The Lower East Side’s Bodega gallery, which moved to New York from Philadelphia last year, is opening a new project space this week called Princess. But while most galleries situate their project spaces in a back room or perhaps over in an up-and-coming neighborhood, Princess’s location is a bit more peculiar.
Because the exhibition space is only accessible through a window, Bodega has chosen to keep the exact location of their new space under wraps. (More on how to see the shows in a moment.) The gallery’s directors, Elyse Derosia and Eric Veit, did say via Gchat that they “noticed how beautiful the courtyard was—all cement with diffuse light and always empty,” and added that they saw this vacant space as an opportunity for a different kind of curatorial project. “We’re always interested in how the boundaries of an exhibition space define the art that’s shown in it,” they said.
Since people can’t really experience the art in person so easily—“It’s kind of awkward to get out there so we knew we couldn’t have openings,” Derosia told me when I paid the gallery a visit earlier this week—the two decided to make the project entirely photo and documentation based, accessible only online.
“The announcement for the show comes out with the documentation of the show,” they said. “The two moments are compressed into one event and archived on the website.” In one sense the shows will be super temporal because they will only be installed for as long as it takes to get the photo documentation, a few hours at the most, but in another sense they are atemporal because the shows actually are the photos which will be archived indefinitely.
The co-owners are planning exhibitions that make use of the given architectural details. “The architecture is interesting because it’s not a planned space—it’s the negative, unused space within a city block,” they said.
I asked how they are planning to curate the space. “Sometimes galleries use their project spaces as a testing ground for artists they are developing a new working relationship with in the main gallery, but we aren’t thinking of Princess in this way,” they said. “It’s a totally separate project. Our idea at the moment is that it’s a space primarily for solo projects and artists who we think will value the constraints given and will navigate them in an interesting way.”
Part of their idea is to design the space to be ultra efficient. “A lot of the work galleries do is logistical, so we were really interested in designing a space that could boil down components of a show to essentials: art and distribution,” they said.
Princess will serve as a new alternative on an exhibition continuum that includes apartment galleries, small project spaces, Lower East Side galleries, Chelsea blue-chip galleries, and so forth. “It’s really important for artists to have a variety of contexts to show work,” the Bodega owners said.
The first show at Princess was made by Joel Dean. “Joel was actually really integral to us conceiving of Princess,” they said. “A lot of the ideas for how to shape the space came out of conversations we had with him.” Some of the other artists they have invited are Carson Fisk-Vittori, Carlos Reyes, Puppies Puppies, Lulou Margarine, and Violet Dennison.
“We have no intentions to be secretive about the fact that we organize the space, but there is no explicit relationship between the two [spaces],” they said. “Princess is her own.”