Concept Curator: Adam Welch

December 8, 2015

Concept | Artist Opportunities | , , ,

Concept is a triennial exhibition from the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition that presents an evocative investigation of contemporary artists in Oklahoma, along with a regional artist exchange.

Concept contains two exhibition components. Concept/Focus is a curated group exhibition of new work by 4 Oklahoma artists and 4 artists from a partner city in the region (the 2016 partner city is St. Louis, MO). Concept/Survey is a competitively selected exhibition of artwork in all media, selected by the guest curator from artist submissions. The call for entries for Concept/Survey will open January 15, 2016. Oklahoma visual artists working in all media are eligible to submit.

Curating this round of Concept is Adam Welch, an artist, musician, and curator from Pittsburgh, PA. Since 2008, he has curated over 60 solo exhibits and 13 group shows of prominent regional and national artists. Welch holds an MFA from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a BA from SUNY Stony Brook University.

We recently interviewed Welch in order to learn more about his curatorial practice and his experience with Concept. Learn more about him below.

What started your interest in curating?

Adam Welch: My first hands-on involvement with curating shows formed organically out of my art practice while I was an undergrad. Generating objects or paintings as stand alone pieces began to feel less interesting to me in the larger spectrum of what I wanted from my practice. The feeling was that the works weren’t finished or at least there was something lacking in the process. So I began to search-out alternative spaces for installing the pieces. This relationship of generating work to showing or making work directly in a space began to inform how I made and thought about all the steps of making. Soon after securing a space that was gaining some notoriety, I began to bring in other artists to present their shows and pop-op events.

At the time I didn’t really see it as a step toward curating… showing other artists and working with them to better facilitate their ideas, grouping and editing pieces for display or installing their art was a natural progression from how I was navigating space at the time. These days most of my curatorial projects have some connection to that shift in my approach.

How does your curatorial practice inform your artistic practice? Vice versa?

I think there is reciprocity no matter what hat I am wearing. Through my art practice I have tried to learn a variety of techniques and ways to approach working. Along with my art historical and theoretical training, I feel well-equipped to work with a range of artists and relate to their material/conceptual choices. Likewise, working with so many great artists over the years as a curator, I have been able to intimately see how other artists approach ideas and material in ways I would have never have considered myself.

In some way I think my art practice is a better informant of how I curate than the other way around. The research done and technique honed in my own art projects can be greatly beneficial, if applicable, to an artist I am working with. That said, navigating an artist’s ideas, technical problems and personality can be a heavy burden—and the intensity of that responsibility can definitely intrude on my own work.

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“Reference,” Adam Welch, Styrofoam, glue, audio components, audio loop; 2007-2008

What have been your most rewarding curatorial projects so far?

It would be a toss up between the 2011 Pittsburgh Biennial and the recalibration of how the solo and collaborative exhibits occurred at [Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (PF/PCA)]. The former was a really large show which not only involved a diverse roster of artists and utilized all the available showing spaces in the two buildings I was overseeing, but also developed as collaborative exhibition between three other institutions in town. Each venue brought its own energy and influence to the show and, due to the way timing, each venue was curated by individuals fairly new to their institutional posts

The revamping of how solo/collaborative exhibitions occurred at PF/PCA became one of my main interests very early on in my position. I think my feeling at the time was that as much as Pittsburgh has a lot of momentum moving forward in exhibiting artists, there weren’t that many spaces that gave local artists focused exhibitions of full bodies of work, or places for installation-based and experimental works. The many solo/collaborative exhibitions that I was able to work on have all brought their share of rewards.

What has your experience been like curating Concept so far?

I’m just in the beginning stages of my involvement with Concept, but it has been very interesting and insightful process to date. It’s been fun to research past Concept exhibitions. Although at times it’s been a difficult process, narrowing down a selection, it has been a pleasure to review all the proposals that have been submitted.

And I can’t go on without saying that Holly at OVAC and James at the Luminary have been super accommodating and a pleasure to talk with during this process. Any time you are introduced to an opportunity to curate where there are multiple angles and situations to navigate, it helps a lot to have good people and institutions that are on the ball.

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“America’s Least Livable City,” by Hyla Willis, at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, curated by Adam Welch

What are you looking forward to in curating Concept?

My interest is art and artists. Since there are a large number of strong artists involved with Concept, I am looking forward to seeing a lot of the work in person and working with the artists one-on-one. I have also been primarily working with artists in the Pittsburgh area and surrounding region for a while, so I’m excited to meet with and see the work of artists from a different part of the country.

What has your impression been of Oklahoma artists so far in curating this exhibition?

My first impression is that both formal and conceptual attributes come together well in most of the artist’s works that I have seen so far. Some artists adhere to traditions and some have a more contemporary approach, stressing connections to the what, why and how of what we see in a work. All of which interests me and in a way influences how I come to understand the scope of art taking place in the region.

Welch will be visiting Concept/Focus finalists through January, with final Focus artists selected January 15, 2016. Artists have the opportunity to apply to Concept/Survey through March 15, 2016. Visual artists working in all media are eligible to submit, including traditional studio art media as well as film and new media. Applications open January 15, 2016. Learn more at www.concept-ok.org