The Stairwell Show at 133 West 21st Street

A still from Stairwell Show Exhibition Map by Eli Siegel (click to view the video)
A still from Stairwell Show Exhibition Map by Eli Siegel (click to view the video)

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This semester, SVA faculty members Annette Wehrhahn and Emily Weiner are teaching a course in VCS about artist-run spaces. Here’s the course description from the VCS curriculum page on the SVA website:

VSD-3066
Make Your Own Art World: Independent Exhibitions, Projects and Spaces

One semester: 3 studio credits
How do you envision your role as an artist in the world of contemporary art? The commercial gallery system presents one possibility, but what are the other options for participating in the current conversation around art? Independent and artist-run spaces offer an alternative to the traditional, market-driven, private gallery system. In this course, we will trace the history of alternative spaces in New York and also look at contemporary artist-run and independent galleries. In addition to readings, screenings and discussion, we will visit and meet the directors of exhibition spaces such as Artist’s Space, Art in General, Canada, Momenta, Participant, Rex Regina, and Soloway. Students will collaborate to curate and produce an exhibition at Soloway Gallery.

Last month, the students in the class staged an exhibition in Stairwell A at 133 West 21st Street, near the VCS department’s classrooms and offices. The show included works by Taylor Baker, Harris Bauer, Kiara Hargrove, Minhae Kim, Summer Leavitt, Lilian Lewis, Rivers Plasketes, Lauren Poor, Eli Siegel, and Rachel Zaretsky.

Here’s a little more information about it from a Stairwell Show Tumblr created by Lauren Poor and Kiara Hargrove:

Stairwell Show was a temporal exhibition realized by students in the Visual Critical Studies department at the School of Visual Arts. It was installed on October 22, 2013, in the first three floors of the eastern stairwell of 133 West 21st Street. 

Stairs act as a means to a destination, a necessary tool in both ascension and descension. The liminality of the space conjures a ‘get in, get out’ attitude, the individual’s contemplation suppressed in the spiral repetition of climbing. The show attempts to provide incentive for those who stumble upon the stairwell—those who chose labor over the industrialized leisure offered by elevators. 

The first and third floors attempt to contain the viewer in contemplation of his/her movement up or down, while the second floor leads the viewer elsewhere in a scavenger hunt in realms both physical and conceptual. Working as a whole, the installations on all three floors augment traits inherent in stairwells, including autonomy, escape, redirection, and labor.

In addition to the images posted here, you can find a lot more from the exhibition at the Tumblr, as well as video and audio documentation and the artists’ descriptions of all of the works that were on display.

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An installation photo featuring  Ladder by Taylor Baker and Red Rope by Rachel Zaretsky
An installation photo from the show, featuring Ladder by Taylor Baker and Red Rope by Rachel Zaretsky

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Documentation of an interactive piece by Lauren Poor
Documentation of an interactive piece by Lauren Poor (click on the link to see additional images and learn more about it)

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