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Carey: You talked about this thing post studio environment, such as what happened with Rirkrit and Gabriel. They were all conceptual, though, which makes more sense. There are so many other artists who I would think are post studio, who aren’t conceptual artists who also have a studio practice, but it’s very difficult to have a studio in Manhattan.
Hoptman: Yes, that’s the second. Yes, I completely agree with you and that’s another contribution to the phenomenon of a post studio practice. To making art in your living room as opposed to your loft in SoHo.
I came to New York in 1983 and I say this to people all the time—it’s a long time ago but it doesn’t seem that long ago to me—but when I came in 1983, I worked on Rivington Street but I could never afford to live in the Bowery or Rivington Street. Even in 1983, the rent in those bigger spaces, the loft spaces that artists traditionally would move into, cost real money. It’s important to remember that those kinds of big spaces cost real money up from the late seventies. So you have to be a generation and a half older even than me, and I feel ancient, to have been able to have a shot at the space in Manhattan or downtown or even in the East Village. East Village was cheap but it didn’t have the big spaces that you think in your mind that maybe a sculptor would need, for example. So my generation lived, might have lived in the East Village, but they were already moving to Williamsburg where the big spaces were.
Carey: So now that we’re in the 2000s, what is happening to your visits? Are you going to Brooklyn more? Is it less feasible? Is there a different kind of process?
Hoptman: I think so. I think artists are very intrepid and I’m very admiring of the way that artists manage to figure things out. Of course, after a certain generation you’re not going to have a studio in Manhattan. After a certain generation you’re not going to have studios in the closer areas of Brooklyn either. People push further and further out and manage to find places that they can work in.
I think that as the discourse evolves, so does the kind of work people do. I think when the recession hit everybody was saying, “Oh, the art will change,” and it didn’t change immediately. People who were painters didn’t stop painting because people weren’t buying their work anymore.
I think now that we’re about almost two years out, about a year and a half out from the biggest crash, the biggest economic problem. I think probably that the pressure might be off a little from that sort of unrelenting pressure to make an object and send it to market.
Carey: I think that’s the case. I think I find artists do talk about how the pressure is off, but the way the pressure is on has always been to earn enough money, to continue staying where you are or to pursue your practice as jobs are more scarce. Or even if the jobs aren’t more scarce, there’s an even greater push to earn money and keep a studio close enough to Manhattan or a major museum so that you can be involved in the art world.
Hoptman: I think that’s an interesting thought. It’s something I talk about with my husband all the time. This idea of whether it’s very important to be close to the central marketplace that is New York City, because there are other marketplaces, too, but how important is it now at this moment to be close to the center in terms of economics.
I understand it’s good to be close to a center because it’s great to be meeting with other artists. I mean, to have a community, to not feel like some weirdo or like some Martian in a community that doesn’t understand what you’re doing or need what you’re doing. But economically, how important is it to be near, do you think?
Carey: I graduated school and I lived on Block Island for a little while, which was completely off the path, and I established a gallery and a magazine out there and most of the artists I knew from New York came out there and we had a gallery for the summer.
In my experience, I thought I had really an ideal set up. Icould work a few days a week doing carpentry and spend the rest of the day in a beautiful studio that was something like a giant loft—this one was a giant barn. The problem I was experiencing was that I felt that even though it was a very tolerant community and I knew many people in the community, it made me feel somehow that it was creatively constricting. And I think it had to do with the fact that it was a very small community and everybody knows what you’re doing.
When I came to New York it was a difficult decision becauseI did live this life that was very gratifying and I had a perfect set up. I was only twenty-two but I felt like a retired artist with a big studio in a beautiful island. I could make all the work I wanted, but I didn’t feel an involvement with the community. It was more than that, though. When I came to New York, since it’s such a giant city and I didn’t know many people, it felt you have a sense of anonymity that made me feel anything was possible.
At that point I did open up a storefront in the East Village and began giving out services likes hugs and foot-washings. I could not have done that or even thought that was possible to do in the very small community I had been in.
My theory is that a very small community can be somehow claustrophobic as opposed to a giant community like New York. It’s the opposite because of the sense of anonymity. Does that make sense?
Hoptman: I completely agree with you. It has nothing to do with money is what you’re saying. It has everything to do with—I hate this term—but finding a context for yourself so that you make sense and what you do and who you are makes sense with the community that you live in.
Yes, New York is huge and there are all these different art worlds, micro communities, which are something that we are exhaustively looking at right now. We’re having this sort of contemporary self-examination here about the micro communities in the city, but it’s possible to find an audience, if you will, for what you do and not be alone, I think.
The thing with curators, by the way, is that you can be one anywhere. I grew up in Langley, Virginia, and it’s great to be a curator in Langley, Virginia and it’s important. But it’s easier to be a curator in a community that is looking for contemporary art exhibitions to go to.
Carey: Exactly. I think there’s a certain amount of support. I mean, I don’t want to focus too much on New York, although I guess New York is the focus of the art world or much of it, but it was my feeling also that in New York people are encouraged to do anything. My wife is Spanish, she’s from Madrid. She feels that way as well. It does seem that there are limitless possibilities for all artists.
Whereas in the small community that I was in for a little while, or in Madrid, grandiose ideas are thought of as improbable and not worth pursuing. There isn’t a lot of support there for that. New York somehow seems to support that or has that feeling, I think, of offering support for all those things.
I don’t just think it, it obviously happens. Certainly more unusual projects, from my point of view, happen in New York, whereas they may not happen at all in other cities.
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