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Curatorial Practices
Interview with Cheryl Hartup, Associate Curator Miami Art Museum
by Javier de Pison

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James Casebere

Wendy Wischer

Paul Hodgson

Rineke Dijkstra

Magdalena Fernández

Ivan Depeña

Cheryl Hartup, Associate Curator for the Miami Art Museum (MAM) (, has recently organized "Light and Atmosphere," an exhibition encompassing a wide array of works from the permanent collection of the museum, private collectors, and especially commissioned works for the exhibit. With an extensive background in Latin American art, Hartup has previously worked on exhibits of the Brazilians Cildo Meireles and Jac Leirner, and is working on an exhibit of the Argentine painter Fabián Marcaccio.

Javier de Pison: How did the "Light and Atmosphere" show come about?

Cheryl Hartup: The show came about by really looking at the collection and where certain strengths were. Looking at recent acquisitions that dealt with light, like Teresita Fernández' "Eclipse," Sean Scully's "Looks like Rain," Wendy Wisher's "Full to Wailing and Back Again," and a newly acquired watercolor by this Russian avant-garde artist, Ivan Kliun.

I visited the wonderful collection of Mimi Floback in Key West, who has donated a number of things to us, and I just saw a number of fabulous pieces like this James Casebere ("Green Staircase #1"), the other Teresita Fernández in the exhibit and the Blue Boy (Paul Hodgson's "Boy with Landscape"), of artists out of Key West and of some other artists. So a number of the works were borrowed from her. That was another grouping. Then I thought, "What can I pair with these works that would make an interesting dialogue throughout the show," and that's when I thought about the photographer Rineke Dijkstra's "Tiergarten, Berlin, August 13, 2000." Another key for me was the work of Scully, that sort of brought me to the discussion of artistry as far as architecture, because the Scully painting was inspired by Pre-Hispanic architecture, and seeing that light sort of play I thought that with my background in Latin art it would be a nice mix (to include it in the show). So I visited him and based on my discussion of the premise of the exhibition as well as my idea of having his work exhibited here I asked him to do a piece.

JP: It sounds really easy, since most of the art seems to come out of the permanent collection.

CH: We have a lot of good things down there but this exhibit was assembled piece by piece. It's also very challenging because as you act on things you think, "How do this works with as well as how would this lead me to what I need next. And how would this work in the space". Because with each show you also have to tear down walls and build things etcetera, and I knew that for "Light and Atmosphere" I had to have an environment that would be filled with light and created its own atmosphere to experience the physical space, so that's when I thought, I want to break up the two-dimensional work, the paintings, and bring in a few sculptural pieces and have these environments.

I commissioned two local artists, Ivan Depena, who I think is better than anyone I know capturing the light in Miami through photography and video. I asked him to create a piece for the show, an environment. I took him to the museum and asked him to choose a space where he wanted to work. He picked an area because he liked the pitch of the sound that came out of the room. The other local artist I commissioned was Mark Koven, who said he wanted to do a floor and a ceiling installation with lenticular photographs.

Then the curator of colonial art from the Cisneros Foundation handed me a pamphlet of information from a Venezuelan artist, and I looked at it and I thought it would be perfect for "Light and Atmosphere." Her name was Magdalena Fernández, and she had done a show at the Sala Mendoza in Caracas, works with very minimal materials, and investigates transparency, reflection, perception, space. So I went to Caracas to visit her, and talked to her about the project.

It was a strange time in Caracas because of the political situation, so sometimes we couldn't go out but it was perfect because we spent a lot of together time, and she had never done a project in the US. She's a mathematician by training so she is very precise and exact in working out distances, lengths. Much of her work deals with materials and the process, and the space, so she came here and spent eight days in Miami putting together her two pieces. She wanted to work with strips. She has a minimal aesthetic but looking at surfaces.

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