Whitewall speaks to L.A. dealer Anat Ebgi about her choice to push a female artist-only year-long program in our spring 2016 Art Issue.
WHITEWALL: How would you describe your initial programming mission when you founded your gallery in 2012 in Los Angeles? Has that evolved?
ANAT EBGI: The gallery has had a very coherent development since the first show in 2012. We started out with a core group of New York and Los Angeles artists working between painting, photography, and sculpture. Since then we’ve added a number of international artists and have expanded the conceptual and material nature of the works shown.
WW: Was there a gap in the gallery scene of Los Angeles that you were hoping to fill?
AE: Absolutely. Los Angeles as a global arts hub is a relatively new idea, and before that notion came to being there were mainly a few blue-chip galleries as well as some smaller, local ones. I saw a gap in terms of galleries that wanted to have an international dialogue with, and an international audience for, younger artists that were not yet established.
WW: Last September you announced a yearlong women-only program of exhibitions. As far as we can tell, that’s totally unprecedented for a gallery. Why was this something you wanted to do now?
AE: The male-centric nature of artistic production is well known and well documented. We decided that it was the proper time to exhibit exclusively women artists based on female additions to our roster as well as some of the female artists that I have worked with for many years. I wanted to create a showcase of both newer and more established female talent over one year, showing just how varied and unique the women in our roster are.
WW: What exhibitions can we expect to see this upcoming year? Are you working only with artists that you represent, or opening it up to female artists outside of the gallery? Will there be any group shows?
AE: We began the programming year with “Catfish,” a group show with Margo Wolowiec, whom we represent, and Petra Cortright, Kate Steciw, and Letha Wilson, who are outside the gallery. Following this has been Jen DeNike’s solo show “If She Hollers,” followed by solo shows of Margo Wolowiec and Samantha Thomas, who is a new addition to our roster. We round it out in the spring and summer with solo shows by Amie Dicke and the Swedish painter Sigrid Sandström, who will be presenting work in conjunction with work by one of her Stockholm students.
I think it is important to highlight the gender gap in any field, no matter whether it is creative, business, or otherwise. In the art world, the notion that men are capable of somehow creating more profound or articulate work is a notion that seems outdated but is sadly still very present. You need not look farther than a recent Phillips contemporary art auction that had fewer than ten female artists out of a group of close to fifty contemporary artists. The Broad Foundation collection is 83 percent male. It still seems that women are not appreciated, financially or otherwise, as equals as men in the arts, and it will take serious effort and determination to balance out this inequity.
WW: Is it a concern that any of your artists have dealt with in their own work or studio practice?
AE: Jen DeNike is probably the artist that most directly addresses ideas of feminism and the mutable nature of gender in her work. Although she often captures imagery and video of men in some sort of confrontation, the ideas reference both the cult of masculinity and the male limits of transformation. Her work is based in the liminal space between gender, and she pursues a dialogue in her work revealing the roles, limitations, characterizations, and ultimately the potential of freeing oneself from the entrapment of gender.
WW: You’ve said that this exhibition program will be a template for the future of your gallery. How so?
AE: Before the current programming year of women artists, we had one year of programming shows of artists new to the gallery roster. Once the year of women concludes, we will choose and decide other categories to focus on through new series of consecutive exhibitions. There is so much that I want to be able to address in future shows, such as the intersection of psychology and technology, and I believe that each of these curatorial programming decisions will further both the dialogue of each artist and the dialogue of the gallery as a whole.
WW: From working on this program, have you come across any young female talent you could tell us about?
AE: I think the best example would be Samantha Thomas, whose practice I’ve described above. I was introduced to Samantha through her exhibition at LAXART, and I found the way she investigates material in her work as completely compatible to the focus of our gallery’s programming. Her show opens in early March and we are very much looking forward to presenting a new body of her work. Aside from her folded sculptural wall pieces, she will also be presenting incredibly intricate and gestural assemblages of thread, burlap, and rope. It particularly addresses the legacy of modernist women artists such as Virginia Overton and Eva Hesse and their use of simple materials to address complex associations, concepts, and themes.
This article is published in Whitewall‘s spring 2016 Art Issue.