Up Close and Personal: Curator Green Villain
Nicole Gordon: You are well known for your walls in Jersey City, Manhattan, etc. what is it about art and artists that draws you to curation?
In 2009 I moved from Morristown to Jersey City. A friend had rented a 5k sq ft warehouse space in the dilapidated remnants of Clorox’s first Jersey City factory built in the early 20th century. He was one of the only tenants in the 70k sq ft complex which basically left me with carte blanche over more space than I knew what to do with. I was handed the key to a castle except our walls had no artwork and our halls had no music! Everything GV is today evolved from that place—a record label, mural program, art gallery, party… All of the people I met were through a 1º connection at that space. I didn’t start cold calling artists to come work with us because no one in the world cared about Jersey City. I wasn’t putting together art projects to be the focal point of conversation, I did it because I saw an opportunity to help the people that put me on. Everyone there taught me about graffiti whether or not they intended to. Those years were the most illuminating of my life. That warehouse made me who I am today.
To me curation is a dirty word with lackluster connotations. What does it take to be a curator? How many people out there call themselves curators and really just fill a bar with mediocre artwork and boxed wine or put up questionable talent in the public space and hashtag it to fame? Curation, like many words in this millennial generation, are loosely thrown around and have begun to mean less and less. I have a particular way of doing things at Green Villain and sometimes it's curating but many times it's more than that. We service the real estate community, local businesses and public/private organizations with various creative services—art curation is just one of them. I really don’t like titles I just worry about if my work will outlive the internet.
How do you manage balancing your real estate, music and curatorial career?
I wake up at 5am most days, walk my dogs, Dali and Gala and am at the office or first task by 7am. At night time I sort through a barrage of multicolor post it notes I’ve jotted down during the day and compile them into a master list for the next day. We have 1440 minutes in a day and I live every minute on a schedule trying to take advantage of each moment I have to exist and develop. Friends say I work too hard and say I need more of a social life. My mother says I need to slow down and focus on things more because I am all over the place. I am just on a different wavelength and believe in 2017 you need to wear at least 5 different hats as well as someone wore one hat in 2007—its just the evolution of our Internet based society. You need to be everywhere all the time and do things at a higher calibre than everyone around you. Persistence is omnipotent.
What should an artist expect when working with you?
Exactly what I say I am going to do.
What do you expect from the artists who work with you?
Nothing. Expectations are the downfall of all great individuals.
You run a tight schedule and are very much admired within the art community for doing so. After Felipe, what is your next project to curate?
In 2013 I walked into a very large building in Jersey City situated at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel and asked to be paid to paint their 16,000 sq ft facade. The owner more or less laughed and said, “Fuck you, pay me!” I left, but not before he offered up an 800 sq ft wall, which was what started our entire mural program—Enoe, Rime, Post, SP One and Mustart painted it first, then Wane, Rime, Steel and Dmote to follow.
Fast forward to 2017 and we are going to be painting the topic of that first conversation with our good friend Distort starting on July 17th. The concept of the project is to tell the story of Jersey City’s past with a bit more context than just another Statue of Liberty or Colgate clock. This city was built as conduit to New York City for the rest of the United States. Every single trade item that came back from the West, or even just commuters coming east, made a pitstop at the train depot and/or docks along the Hudson River before taking ferry boats (or later on the PATH) to their destination.
This mural will tell the story of Jersey City’s industrial past and the journey it went on over the past century to become the most diverse city in the nation. It will be 200’ wide and 80’ tall and will be a beacon, pulsing at the gates to NYC.
Do you have anything else coming up we should know about?
Yes! Over the past four years our mural program has developed in ways we didn’t anticipate. We have over forty walls in our inventory and some of those walls have been painted over multiple times. We decided it was time to follow up our last book from Demolition Exhibition with a cumulative guide to our projects. A vast majority of the photography was from myself or Charles A. Boyce, Green Villain’s lead creative, but we did get a few submissions from photographers that really add something special to the mix.
The importance of a book like this is because as technology changes and the platforms we become accustomed to get phased out or evolve, what happens to the distribution channels for the content we create? A book brings it back to the basics and will always be there. We focus on archiving our process as the impermanence of street art and more so graffiti is something we embrace. Art should change like the environment around you does, but if things aren’t documented and then forgotten about, then it is tragic.
We plan to have the event in a pop up gallery in downtown Jersey City in early September. So stay tuned.
What advice do you have to give to other curators that helped shape your life to what it is today?
Stop worrying about social media impressions and think about how your name will stand the test of time.