2021 Projects in Memphis, Tennessee

By February 26, 2021
Installation image of AtTEST at 2021 Projects. Image courtesy of 2021 Projects.

Location: 55 South Main St. Memphis, TN 38103

On view at ICA VCU: Dineo Seshee Bopape
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Hours: Open Tuesday to Friday 11am – 5pm, Saturday 11am – 3pm and Monday by appointment

Website: 2021projects.com

Founded by: Nelson Gutierrez

Operated by: Nelson Gutierrez in collaboration with Carl Moore

New Orleans Film Festival: November 5-21
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Opened: January 2021

Most Recent Exhibitions: Nick and Cat Peña: AtTEST, January 15 – February 12, 2021; Andrea Morales and Khara Woods: Memorandum, February 23 – March 19, 2021

Burnaway: Artist-run spaces have received a lot of attention lately and are taken more seriously by artists, gallerists, and collectors. How have you seen that reflected in Tennessee in general? What are your expectations in running a new pop-up project in the Memphis area?

Nelson Gutierrez: To my knowledge, 2021 Projects is the only artist-run, contemporary art space currently operating in Memphis. This initiative takes full advantage of a professional artist community that includes a significant number of art graduates from Rhodes College, University of Memphis, Christian Brothers University, and the Memphis College of Art as well as an increasing number of professional artists that are moving into the area. Since announcing 2021 Projects, we were overwhelmed with interest both by artists and the public. In that sense, 2021 Projects has already exceeded my expectations.

In addition to 2021 Projects, artist-run spaces currently operating in Tennessee’s major cities include Tri-Star Art’s Candoro Mable Building and Bad Water in Knoxville, Stoveworks in Chattanooga, and Coop Gallery and Mild Climate in Nashville. I’m proud to add 2021 Projects to this roster of artist-run initiatives strengthening the contemporary art scene in Tennessee.

BA: 2021 Projects aims to run four exhibitions between January and June of this year. What are your thoughts behind running an intentional yet short term project space?

NG: 2021 Projects is maximizing a special opportunity to operate in a commercial space located in downtown Memphis. We were able to do so as part of the Open on Main initiative spearheaded by the Downtown Memphis Commission. Our current exhibition space also became available at an interesting juncture: it coincided with an ease in pandemic restrictions including the lifting of the safer at home orders in Memphis. This in turn marked an opportunity to engage and motivate a select group of visual artists to create new work after a prolonged hiatus. Our hope is that in the next six months, 2021 Projects can support our art ecosystem as it regains momentum and begins to rebuild and develop.

Andrea Morales, Horizon, 2017; digital print, 24 x 36 inches. Image courtesy of 2021 Projects.

BA: In light of the ongoing pandemic, what did you learn in the past year about the art world’s malleability? What ideas around online exhibitions, virtual artist talks, and expanded platforms for art viewing are you channeling into 2021 Projects?

NG: I think the art world at large has proven their ability to leverage online solutions to help the sector remain viable. When 2021 Projects was being conceptualized, I knew I could not solely rely on the physical exhibition space to promote the artists’ work. So we created a robust programming schedule that leveraged different forms of interaction with the artists and their works. Virtual activities include live Zoom opening/artist talk for each show; video interviews with Brooklyn based artist and art critic, Julian Kreimer and all the artists; video and photographic documentation of the works shared on different social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook; and, a website where you can access all this material as well as background information on the artists. As a sample, the first interview with Julian Kreimer and artists Cat and Nick Peña is now online.

BA: As artists yourselves, can you reflect on how and why you decided to operate an alternative artist-run space and how has it affected or influenced your own studio practices?

NG: I suppose I could have simply used the locale as a studio to make my own art for a six-month period. But I also saw an opportunity to help provide an outlet for artists to make and showcase their art during a particular difficult time. Being part of a community is an important portion of succeeding in the arts. 2021 Projects has allowed me to help strengthen connections, foster collaboration, and bridge resources. And I enjoy being around fellow artists that never fail to enrich my own artistic process. I am however learning that there is a balancing act when it comes juggling the demands of making art while running an art space.

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