Retreat/William Lamson/ Lu Zhang
Lu Zhang "Headspace"
image courtesy Lu Zhang and Joseph Hyde
Exhibition curated by Stewart Watson
A curatorial essay.
AREA 405 is approaching the 15th year as an artist run exhibition space, and I have been at this a long time.
Early in 2016, I had asked Lu Zhang if she would consider creating new work in AREA 405 for the first in a series I had been considering. I wanted the gallery to be a place of experimentation, connection and balance again. I felt I had lost focus at some point along the way and that AREA 405 should be hosting experimental installations and exhibitions with a tighter lens on just two or three artists with a longer lead time in which they could work to create and connect, being sure to reach farther than the Baltimore region to bring people together. I wasn’t sure who the other artist would be, but I knew I would find the right person eventually, it could not be rushed.
On December 2nd, 2016 at 6 am, my friend Nancy hopped on a plane, a change of clothes in our purses, and headed to Miami for a 30-hour long whirl wind trip to ArtBasel. The day had been good to us, - whizzing around, seeing art, bumping into friends, and serendipitously being introduced to William Lamson and his work at Untitled. I was immediately drawn in and imagined Will’s work in AREA 405 and in relation to how Lu works- site responsively, immersive, and with an eye to the natural world, materials varying with each project.
I woke up to a message that there had been a tragic fire at an artist warehouse known as Ghost Ship, people were trapped and many lives were lost. It was in Oakland, California, and even as I was in Miami, I knew this tragedy would send shockwaves across the country, to Baltimore, to Station North, to our community. Artists living in Bell Foundry were evicted just 24 hours later.
As an owner of a building that serves as a safe space to create, think and experiment, I knew that even considering the work we have done here to be as safe as possible, it wouldn’t be all “fire marshal code safe”. What we have done to protect the people here would not be enough in their eyes. The last 16 years have kept me up at night, makes for hard days, and keep me from relaxing during holidays. I sometimes don’t know what I’m doing this for, when or if it will ever be enough. Then, I find I can present two artists like Lu and Will who are creating compelling work that shares the intention of why this space necessary and why it is relevant to experiment in the safety of a space that falls outside of the ivory towers and not for profits and museums in the first place and I remember.