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Q&A: Curatorial Assistant Lucy Zimmerman

Tue, Mar 6, 2018
by Malu Marzarotto, Public & University Programs Intern

Lucy Zimmerman, a Curatorial Assistant at the Wex since 2014, took on the role of curator for Clip, the first site-specific installation in the US by Austrian artist Anita Witek, now on view in the center's lobby. Lucy sat down with Malu Marzarotto late last year, in the days leading up to the work's debut, for an inside perspective on her role, how the Wex chooses the visual art it presents, the two other exhibitions for winter '18, and an interesting connection between them all. Malu also chronicled Anita's installation process in the photos below. Malu is a third-year undergraduate student at Ohio State studying Arts Management in the Department of Arts Administration, Education, and Policy. She's also the Marketing Chair for Ohio State’s Student Radio Club, A.R.O.U.S.E (the Amateur Radio Organization for Undergraduate Student Entertainment). In addition to interning with the Wex’s Education team, Malu enjoys graphic design, puns, and all things sweet potato. 

Sherri Geldin, Anita Witek and Lucy Zimmerman
Wexner Center Director Sherri Geldin with Anita and Lucy at the Feb. 2 Winter Exhibitions Preview; photo: Katie Spengler.

Malu: Would you explain your role on the exhibitions staff at the Wexner Center?
I’m one of two curatorial assistants in the exhibitions department here at the Wex, and I have been here for a little over three years. This role can be a lot of behind the scenes work and detail-oriented things that are often erased, or hopefully seamlessly integrated, into the final presentation of the work in the galleries. Some of these responsibilities include logistical work in requesting artwork to be loaned, researching art and artists and helping with written didactics [information on the walls of the gallery or gallery guides], image rights and reproductions, managing communication between our department and other departments within the Wex, and helping the curator to make sure that artists are happy about how their work is being displayed.

Did you always know you wanted to work with exhibitions?
Growing up in Cleveland, I was fortunate to frequently visit the Cleveland Museum of Art, whether on school trips or with my family. Those visits were very engaging and ultimately formative to how I perceive the world around me. I had tried photography for a while but realized that I preferred writing and thinking about art. as opposed to creating my own. I studied art history in college and ended up working at the Cleveland Museum of Art as a research assistant. I enjoy the potential to experience artwork in person and am interested in how institutions can serve different audiences.

There seems to be so much potential at the Wex in terms of what exhibitions can be featured each year. How are artists usually selected for exhibitions here?
It’s a complicated process that depends on many different factors. Sometimes the exhibitions have a thematic premise, such as Gray Matters. In other instances, institutions may present just one artist and provide a new perspective, a particular series, or overdue survey of that artist’s work. Other times, we accept touring exhibitions that have been organized by another museum [for example, Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life]. We consider how our choices provide different perspectives on the work and ultimately how it will resonate with the audience here. 

This spring, Austrian artist Anita Witek will have a site-specific photomontage installation in the lower lobby. Why did you want to bring Anita Witek to the Wex for Spring 2018?
There have been many fantastic projects in the past, and in reviewing images of these, I was most impressed with site-specific pieces. I had read about Anita’s large-scale installations in Artforum and thought that her work would be interesting for our untraditional space. My personal interest in photography also perhaps made me partial to Anita’s work. I think that if viewers are willing to wrestle with the ideal of how they look at images, her work has the potential to be very impactful, especially situated in this environment.

Austrian artist Anita Witek installs "Clip"

How would you describe Anita’s artwork to someone who has never seen it?
Cutting the subject out of an image and inserting what remains of the composition into a new context as a way to challenge and interrupt how we experience images.

Could you elaborate on that? What themes do you take away from her work?
With Anita’s work, there is this interest in taking apart and breaking down images. She uses found photographs and removes the central subject or the item you would immediately recognize and see. By taking out what we are normally interested in and looking at what is left, she starts to interrupt the way we see the world and interact with mass media. She’s drawn to the notion of collective or social memory: the idea that images can trigger, hold, or supplant memories or common ideas, even ones a person hasn’t experienced firsthand. In terms of the large scale pieces Anita produces, I think something different happens experientially. Now instead of a work framed on a wall, it is surrounding the viewers in a shared environment.

What aspects of Anita’s installation are you most excited to see come to fruition at the Wex?
I’m excited to experience it in person and see the way people take it in!

There seems to be an overall connection between photography from Cindy Sherman and Anita’s photomontages. Was this intentional and if so, how does her work complement the work of the other winter 2018 artists, Todd Oldham and William Kentridge?
That’s an interesting question. I hadn’t originally thought of this relationship between Cindy Sherman’s and Anita Witek’s work. Appropriation and especially the influence of postmodern ideas are a part of both of their work. These two artists approach photographic images in very different ways but both interrupt and deconstruct what we’re used to seeing. Cindy is so focused on representation and transformation of her own self-image through the guise of a different types of cultural figures, whereas Anita completely takes out the subject matter.

Other artists who have worked at the Wex have taken years to study and understand Eisenman and the building for their art to work within the unique space. Of course, not everyone can do this! As the curator of this exhibition, how do you remotely prepare an artist to work in our building?
It wasn’t easy! Average preparation for shows really vary. For Anita, it’s been a little under a year of working and planning. This was a fairly fast timeline considering some exhibitions take years to organize. Since Anita didn’t visit the Wex before the installation of the work, one of our preparators, Nick Stull, made a quarter-inch-scaled foam core model that we sent to Anita, so she could get a sense of the space. We also worked with Installation Manager Dave Dickas to take tons of photos and videos, to show how one area relates to another in the Wex. Making sure Anita understood the measurements and space was a layered process.  I’m so excited for her to finally be here in this space.

Installation in progress of Anita Witek's Clip

In a previous interview, Anita described her process as, “opening up a gap between image and reality and thereby exposing how these images that we consume everyday are full of gaps, ruptures, and possibilities." How do you feel her work may address this within the space of the Wexner Center? 
I think how her work gets inserted on top of this already complex building will be interesting. The Wex is like a collage physically or formally, with the references to the armory, the scaffolding, and walls, angles, and theoretical layering of the space. I think all of that will resound with Anita’s work. The imagery is pulled from some of her previous series as well as images from the 1980s that dealt with innovation and the future. Thinking of the conception of this building, it seems fitting.

Completed installation: Anita Witek's "Clip"

Outside of the Wexner Center, what was the last great exhibition you had a chance to experience?
I’ve seen a lot of great things in Columbus but one show that really sticks out to me in the past year was Projects 106: Martine Syms at MoMA. Her work is so smart and rich in terms of the references (past and present) she employs and how she uses media.  After seeing this exhibition in June, I made a trek up to Detroit in October to see her at a two day conference hosted by Culture Lab.


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