Rod Malin

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"Comfort Zone," curated by Baltimore-based artist Lou Joseph at Guest Spot. (Image courtesy of Cara Ober, writing for bmoreart.com)

Rod Malin’s Baltimore gallery-cum-residence Guest Spot may double as his home, but his effort is anything but casual. The home setting has both been a premise for himself and Baltimore-based curators, making shows that relate to dwellings and architecture. One could also see it as a challenge to artists: a way of seeing whether your work holds up outside the gallery framework. Malin, a relative newcomer to Baltimore, is also someone who’s pushing an awareness of art from the tristate area with both a broad geographical scope of artists and bringing in outsiders for talks. An upcoming panel, for example, takes ”New York centrality and the practice” as its starting point.

And if the Guest Spot blog makes one thing clear, Malin’s engaged. He tells us about other gallery-residencies, and  how spaces like these give us another opportunity to step back.

Would you mind talking a little bit about your background? Are you from Baltimore?

I moved to Baltimore just over two years ago with the mindset of eventually returning to New York City. I attended SUNY Purchase to pursue a BFA. I maintained a low profile while living in New York since I was moving towards a more anthropological art practice. I approached my experience working at Marian Goodman Gallery as an interdisciplinary apprenticeship while managing an art practice that formed the basis of my self-accredited PhD.

How’d the idea for Guest Spot come about?

While visiting Chicago, I made a pilgrimage to suburban Oak Park, location of Frank Lloyd Wright’s original home studio, to seek a concentration of home-based spaces. These included “The Suburban,” founded by Michelle Grabner & Brad Killam, a gallery disguised as a garage. Their program practiced a non-curation approach by giving artists control to establish their individual criteria. Right down the block, there was “He Said, She Said”, a space created by Pamela Fraser and Randall Szott in their home to present a dualistic program. Each exhibition contributed to an ongoing dialogue about the cohabitants’ conflicting vision for the space. The disjointed views stemmed from whether it should be seen as an art gallery or merely as a place to share the activities of people who work in different contexts. These places were among several other examples of inspiration.

Guest Spot originated from a dialogue about the collaborative connection between artist and curator. From the beginning, we invited out-of-town artists to stay with us while installing for exhibitions, hence the name Guest Spot.

What’s the purpose of showing art in a home? How does your programming explore that?

Although there is an historical connection between art and the domestic sphere, I think a re-examination of the functionality of domestic space inspires a much needed dialogue. There has been a resurgent interest in the benefits of the home practice, especially with the social and economic problems that we are currently facing. I think culturally we have emphasized the professional and institutional commerce aspects of the artist practice such that we have forgotten the ability of the individual.  The infrastructure within which we plan our programming creates various logistical and spatial challenges, but also gives us the opportunity to self-examine.

How did the neighbors respond when they found out you were opening an art space? Do people walk in off the street? 

We spent the first year and half in Fells Point, an historical neighborhood where the homes were built in the 1800′s. Fleet Street is a major thoroughfare where it is common for a single building to serve a mix of commercial and residential uses. On the same street, there was a bar, a funeral home, an antique shop, and a hardware store, all with living quarters upstairs. However, most people that encountered Guest Spot off-the-street thought it was strange to share one’s home with an art gallery.  This may suggest a general disconnect with contemporary art as something that is a part of daily life; it’s somewhat ironic that there was a greater comprehension of places where living space was shared with a very different type of guest (as in the home-based funeral parlor).

The space is self-described as a progressive curatorial framework. What do you mean by that? What are some things you’d like to bring that you don’t see happening elsewhere?

My approach to curating is not dependent on audience or sales, but rather to focus on exhibiting work that parallels aspects of my own interests and curatorial curiosities. Making no distinction between artist and curator, I have approached Guest Spot not as a static authority but rather as an iterative process.

Would you say this is more of a curatorial endeavor than a gallery one?

Yes, I agree. I see Guest Spot as more an anthropological study of the relationship between the artist practice and curatorial practice in general.

You also have a focus on bringing in a national scope of artists. Why is that important? 

I wanted the conversation to move beyond the constraints of real estate and form interconnections between the artists being exhibited. I also wanted to know more about how art is facilitated and what sorts of challenges are being faced in other regions.

What show are you most proud of?

Each show brings a unique learning experience. It’s been really hard to separate each individually when I have been looking at the process as a continuous, integrated whole.

 

What’s the best thing you’ve seen in Baltimore in the last 12 months? 

A consistently good experience in Baltimore for me is the ability to see a self-motivating community. This is very present in the independent artist-run scene in Baltimore, where programming and exhibitions function at a very high level on very little means.

 

What’s coming up?

Our new location has opened up new initiatives. We have established the  groundwork and educational programing for THE REINSTITUTE: A School for Innovation and Self-Accreditation for the Arts and Sciences.  In conjunction with Guest Spot’s next opening (Same Same but Different, April 13, 2013 through May 25, 2013) there will be a panel discussion on New York Centrality and the artist practice.