Solomon Projects, Leaving the White Cube Behind

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Nancy Floyd, Taylor Beard Practicing with Anshutz 1913 Rifle, 2009, chromogenic print, 25 x 18.5 inches. Image courtesy Solomon Projects.

This is the way Nancy Solomon’s gallery ends, not with a whimper but a bang.

The F Word at Hunter Museum

On September 16, 2011, Nancy Solomon inaugurated the beginning of her new role as director of the reinvented Solomon Projects by firing rounds from a .22 Beretta. She was at the Quickshot Shooting Range with a group of arts enthusiasts who quickly found themselves anything but gun-shy. Between examining photographs, everyone was taking turns with firearms ranging from pistols to AK-47s.

They were gathered for the opening of Solomon Project’s first offsite art event Competition Shooters, a photography exhibit by artist Nancy Floyd as part of her ongoing series about women competing to represent the USA in the shooting sports at the Olympic Games. The event marked the countdown to the end of Solomon Projects the gallery, which will close its doors next month, and its rebirth as an art advisory and private dealer enterprise without a fixed location.

I interviewed Nancy Solomon at the gallery the day after her penultimate gallery opening for an exhibition by Lonnie Holley. The Holley show was atypical because of how quickly it was organized. Gallery programming usually begins two years in advance. Lonnie Holley’s show was planned in a month.

Mike Wsol, Public Forum, 2006, MDF, steel, and plywood, 6 x 14 x 8 feet. Image courtesy solomonprojects.com.

She called it a pop-up show, as spontaneous event she was able to produce as her gallery winds to a close. She talked of her final show, Limited Vision by Mike Wsol, which opened last week and runs through November 26, as her “swan song.”

The F Word at Hunter Museum

Solomon Projects was founded as a gallery in 1994 and rose to prominence for its commitment to new and experimental contemporary art. Solomon Projects exhibited both national and local artists such as David Humphrey, a Rome Prize recipient, and Radcliffe Bailey, who recently had a major exhibition at the High Museum. Solomon was awarded a Georgia Women in the Arts Award in 1998.

It seems curious that such an established and well-regarded gallerist like Nancy Solomon would bow out of the gallery-scene, leading one to wonder if the move was prompted by the current economic climate or some other event. When asked, Solomon’s response was light-hearted and immediate. “I want to get out of the white cube and experience how other people interact with art.”

She described her time with the gallery as naturally progressing towards a new phase: “The gallery is kind of my baby. I’ve been here eighteen years, and now it’s grown-up. It’s time for it to go off to college and for me to shift gears and look at new ways of thinking about contemporary art.”

The show at Quickshot was as different as can be from the typical white-cube gallery. Solomon described the event as “fun, and it made [her] feel like I’m on the right track.”

I asked Solomon if there was a catalyst or a particular moment that moved her towards this change.  She said there wasn’t a single event or date to connect to the shift, but described it a feeling that grew over time out of her work.

“[Each time I created a show I would ask] is this show meeting my goals and expectations?” she said. “I’ve been doing six shows a year for 18 years. Every time you think about it, you think about it differently. Before I thought about leaving the gallery, I was thinking, am I reaching the audience, getting the art in front of the people I want to see it?”

“Working as a gallery owner and dealer is very challenging,” she continued. “It’s definitely never been boring. It’s just time for a change. I want to focus on a new way of thinking about art.”

Nancy Floyd, Amanda Furrer with Anshutz 1913 Rifle, 2009, chromogenic print, 25 x 16.5 inches. Image courtesy Solomon Projects.

When talking about temporary art in Atlanta, Flux Projects is always part of the conversation. Especially after having attending FLUX 2011 the weekend before (click here for BURNAWAY’s review), I had to ask if groups like Flux Projects had any influence on Solomon’s career shift. Her response was that specific groups like Flux hadn’t influenced her, but that it was more of a “collective consciousness.”

“I don’t think [temporary art] is a trend as much as it’s a way to entertain,” she said. “There’s competition in how contemporary art fits into the consciousness and basic scheduling of people today.”

“The internet is the competition,” Solomon stated, identifying a separate but related trend. “We’ve had [Savannah College of Art and Design] interns for years, and they’ll often say they don’t feel the need to go to the event, that they can get what they need from the computer. They’re definitely missing out on scale, and the color is never the same. But the internet has taken off, and there’s no way to go back.”

“So how do we bring people to the art?” she continued. “In the case of a gallery, we’re stationary and people have to come to see it. Now [with Solomon Projects] we’re putting art where people are. That’s a simplistic way of putting it, but we are trying to be more mobile, less static.”

“People always ask if I’m leaving,” she added as a closing remark, “and I’m not going anywhere. I’m just changing. I’m not tired of the art. It’s a labor of love.”

Solomon’s next project is a book of photographs by Sarah Hobbs with publisher Charta Books, Ltd., to be published in 2012.