Vincent Uribe is the Director of LVL3 Gallery—a live-work space he is reluctant to call an apartment galley—in the former location of Scott Projects in Wicker Park. This article is the second half of an interview I conducted with Vincent via email. Having gotten Vincent’s background and the story of how he started LVL3, I then asked him to what curating meant to him, and what his goals or mission statement were in regard to his curatorial vision.
I think of curating almost as problem solving or putting together a puzzle. There are tons of great artists who we have stumbled upon their websites. I really want to be able to try my best to help and support the artist and work that I myself am really into and would like to own. I want to be able to put on shows that anyone can enjoy. One of my favorite parts is figuring out the right group of artists who we feel their work complements each other well. For the most part I try and avoid showing friends with friends. Chicago has a tight community of artists and I think it’s important to mix people up a bit. Showing artists from out side of Chicago is also important to us in our effort to expand relationships amongst people. This is the original mission statement I had written prior to opening LVL3: “My goal was to create an exhibition space dedicated in supporting collaborative work and group shows in hopes of fostering connections between emerging and established artists.”
The statement on Vincent’s website reads, “I am a Con-Artist. While your attention is here, I’m over there, stealing the mundane. Everything you see is a part of my studio. I melt, collage, transform, and compose with all materials to bring about satisfaction for viewers and myself. Look closer as my tricks may be concealed. I aim for pleasure through invented perfection. My medium is anything, my goal could be everything, but before we move on I want us to play.” I asked Vincent whether, as this statement suggests, his curatorial practice is an extension of his art-making process, and whether either practice was of primary importance.
I think my studio practice is definitely an extension of my curatorial practice or maybe vice versa since my studio practice came first. The two practices do meet very much in between. I am often influenced by the work I show but finding the time to make work has been becoming an increasing challenge. Gallery work and schoolwork take up the majority of my time. I think running the gallery has been pushed to the top of my priorities. I am running out of studio classes so it’s going to be an interesting challenge as I will need to find time to do studio work on my own as opposed to making work for critiques/assignments.
I then asked Vincent to tell me what label he uses to describe himself, what kind of aesthetic decisions he makes when he curates a show, what he controls, and what he leaves up to the artist.
On my business cards I consider myself artist, director, curator. I don’t know if I place either title with any more importance then another. I really think they are all of equal standing to what I do. I curate shows together but I also like to keep things flexible for an open exchange or ideas and collaborative thinking. I’m not trying to be a dictator in the process. I want to feel confident in the shows we put on as well as having the artist get their ideas and interest covered.
As immature at it may sound I like to have fun with the work I create. The same goes with the work I curate. I don’t want to close people off to art. I don’t want people to feel they need to have an art background/education to be able to enjoy both the work I create and show. LVL3 is open to anyone and everyone mixing mediums and artist up who don’t necessarily know each other; I think this helps our audience stay diverse and can appeal to many not directly connected in the gallery scene.
Vincent and LVL3 hosted the fourth iteration of the Quarterly Site series: Registers. Three curators were each invited to select work according to the theme: Steve Ruiz, Andrew Blackley, and Stephanie Burke (who happens to be my wife). I asked Vincent to talk about his experience working with these curators for this project.
Doing the Quarterly Site project was really exciting for us as it filled our requirement of working with a variety of mediums and artists. We get lots of proposals for people wanting to do shows here, and they often don’t fit with our overall goal of basically diversifying a crowd. We try and avoid showing friends with friends. If a proposal sparks certain interest with us we often try to counter propose something that will hopefully fit our style, and we usually have other artists we can suggest for someone’s proposal to also consider. Also if we feel it’s not appropriate for LVL3 I will suggest other spaces for them to try.
Curating is something I’m still fairly new at and I like to take on as many opportunities as I can to learn from. I had more of a back seat in to the curation of the Quarterly Site however I was still helping with the directing of things. I was really pleased with how everything came together in the end, the work seemed to complement each other well and there were similar themes that coincidentally appeared between different artist pieces. Putting together any group show is never easy. The more people involved makes things that much more complicated especially when it’s a curator, curating curators, curating artists (Quarterly Site project).
Finally, I asked Vincent about what plans he had for the future, both for LVL3 and for his own work.
We have been toying with the idea of doing our first solo show, or maybe a 2-person group show. We have a really decent amount of space that we tend try and focus on showing 3 artists at a time to allow each artist a fair amount of spaces for a small body of work.
I’m definitely going to try and balance the production of my work with the running of LVL3. It’s always been my goal to be able to work for myself. My interest in creative business is vast and I’ve been enjoying the opportunities, and support I’ve had in Chicago. I’d like to slowly expand the roles of LVL3. Our Artist of the Week blog has gotten a lot of attention so far, and eventually we’d like to start some sort of publication. There’s also the possibility of one day opening up a second location in another major city.
We are going to try and do as much as we can but we still have school to take care of as well. We have done some off-site shows (Art on Tracks, Merchandise Mart), and are looking to potentially do more fairs. Working at different locations is always fun in being able to meet new people and being challenged with a new setting and surroundings.
After I had finished asking Vincent my questions, I asked if he had any other thoughts or notes he wanted to share.
Running your own space, you definitely learn a lot about your friends and the people you are surrounded by. My role as a curator and artist definitely are tricky to have while still in school. Doing studio visits is something I’m tying to figure out how to do most efficiently and gaining more confidence when working with people twice my age/experience.
Also understanding who your real friends are. It’s difficult in figuring out who’s being nice because they want to be your friend or who’s being nice because they want a show. I’m sure there has been criticism about the way I work as well as some jealousy but that’s all part of life and it’s inevitable.
I have a student work-study income, struggle to pay for school on my own, and get very little support for what I do from my family. We always have a donation jar at our openings since I sometimes have to decide on buying postcards vs. groceries.
As our sales are slowly becoming more frequent, I’m excited to see how the next 2-3 years pan out. I know Allison is already looking into grad schools and I would be super sad to see her leave. Our spring schedule is already planned out and I tend to leave summers and winters open to allow me flexibility to try and travel. This past year I have been able to visit the Berlin Biennial, and Art Basel Miami, which were both amazing. If all goes as planned, I’d love to go to the Venice Biennial this summer. Spring is going to be a really busy time for us and we plan to start looking for an intern to get involved and help us out with some of the more time consuming tasks around the gallery.
All the stress and hard work is always worth it when the show comes together for an opening. Every person we deal with is different to work with. I get extremely happy when an artist is so easy and friendly to work with. Pretentious attitudes can sometimes ruin my day, and kill the fun in putting on a show. Two important things I love from artist are when they have a website or blog that they update and they are quick when responding to emails.
I usually avoid using the term “apartment gallery” with LVL3. It’s my apartment but it’s a live-work space as well and I think we have clearly defined the two spaces as separate. I think the term “apartment gallery” has some preconceived notions to it and I think we try and present things a bit more formally/professionally then a lot of alt spaces in Chicago.
Jeriah is an artist, educator, writer, and snack enthusiast. You can see his work at www.jeriahhildwine.com, and read his columns at Art Talk Chicago and Chicago Art Magazine. Jeriah lives and works in Chicago, with his wife Stephanie Burke.