With galleries struggling to make it New York, some artists have begun taking matters into their own hands, opening project spaces in the city’s outer boroughs. One recent example is Shimizu Brand, a gallery in Queens’s Long Island City that’s overseen by artists Trevor Shimizu and Josh Brand. Another is Chen’s, a gallery opening tomorrow in Brooklyn run by artist Alex Ito and curator Howie Chen. (Where in Brooklyn the space exists is something of an open secret. In an event listing on Facebook, its founders write, “We do not make our address public,” though curious users can message Ito on Facebook for an exact location.)
“Chen’s started with the idea of making shows that we want to see,” Chen and Ito told ARTnews in an email. “It’s a distillation of a space to its key elements: place, work, context, and people in real terms and no games. The only imperative is to do a good job and be accountable to the ideas, artists, and works we are showing. It’s going to be an occasional gallery, which means we will put on exhibitions and programs when it’s good and ready or not at all.”
The first exhibition planned for Chen’s is a group show titled “There Is Nothing to Divide Us If We Do Not Exist,” after a book by Sara Knox Hunter, whose work will be included in the show. Loosely structured around the concept of artists making works that aren’t tethered to a single gallery space, the show also includes contributions from Badlands Unlimited, CFGNY, Gidra, Renée Green, and Guadalupe Rosales. Future outings will include a two-person exhibition by Ying Liu and C. Spencer Yeh, as well as performances, screenings, and other events.
For Ito and Chen, the point of the gallery is to focus on artists whose work has “urgencies” and who are in some way engaged with their communities. “These urgencies can be aesthetic, political, libidinal, existential, or indescribable,” Chen and Ito said. “Things might come from different disciplines, geographies, generations, and subjectivities—we want to bring sensibilities together.