is your favorite part of having a gallery?
Seeing work I enjoy and writing press releases,
Proxy deals conceptually and humorously with the prestige of a one-person show in big cities, the need to have a good resume, etc., however, it is not a joke. I treat it very seriously and ask the same of artists. Humor requires great seriousness.