We caught up with Mary Garis, one of the gallery's owners, on the exciting move to L.A.:
What prompted the move to Los Angeles?
Sophie (Hahn) and I have long had our eyes on what is going on art-wise in LA. I think the perception of the city as a one industry town has really shifted in recent years- people are acknowledging the city’s significant creative contributions outside of film, from tech to fashion to art. This expansion has also bolstered the cultural value and interest within the community, and LA, which has always had very talented artists and strong institutions, is finally getting its due credit as a true center to rival other major art cities like New York. This tipping point was what sold us in the end- we really felt the timing was right to be active contributors to the LA art scene. The most difficult part of this decision was leaving New York and the closing of our space on Bowery, but we felt that if we were going to open in LA we could only dedicate ourselves to one place. While we acknowledge LA is going to be a big change from NY, it is a change we welcome.
What do you hope to bring to the LA contemporary art scene? What if anything is missing? What do you like about it?
There is certainly no shortage of new galleries in the LA contemporary art scene. As traditional gallery models go we have always been distinct in that we are a commercial gallery operating almost like a project space. Our program is a fluid combination of curated group shows and solo project exhibitions, and we enjoy working with a variety of curators and artists to keep our conversations relevant to contemporary issues and trends. LA has many fantastic commercial galleries and spaces and also some really ambitious and important artist-run spaces. I think our gallery bridges that gap in an interesting way.
Why did you choose Samuel Stabler as the artist to showcase at your opening? We have been working with Samuel Stabler since 2013, and he has continued to impress us as his work evolves over the years. He is an incredibly talented draughtsman and this precision in his work comes through in a really remarkable way. There is a unique quality about his cut out works that is simultaneously minimalist and complex at the same time- he has done very well in New York, and I think his work will land well in LA too. What was it about Stabler’s cutout process that stood out to you?
Stabler’s cut outs have evolved in the time we have known him. They started as stunning white monochromes, and then he had the idea to frame these works on paper between two layers of glass- which created a brilliant shadow on the wall behind the frame, expanding the work’s dimensionality beyond the work itself. The subtle addition of color to the verso of the work further developed that glow and reach of the work, and the newest work in our exhibition goes further- juxtaposing the different cut outs with one another in a series of diptychs and triptychs. This will be our first time showing solely the artist’s cut out works, and the interplay between all of the works within a single room is sure to be quite remarkable.
How does Stabler embody what Garis & Hahn represent?
Last year Stabler moved his studio from Brooklyn to his hometown of Athens, Georgia, and the work he has created in that time has continued to impress. He is a relevant example that outstanding work is constantly being created outside of traditional ‘art centers’, and this is a notion that Sophie and I both very much stand for, as we are both outsiders to New York and the art world- having grown up in Australia and Oklahoma respectively. We are very proud of the range of artists with whom we work. What are the criteria for an artist to be featured in a Garis & Hahn exhibit?
There’s no specific criteria- we have exhibited artists working in basically all media and from all career stages, though the majority of our artists are mid-career and emerging. The primary focus of our gallery is curation, and the many talented curators with whom we work have brought many talented thinkers and artists into our purview. Sophie and I differ slightly in the artists we gravitate towards, so when we agree on an artist that’s usually a good indication for us to go forward and pursue working with them.
What can we expect from the new space itself? How will it differ from the NY space?
The options in Los Angeles are much broader than in New York, because we are far less confined, space-wise. Geographically, the art landscape is even more diverse than New York. Our space on Bowery was perfect for us, because we were a new gallery in a very new and developing area. We are leaving that space now with many new galleries in the immediate vicinity and a newly located institution, the International Center for Photography, which coupled with the New Museum is going to add profoundly to the weight of the neighborhood within New York’s contemporary art scene. We liked being a part of this ambitious revitalization of the area, so we may look for that in LA as well.
With this new space how do you plan to engage the art community and attract a broader audience to the gallery?
One of the benefits of working with outside curators and constantly rotating is artists is the opportunity to meet and bring so many people into the space. With that advantage, we aim to entertain and educate this audience while we have them- by mounting thought-provoking exhibitions and complementary programming such as artist-led tours and talks, we hope to engage and interact as much as possible.
What is the feeling and experience you want someone to have when they come and see one of your exhibits?
Above all we just want people to come, spend a few minutes, and look. So much of the art world elicits this persona of exclusivity and intimidation, which could usually not be further from the true nature of the art on display. We do want people to feel welcome to look and experience- and to hopefully find something that makes them pause and think.