LABspace seeks to connect regional artists

An untitled work by Julie Evans. Ink on cut yupo and mending tissue.

Just over the border in Hillsdale, NY, Julie Torres and her partner, Ellen Letcher, are hosting an exhibit featuring work from just under 200 artists, most of which are from the Berkshires, Connecticut, and New York.

“We did an open call to everyone on the LABspace email list,” Torres said.

The vast majority of the artists represented in the exhibit are from the Berkshires and the surrounding areas. The goal of the exhibit, Torres says, is to foster connections between artists.

“So the idea was sort of about connecting—creating a connector for the LABspace community to expand and grow, and also for people to meet each other,” Torres said.

“I had asked the artists to try to price their work with artist-friendly pricing in mind, so that they could collect each other” Torres said. “That’s really important too because I think artists really need to own artwork from their peers and friends and neighbors.”

Torres had done a similar show with her friend and colleague Susan Jennings, called Taconic North about a year ago, but there was a point where she had to close submissions, which was something that she had hoped to avoid with this show. The only requirement for artwork in True North was that it had to be done on paper.

“I had this idea that if I had work on paper, and I pinned it, I could fit a lot more work,” Torres said.

The result is an extremely broad variety of work. The walls are lined, almost wallpapered in some spots, with different styles, moods, and ideas.

Black and white works from True North. Clockwise from top left: Dan Devine, Philippe Avignant, Eric Wolf, Tom Nicol, Maureen Beitler.

“People stay here for hours, so it’s been so fun,” Torres said. “And like really walking around looking at everything.”

The space has an undeniable character and life to it. It’s reminiscent of the underground art galleries displayed in pop culture, complete with an unfinished ceiling and its charming shabbiness lit by incandescent light bulbs.

Much of the work is comprised of paintings, drawings, and photos, but some of the works stretch the rules to an extent. A sculpture made out of cardboard, done by Henry Klimowiczs, sticks out of the wall. Another sculpture, made with found objects—part oil painting, part garbage, having been made with a piece of found vinyl, complete with the original dirt— hangs just a few feet down. The work is titled “Sweetheart,” by Tasha Depp, a Hudson Valley artist.

The space isn’t run like a commercial gallery so much as an artist-run space.

“It definitely has a different vibe,” Torres said. “I’m much more interested in facilitating connections and outcomes for people, and being involved in the community in that way.”

LABspace started in Susan Jennings’ backyard, when she sent out a call for artists to install work on her fence. Jennings hosted three separate shows in her backyard.

“And then she found a space on Main Street, and then she found this space,” Torres said. “She was really determined to find a space where [Routes] 22 and 23 meet, and magically she did.”

Torres and Letcher have taken the reins recently, keeping in mind that same spirit that Jennings had in mind, as a place to build an art community.

Some works in color from True North. top row: Adrian Meraz, Melissa Thorne, Sean Greene, Andy Cross, Audrey Stone. Middle row: Carla Aurich, Sam Rowlett, Joy Taylor. Bottom row: Jacob Fossum, Tom McGill, Jeff Starr, Elisa Soliven

“I think it’s a magical space, I love the garden. We have huge crowds here. What Susan has created is really incredible, and it’s become hub for three states,” Torres said. “She’s created a really important meeting place.”

Jennings is presently working on other projects and often works curating shows. Torres and Letcher have taken the reins of LABspace and are hoping to build upon the reputation that Jennings had built at the gallery’s helm.

“I’m incredibly honored that SJ is handing the space over to me and that she’s entrusting me with the space,” Torres said. “To be able to build off that and expand from that is really exciting for me because that’s sort of what I specialize in, in a way, is being a connector of artists.”

True North will be on view until June 2. LABspace will be holding a closing party from 3-5 p.m. and will be hosting another show on June 16.

LABspace is currently planning a talk with Hrag Vartanian, the editor of Hyperallergic, a major art blog, and Sharon Louden.

Joel Williams can be reached at jwilliamsbr@gmail.com or by phone at (413) 445-1750.

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