Introspective Collective, A Joseph Cornell Co-op

We did it.

What started as another unpractical dream: a group of artists materializing a gallery space and creating work to be shown in the space based on the experience of creating the space. I called it Groupcracia. The more practical of you can easily spot the flaws.  And galleries, I was told, wouldn’t take the risk of committing real estate to unknown quantities. Not to mention this irksome work-in-progress nature – how to fit it in the curatorialsphere ? Mainly, I think, this was not meant to be as such notions of interchangeable roles between administrative and artistic… too much, just too much. We are supposed to push the envelope – but not like this, they said.

María-Juracán, by Aravind Enrique Adhyathaya

Enters Joseph Cornell, from whom until then I knew so little. A stack of books borrowed from NYPL later, Groupcracia became Introspective Collective. This iteration branched at the hip like conjoined twins: part existing work that had an affinity with Cornellian visions, part new work created in response to the experience of interactions in preparation for the show itself. Still a little convoluted, but at least not as much of an unknown quantity.

I lost track of how many applications I sent out over the past 3 years, but that is immaterial: the only place were we could fit called me, and we needed none other: The Clemente, in the Lower East Side, with its majestic building and its ambitious mission, somewhat at odds with itself, as any other thing that is full of life. It happened all of the sudden, too, some other group dropped the time slot and we were given a handful of weeks to get our act together.

Our act together we did get, with KS Lack joining as co-organizer (we resisted labeling ourselves curators, and anyway we loved how the bilingual wall text set us right as Las Organizadoras!) With her on board the project grew more complex and more ambitious. As for the space, shabby-chic and DYI was among the definitions I heard.  KS said “we will wear it well”. I can’t tell you how happy I felt when she walked in and proclaimed this.

Clockwise from top left: watching lobster boats dream by KS Lack, Experimental Research on the Nonexistence of Borders by Colin McMullan, curatorial wall text, Untitled (Barro y Concreto) by Aurora De Armendi and James Kelly.

Six weeks to create for six another weeks to run, twenty artists, one host institution and another one as partner, plus two grants. It was dizzying. Did I tell you how much fun we had when we laid our hands on a vinyl cutter? As we were groaning under the weight of those wall texts a friend said “you know, you are not MoMA”. Yeah right. Guess what, we might not be MoMA but we behaved as if we were.

Las Organizadoras once again wish to thank The Clemente Exhibitions Committee Board Member Linda Griggs and The Center for Book Arts Executive Director Corina Reynolds, for having believed in us. Special thanks also to Peter Schell and Colin McMullan, for having saved us on the opening day, and to Argenis Apolinario for his superb documentation skills.

Introspective Collective – A Joseph Cornell Co-op, was as multi-media exhibition installed at the LES Gallery in The Clemente from December 7th 2018 – January 20th 2019.

Photograph: Argenis Apolinario

This project was possible thanks to a grant from the Robert and Joseph Cornell Memorial Foundation and an Emergency Grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

“Aviary”, the 1949 installation by Joseph Cornell at the Egan Gallery: image courtesy Aaron Siskind Foundation.

For more information please visit

Participant Artists:

Damali Abrams  , Golnar Adili, Aravind Enrique Adyanthaya, Jose Ambriz, Tomie Arai, Aurora De Armendi, Milcah Bassel, Elizabeth Castaldo, Ana Paula Cordeiro, Roni Gross, James Kelly, Barbara Henry, Wennie Huang, KS Lack, Norah Maki, Colin McMullan Emcee C. M., Master of None, Luis Pons, Peter Schell, paul singleton iii, Daphne Stergides

Poetry Broadsides loaned from The Center for Book Arts Broadside Reading Series



I propose to make some 20 white cubes, probably 20x20x5″,

inside of which 20 artists will display their work.

There won’t be many rules to start with, but I will set forth some guidelines drawn from 13 years of experience as a member of a communal studio which functions within a gallery.

The first guideline is: each white cube will have an opening custom-made to allow a viewing experience apart from all others.

As result, although the 20(sh) cubes will be exhibited in the same space, the viewer will be able to absorb the contents of only one at a time.

20(sh) “solo” shows will thus be displayed simultaneously, plus one “group” show

(the contents of the “group” show will be decided by the Group.)

The Group will be formed by artists who will have agreed to provide artwork to be shown in one such private white cube, which means they will have consequently had signed up to work for the Group the same amount of time I will have had invested in making the cube she/he will use.

The cubes will all be white in the exterior, but the interior may also be customized.

The range of options of what shall be meant as “work for the Group” will be decided by the Group. I will suggest that to be circumscribed within the boundaries of a) this project promotion (documenting, fundraising, etc); b) production/publication of art criticism; c) volunteering for the communal studio/institution where the cubes will be made; and/or d) volunteering for an organization such as Fountain House.

As for the art to be displayed, the artists will choose whether to

a) work within his/her field of inquiry


b) use as motive the experience of working for/with the Group.

The curatorial cut I will employ is an equation of what I perceive as a) an individual’s commitment to an artistic practice; b) an individual’s awareness of the influences her/his choices of inquiry have brought upon themselves and c) an experience I would have previously had of working with these artists in a fashion such as to have had the workload harmoniously shared – in other words, people who I look forward to work with again for knowing that within a given set of constraints the work dynamics are biased toward fairness. Consequently the Group demographic will be: ethnically diverse; 30’s-60’s years-old; female in majority.

In essence, I propose the job of the curator to be the job of a facilitator in an experiment of art market cast barter, establishing as currency the time we artists will have spent together and separately creating a reality for our work to be experienced.

Hours spent at meetings (or absences) will be currency; tardiness resulting in pressure over the production chain will be charged at equal rate with intellectual chores. For example, as an artist I will add to the sum of hours owed to the Group, hours traded for my labor as a craftswoman, hours which will be paid through my administrative role.