In 2010, Stephen Truax described Regina Rex as a “cold curatorial knife” to Bushwick’s “lovey-dovey house party.” I can’t speak to the nature of Philadelphia’s art scene, but the phrase “curatorial knife” seems a good fit for Fjord. The collective of four artists – Lindsay Chandler, A. J. Rombach, Sean FitzGerald, and Liam Holding– have established a curatorial intensity, with text that reads like parables, and titles like “Considering the Provisional” or “Bleach Blue.” Since opening their studio/gallery building a year ago in Philly’s low-rent neighborhood Kensington, the group of artists (and friends of mine) have objectively been on a roll, with shows that always offer revealing relationships. They also make a point of showing emerging Philadelphia artists next to influential outsiders like Lorna Mills, Angela Dufresne, and Katie Bell. The names might not inherently improve a show, but their presence is undoubtedly good for young artists. We talk about that with co-founders Lindsay and Sean, below.
You guys show a lot of emerging artists and Fjord founders, but you tend to mix in a handful of people who show regularly in New York. Is it important to you to mix it up? Or are these just people whose work you happen to know and like?
We personally know very few of the artists that we’ve shown at Fjord until we contact them for the first time to ask them if they’d like to be part of one of our shows. Luckily, people so far have been graciously saying yes, which really surprised us at first. We like to mix together “established” or mid-career artists with artists that no one has ever heard of because, frankly, we think it makes for interesting shows and new dialogs. It’s a good reminder that we’re all working as part of a much bigger picture and when all is said and done, we’re much more interested in the quality of the work than we are with trend or market.
When you came to Philly, why did you see the need to start a gallery on your own? It may seem obvious now, but were you always planning on having your own space? Were you responding to anything you wanted to change, for yourselves, or for the community?
I don’t think that any of us were ever planning on starting a space of our own before moving to Philadelphia. It wasn’t until living here for about a year or so that we started to consider it. Living in Philly really facilitates this sort of DIY attitude, since it lacks a lot of resources and institutions that people living in other cities may take for granted.
But I think that it is also important to mention that Fjord is more than just a gallery; it’s also a group of artists sharing studio space, ideas and most importantly, support. It’s difficult to make work after school, and having a community of like-minded friends can be rather crucial. It’s not something you’re just going to bump into; it’s something you have to build from the ground up. So in a way, it’s a tight community that we’re fostering not only inside Fjord but in Philly and in the art community as a whole.
Did you have any major influences going into this? Older artists, or galleries?
Artist-run spaces aren’t really a new idea or phenomenon, despite the fact that they’re currently the focus of a good deal of media attention right now. So our inspiration for the space really came from everyone that’s done something similar before us. Few of these places ever make it into history books, but, the history is there if you look hard enough.
As recent art school grads, what are some pros and cons to living in Philly? How is it breaking into the community, what are some of the practical challenges of running a new gallery like this?
Being an artist in Philly is great for so many reasons. It’s possible here to have a part time job and a decent sized studio. Finding another city that offers that as well as a community of artists is really tough. A lot of the artists here in Philly are insanely talented, smart and ambitious; and it seems to be growing every single day. But, as will be true in any city, running a gallery, having a studio practice and a full-time job presents obvious difficulties. I think the best advice I could give to soon-to-graduate art students is to really have your priorities straight. The internet has collapsed any sort of geographic boundaries in a really profound way. It’s now entirely possible to be a working artist not struggling to live and work in NY.
What’s in store for the future?
Air conditioning ?