Location: 1870 Murphy Avenue SW, #211, Atlanta
Hours: Open by appointment and during show openings
Founded and Operated by: Craig Drennen
Opened: January 2019
Most Recent Exhibitions: Kevin Peart: Unspecified Unit, Leia Genis: Life In An Absent Moment, Jennifer Dudley: Untitled, Evie Saleh: Duck Cabin, V. Cayse Cheatham: V. Cayse Cheatham
Burnaway: THE END operates under a simple premise and motto for its curatorial mission. Can you talk about how you developed that mission and what holes within the Atlanta art community you were aiming to fill when you began the project space?
Craig Drennen: I wanted a place where artists could make their strongest work exactly the way they want to make it, with an emphasis on giving people their first solo shows in the city. The youngest artist thus far was twenty-four years old and the oldest was sixty-two. I knew there were many artists making strong work that was being ignored, so I wanted to make a simple, durable space where anything could happen. I was in Brooklyn in the 1990’s and I remember great shows at artist-run spaces like Four Walls, Momenta, Pierogi, E.i.E., and Sauce. THE END takes no commission, and the artist can provide as much information about their show as they want. Some have given full artist statements with a biography and a complete list of works. Others have opted to give no information beyond the show’s title, which is also fine. It’s an artist-driven space with a simple motto: “No commission. No insurance. No regret.”
BA: When asked by Atlanta Contemporary to curate a small group show there, how did you approach the opportunity? What did bringing the project space atmosphere into an institution like ACAC look like?
CD: The Atlanta Contemporary had been spotlighting artist-run spaces for some time, so I was happy when they invited THE END to show. The exhibition was called “THE END IS NEAR” and it included artists from the first two years of the exhibition schedule. I let the artists do what they naturally do, and that automatically brought in the feeling of a DIY project space. The exhibition included a teleprompter, cast resin tires, a drawing performance, and a coagulating chemical tank, among other works. The exhibition opened on March 12, 2020, and the Atlanta Contemporary closed the very next day due to the pandemic. The end really was near.
BA: How do you balance operating a non-profit exhibition space within your personal studio and how has it affected or influenced your own studio practice?
CD: I always wanted to open some type of DIY space but couldn’t do it until the beginning of 2019. I think it’s important to be totally present for another artist’s work. I walk past THE END to get to my own studio every day, and it makes happy to see work there that I really like. It’s been a totally positive experience.
BA: While most project spaces focus on group shows, the solo-show-only mission seems to provide artists with an opportunity to take greater risks in presenting their new work. What installations have you been most surprised by in the last two and a half years while running THE END?
CD: The solo exhibition component seemed important. There are enough big, sprawling group exhibitions already. What seemed more useful was giving artists the chance for a focused solo presentation of their work. So far, the most ambitious transformations of the space have been by young women artists. Marissa Graziano built an entirely separate exhibition room with peep holes within the gallery. Emily Tomlinson did a durational drawing performance where she covered the walls, floor, and ceiling with graphite. Evie Saleh built the interior of an upside-down simulated cabin complete with storm and lightning effects. You can’t make works at that level of ambition when you’re in a large group show. It needs to be free reign in a solo exhibition.
Disclaimer: Craig Drennen is a member of Burnaway’s board. Editorial decisions on coverage and consideration are made completely independently of advertising or board relationships.