NEW YORK — On Sunday afternoon, in Manhattan’s bustling Chinatown, designer and curator Prem Krishnamurthy ’99 opened the doors to his latest project, a new gallery called P!.
The Broome Street gallery was launching its first show, “Process 01: Joy,” an exhibition that displays the works of artists Chauncey Hare, Christine Hill and Karel Martens. Krishnamurthy worked with New York-based architecture firm Leong Leong Architecture to design an exhibition space, ultimately named P!, that would enable him to experiment with different ways of presenting art and emphasize how presentation mediates the reception of art.
Krishnamurthy, who co-founded the design studio Project Projects in 2004, said he is particularly interested in public art and design works, having noticed a lack of a connection between private gallery art and the surrounding community.
“Most art galleries try to speak to a very narrow public,” he noted.
Krishnamurthy said he sought for the first exhibition at P! to “engage the neighborhood,” adding that it was no mistake that the exhibition descriptions are printed in English and Chinese.
Chris Leong, a partner at Leong Leong Architecture, said he hopes architects can to “play a larger role in public discourse.” In designing P!, Leong said the firm aimed to expand the relatively small space that they worked with to maximize its potential. In some projects, for instance, Leong has used reflection techniques that employ mirrors to increase the viewer’s perception of a room.
Christine Hill, one of the artists featured in the show, is known for the performative, revenue-generating nature of her works: the Brooklyn- and Berlin-based artist once devised a tour guide program for which she charged viewers $12 each.
For this exhibition, Hill created a “remote office” within the exhibition space, Krishnamurthy said, the operations of which engage local establishments. He pointed out a sign for “Henry’s Bookbinding” in the window of P! — Hill had taken a sign produced by the local business on Henry Street and created a new design for it. Krishnamurthy addedthat Henry’s Bookbinding was pleased with the design and offered to let the exhibition space keep the sign.
Hill’s works are simultaneously displayed as art and used to serve a purpose outside of the aesthetic realm, a characteristic that sets them apart from other exhibition art today, Krishnamurthy said.
Aside from exposing viewers to new, unique art forms, Krishnamurthy said, another major objective of the exhibition was to focus the audience’s attention toward the materials from which art is created and how those materials are treated with meticulous care by the artists. Krishnamurthy called this concept the “love of the making of things.”
The exhibition also featured the photographs of Chauncey Hare, who was once a successful engineer at Standard Oil Company of California but became renowned for his photographs of working-class Americans whom he perceived as increasingly oppressed by large corporations. Hare declined an interview — the photographer frequently refuses interviews with journalists regarding his art, Krishnamurthy said.
The works by Hare included several copies of his books as well as one black-and-white photograph that covered an entire wall of the gallery,
Hare’s books of photographs such as “Interior America” and “Protest Photographs” are available for purchase, but a considerable portion of his works remains unseen due to his insistence that they must never be displayed or sold.
Krishnamurthy said he remembers his first encounter with Hare’s work during his time at Yale, noting that these works “have haunted me ever since.”
He emphasized Hare’s extreme attention to detail in his work, describing Hare’s care toward his photos as “obsessive.”
Karel Martens, a graphic designer who now lectures at the Yale School of Art, showed that same level of devotion to detail in his prints. Martens said his prints all begin with a small idea, which he then develops gradually step by step, reacting to each new step as he goes along. He said that when he initially blends colors together to form a shade of black, he refines the mixture repeatedly in order to achieve the exact shade he desires.
“I try to surprise myself,” he adds. The gallery will feature a new set of three artists for each of its future shows.