Christine Messineo knows art. She also knows art about art. She curates for a range of purposes and exhibitions as Director of Bortolami Gallery, as an executive committee member at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and as a regular contributor to Dossier Magazine. Her latest groundbreaking endeavor? A joint exhibition curated with Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld titled Merci Mercy, which examines the many ways language and text provide narrative and meaning in and out of contemporary art. Inspired by the Louise Bourgeouis piece of the same name, Merci Mercy is grounded on the idea that two words, pronounced the same way, can contain entirely different sentiments.
Merci Mercy has a range of artworks that have challenged and explored language at Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld Gallery, running through February 17, 2013. Read our interview with Christine below.
Why did you decide to preface Merci Mercy with a Walter Benjamin quote, especially one where he's repulsed over books and museum catalogues quoting him out of context? Is it an artwork or an actual quote?
An artist who I know quite well, Scott King, fabricates quotations of different historical figures, and when I was talking to him about making something for the show, he said, "Am I allowed to be sarcastic?" He said that he's always wanted to put a vinyl quotation on a wall as introductory text, like in a museum, so I said, "Let's do it!" He shifted one of the Benjamin quotes that he previously worked on for his catalogue piece specifically for the show.
It's important to include a range of artists and give the younger ones a chance to be seen next to the greats; that creates meaning in itself.
It's definitely inverted and self-reflexive, especially in the context of an art show discussing text, text about text, and then introductory wall text about all of the text in the entire exhibit.
Exactly. I think it’s funny, especially since we've done a show about text, language, reproduction, and repetition. He's definitely teasing the theoretical history of Benjamin.
The exhibition has a mix of younger and older, more established artists. Was that a priority from the start of curating Merci Mercy?
Well, for me it always is. I have a tendency to know my generation the best. Of course, we all look at and admire the work of older artists, but the ones I tend to collaborate with most often are of my generation. It's important to include a range of artists and give the younger ones a chance to be seen next to the greats; that creates meaning in itself. And then of course, you can’t do a show involving text and exclude Ed Ruscha.
It gets exciting when we’re combining the classics with a younger generation of artists. We’re looking at Ben Schumacher, Charles Matton, and others who have made works specifically for the show, and they're being put into a context with artists they’ve looked at frequently and typically admire.
There's a little movement when you’re considering language—a little room to be misunderstood or to experience an emotional charge.
Why is the exhibition named Merci Mercy?
The name comes from the central piece in the exhibition by Louise Bourgeouis, a wall panel titled Merci Mercy. It reflects the oscillating aspect of language, through a word that's pronounced the same in two languages but has two very different meanings. There's a little movement when you’re considering language—a little room to be misunderstood or to experience an emotional charge. It’s a plaque, and it's Louise Bourgeouis; I’ve always admired her work.
Were you considering the experience of reading in our culture through the experience of reading artworks in a gallery like this?
We weren't thinking about it that much; it was more about these ideas of erasure or that there’s room for understanding to arise from being unclear. It's not necessarily about relating to books or the way we look at reading, but that language that lends itself to being understood in many capacities.
How did you team up with Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld to curate the exhibition?
We met through his sister originally. The two of us would meet up and chat about what we were looking at, and it developed into working together. He included one of the artists I work with very closely in an exhibition at Sotheby’s in 2011, so that was the first time we really collaborated on a complicated installation. We were in touch quite frequently, and finally we were just like, “Let’s take this to the next level…let’s work on a project together."
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