SculptureCenter, the venturesome kunsthalle in Long Island City, Queens, has tapped Sohrab Mohebbi, the associate curator of REDCAT in Los Angeles, to be its new curator. He is taking the place of Ruba Katrib, who moved to MoMA PS1 to be curator last year, and is set to start in April.
Reached by phone in L.A. today and asked about his new job, Mohebbi said that “SculptureCenter, for me, had a very immediate resonance” because, in 2009, when he was attending the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in upstate New York, he went to the venue “and saw Mike Kelley and Michael Smith’s show, and I was really blown away. I said, ‘Art can be this, art can do this.’ “
Mohebbi, who is 37, said that he has long admired the experimental nature of the programming at SculptureCenter, and emphasized that it is an organization that allows artists “to take on projects that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to realize.”
“I also really like the idea of having a mandate, looking at art through the lens of sculpture,” he added. “We’re experiencing this moment of complete dematerialization. Everything is going to the cloud. So it’s interesting to have an encounter with an object.”
At REDCAT, Mohebbi organized a number of critically lauded shows, including solo outings by Dave Hullfish Bailey, John Knight, and Falke Pisano, and “Hotel Theory,” a multidisciplinary affair he curated in partnership with Ruth Estevez that included Jackson Pollock Bar, Wayne Koestenbaum, Chris Kraus, David Levine, and Ian Wilson, among many others. It took home the 2013 Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award.
“It was a very experimental approach to an exhibition looking at theory and performing theory as a mode of art-making,” Mary Ceruti, the director of SculptureCenter, said of “Hotel Theory.” “I think that contemporary art’s relationship with theory has been burdened for so long, and the possibility that you could revisit that conversation with a fresh eye is remarkable.”
Discussing her new hire, Ceruti noted that Mohebbi has worked internationally and “originally trained as an artist, so I think he brings a lot of creativity to the way he thinks about work.” She also noted that he is “very open and not doctrinaire in the way he’s thinking about things, which I think is a good match in that ScupltureCenter is a very independent institution.”
Prior to joining REDCAT, where he has been for more than four years, Mohebbi was a curatorial assistant at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, worked for the Los Angeles Poverty Department theater group, and received a grant from the Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program.
The new position at SculptureCenter marks something of a homecoming for Mohebbi, since his first curatorial job was as a fellow at the Queens Museum in 2010. While he was there, Tom Finkelpearl was the director, and he said that he recalls Finkelpearl saying, “Manhattan is the past, Brooklyn is the present—but Queens is the future.”