Jonathan Weiskopf is an evolving man. His new art gallery in Greenport, VSOP Projects, is his self-described crystallization of a vision he first conceived almost 4 years ago. After pursuing undergrad and graduate degrees at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston he was ready to bring that vision to life, and chose Greenport as the perfect place to make it happen. But Jonathan is not a person who likes to sit still. VSOP is his second art gallery, and he is already tweaking the formula to distill his core conceptual values. He speaks softly, chooses his words carefully, and arranges his thoughts much in the aesthetic of his own gallery - with each idea given a space to exist, and collectively, the freedom to coalesce. Jonathan's vision is a liquid vision that continues to crystallize, but may also redissolve and harden again in innumerable variations.We came to Jonathan this week to talk about his upcoming exhibition “Languaging The Body” with will be previewed next Friday at the Greenport gallery walk with an opening reception on Sunday.
GNF: Tell me a bit about the artists featured in “Languaging The Body.”
JW: One of the main artists involved in [this exhibition] is Sylvia Weintraub. She is originally from Iowa, she has a Masters Degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and she is now pursuing one of the few Phd programs in Fine Arts that are available in the United States, I think at Texas Tech in Lubbock Texas.
GNF: Did you guys run into each other at all when you were both at school in Boston?
JW: Yeah, many of the artists that I work with are former classmates of mine, and artists whose work I have a deep understanding of, and a history with. I’ve watched this work develop itself over a number of years.
[Sylvia] works in a deeply conceptual manner – which I think really serves to illustrate all of the core principles involved in my curatorial decisions with this exhibition. It’s concerned with interpersonal relationships of both artificial and natural intimacy. She creates these objects that push us toward an understanding of our perceptions of each other - not necessarily and understanding of each other but an understanding of our perceptions of each other. A self-awareness related to, not how we are perceived, but how we are perceiving others. Her work certainly is layered and often complicates these questions, often it doesn’t answer many, or any of these questions for us. Maybe the greatest success of her work is that it asks these more complicates questions, and these questions are answered with more questions.
In fact the work that she is presenting here is a small series of laser cut wooden boxes. One that is structured like a large Kleenex box, and you remove these fabric handkerchiefs from it that are embroidered with a series of repeating questions. So the structure of the thing invites you to remove one of these objects. You recognize the Kleenex box with the tissue paper hanging out of it as something to be interacted with. Thus the object itself suggests this kind of playful hands-on experience with fine art objects which is unusual.
GNF: Right, usually you aren’t supposed to touch the artwork.
JW: Her work addresses all of the concerns that I’m focusing on for this exhibition. Many of the other artists [in this exhibition]– their work is narrower in its focus under these two umbrellas – language and the body - and the way in which we use these two things to inform each other – about voice and perspective, and how we perceive others.
GNF: So how many artists are participating in this exhibition?
JW: About 12, fewer artists than my previous exhibition, and my first exhibition had 31 artists. So slowly I’m kind of narrowing the number of artists that are participating and giving each object a little bit more room to operate it on its own. Breathing room works more often than not to allow a viewer to interact with each piece on its own.
So yeah it’s a painting heavy show, we have Allison Evans who is a Brooklyn based figurative painter. She is a real minimalist in her economy of gesture and material – she’s a minimalist in that way. The canvases are left almost bare; yet these often erotic, kind of desperate figures are present.
GNF: Desperate and erotic – now you’ve piqued my interest. Anything else that’s sort of unique?
JW: We have Dawn Philips who is a Brooklyn based holistic body worker and artist. She’s preparing a performative interaction, that she will facilitate on a one on one basis with visitors to the exhibition both at the opening and at scheduled times.
GNF: How exactly is she going to interact with people?
JW: Her practice as an artist and her practice as a body worker are inseparable. The work that she’s preparing for us allows her to bring forward some of the real important moments in her professional practice in the context of an art setting, where our visitors are expecting – there’s an expectation of some sort of experience- so this interaction that she’s going to be facilitating will bring together many of the core concerns and core values in the work that she does that brings together her practice as a Massage Therapist and a Touch and Talk Therapist and as a fine art practitioner as well.
GNF: So when you say body worker it’s literally like a physical body-worker.
JW: She is a licensed Massage Therapist, and she has a practice in Brooklyn where she brings together talk touch and talk therapy, it’s a pretty unique experience, and she’s a just kind of outstanding person.
GNF: You seem to always have a mix of mediums going on, whether its stuff on the wall, physical things, furniture, or experiences – is that intentional? Are you always doing that in an exhibition within the scope of your specific topic?
JW: My model here is interdisciplinary. The most moving experiences that I’ve had with art and of art have not come from individual objects. The most moving experiences have occurred for me when in those kinds of settings where sound, scent, and visual experience kind of all coalesce – where I am made aware that I am one of the parts of the success of a piece of artwork – right? Where “I” or “me” with a body in relation to an object – am one of the players in the success of the piece. Those are the kinds of experiences that I am working to create in the space because those have been the most compelling for me.
GNF: So that’s what your trying to get people to walk away with…
JW: Yeah, and I think those are the most generous kind of moments for our viewer - when they are not simply there to feast their eyes on a thing that someone made – but they are themselves put into a dynamic relationship with those things.
GNF: We talked about your time at the University of Fine Arts in Boston last time we spoke, but I didn’t ask you what you actually majored in.
JW: My undergraduate degree is in photography, and my graduate degree is in studio art. I concentrated in painting and bookmaking, and curatorial practices. So I did mostly drawing, bookmaking, I designed a few pieces of furniture, and some performance art pieces, short films.
GNF: So you make art yourself as well?
JW: Yeah, it’s been awhile since I gave time and energy to my practice as a studio artist. I feel myself flexing a lot of my artistic and creative muscles through my curatorial practice here, but as someone that makes and designs objects I feel the itch now. After starting this gallery and watching it take a bit more of a crystalized form, I’m beginning to feel an itch to get back to my studio practice, but it’s been a minute since I’ve made a painting.
GNF: Greenport seems to have that itch inducing effect on people.
JW: You mean on artists in particular?
GNF: I don’t want to generalize too much, but it does seem to be a place where many people get inspired.
JW: Certainly, and perhaps it allows us some time to explore some of our inner worlds right? That is what artists do - they use the material from their inner world - and feel a need to express it through a creative practice.
“Languaging The Body” will preview at VSOP Projects on Friday October 6th during the Greenport First Friday Gallery Walk.
The opening reception is Sunday October 8th from 2-5pm
Please also join VSOP on October 14th from 3-6pm In support of the Parent Child Home Program Hosted Anita Stewart, Melanie Holland, and Jonathan Weiskopf, as well as the board of CAST VSOP will be donating a portion of each sale to the cost of the Parent Child Home Program