Early Monday afternoon after the opening weekend of “Seed,” a group art show she curated at the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, Yvonne Force was meeting one of the artists — Ebony G. Patterson — in person for the first time.
“That’s what this show has done — it got me out of my comfort zone, and also turned me on to so many new artists that I hadn’t had the opportunity to work with or even knew about,” says Force, cofounder of Art Production Fund and Culture Corps. “Because there’s so much going on in our world, it’s constant, and you get so focused on what you’re working on, and you continue to follow and grow with the pack you know and understand.”
The summer gallery show presented Force an opportunity to tap into her deep art world relationships in a new way, and through them discover and elevate lesser-known artists alongside more established names. Her inclusion of Ginny Casey, represented by Bill Powers’ Half Gallery, led her to HieJin Yoo — who graduated from UCLA’s MFA program this year. Her painting “The First Thing I Do When I Get Home” depicts an unclasped bra hanging from a tree branch set against the abstract outline of a female figure — “the ritual of taking your bra off,” Force offers.
The show includes works by 29 living female artists, all in dialogue around the ideas of feminine strength, power and ritual. “This is, for me, a very deeply personal statement,” she says of the concept, which she developed after she was approached by Danny Moynihan about organizing a summer group show for the gallery. It’s also only the third group show that Force has curated, and the first since the late Nineties.
“In this show I wanted to celebrate the inherent power of the matriarch, of the ruler, of the destroyer or sage, the fool — all of the complexities in a personality that creates a powerful woman today,” Force says. “I didn’t want to have too many works that were boldly dealing with fertility or maternal elements because that’s often the association that women are given. I also wanted to go into other archetypes of women like being the forager, the provider, the destroyer, the creator in every big picture, creating worlds.”
The show contains many celestial references, down to the number of works included: 29, which represents the amount of years it takes Saturn to complete one solar orbit. It was a reference that allowed Force to edit down her list of potential artists to include in a meaningful way. The show is split between two galleries, linked together by a white wooden door, in which the artwork is done by Yoko Ono. One gallery represents the external — what’s visible, how we present ourselves to the world — while the other represents the invisible — the internal presence, secretiveness, darkness. The former gallery includes work by Rachel Feinstein, Loie Hollowell, Sophia Narrett; the latter includes work by Jessica Craig-Martin, Cecily Brown and Wangechi Mutu. (Cynthia Rowley, a longtime friend, created the show’s logo and visual design.) Although physically separated, all of the work is referential — the winged bird perched on a sculpture by Vanessa German is in conversation with the wings of Feinstein’s “Ballerina” sculpture, which have been added to her back since the work was debuted during a Gagosian show in L.A.; the pearls dripping from Patterson’s foot sculpture speak to the pearl-eye perched inside Hein Koh’s microcosmic clamshell nearby.
“I see this [show] as a whole. I see the ‘seed’ as one thing, one entity and deeply interconnected,” Force says. “And I really hope this show is in fact its own seed, and plants something really interesting for the participants, myself and certainly all the viewers.”
On view through Aug. 10 at Paul Kasmin Gallery, 293 10th Avenue, New York, N.Y.