Interview w/ Nick Bloomberg, with Gallery Twenty-Two
Interview and image by Molly Wilbanks, 6/12/15
If you are an artist in Charlotte then you probably know Nick Bloomberg. I was curious to know more about Gallery Twenty-Two, so I got up with him to see if I could figure out what goes on behind the doors there. I learned all his secrets. Not really, but I did enjoy myself as I listened to his thoughts. Continue reading to see inside the cyclone of Nick’s brain, if you dare. Next, I direct you to please get lost in his numerous artworks at Heist Brewery. The show “Evolved Pairings: Appetizer for Retrospection” is up through July 4th. You could even like get a delicious beer or some American cuisine while you’re there and that’s surely not a bad thing.
Molly Wilbanks: How long have you been curating the art shows at Gallery Twenty-Two?
Nick Bloomberg: I was initially there from day one, as an artist, in November 2009. Me and Mike Watson were the first two artists to be on display. I was actually the first artist to sell art there. It was kind of a big deal when it finally opened up. The amount of hurdles that Rodney had to jump through, to open a place that had art and drinks, but there’s no hard liquor and no food, was tricky. As far as helping curate and bringing in the art shows, I’ve been doing that for about 3 ½ years now. Since January of 2012. I walked up to Rodney and there were some changes going on, and I realized that I could help out. My job didn’t really exist. He just had everything on his back, and I helped take some of the weight off. The end result is something that neither of us could do on our own. He is a tattoo artist with a more illustrative, direct narrative approach to art, and I’m more inclined to abstract fine art… by us balancing together it’s something that’s very much a collaboration between us. We really get to see a more dynamic thing happening.
MW: Is there a certain type of artwork that you like to feature at Twenty-Two?
NB: I try to maintain a continuity with the quality of work that comes in, but I’m constantly looking for work, whether it’s the artist or the work, that has a sense of momentum and a hunger to it. It’s interesting, when we are composing the walls, the amount of volume we get for some of the group shows would make some people just have an aneurysm. But the fact that we’re artists, we enjoy creating that. The challenge of taking the conglomeration of separate work and putting it together in a new way is motivating for group shows, and helps us deal with the bulk and volume of it all. The small group shows, I really have to see a lot more effort and see more of a pattern for the people that I bring in for those. Every once in a while I’ll get somebody that I want to streamline, and put in, but that’s just because I have a good feeling, or an intuition about them. I also want to make sure the artists have their freedom because that’s going to bring out the best in them, and then they’re excited to continue to work in there, and they strive to be a part of it then.
MW: Twenty-Two has really drawn a lot of people in. I have to admit when I first saw the slogan on the window, “Art Booze Music Schmooze” I was like, Whatever. This place isn’t serious. But going into the gallery, and starting to visit the shows– you guys got it going on. Twenty-Two is selling artwork, and showing so many different types of artists. It’s great to see the salon style that you install for the group shows. It’s exciting in that overwhelming kind of way.
NB: It’s one of those things that the owner has as a real foundation of the gallery. Twenty-Two is a brand in itself. I give credit to Rodney, it’s not easy to let someone else come in, like myself, and to have a secondary say in the branding. It also helps solidify the group shows. Things are different when we put on these groups shows together like the upcoming annual skate deck show. Then all the artists are talking about it, and it becomes a whole wildfire of word of mouth, something that’s overlooked in multimedia nowadays. Word of mouth is still stronger than a Facebook post.
MW: To me, looking in from the outside, Twenty-Two has this great model, the wine and craft beers that bring the dollar bill in, and then the artwork on the walls, and there is a lot of serious artwork too.
NB: It’s a contemporary way of dealing with it. There’s no way that the gallery would exist without the bar. People talk about the percentage that we take [of art sales] as a commission, and I have to correct them- No, there’s certain amount of money that has to go into these shows to make them happen. It’s not a commission- the walls increase the value of work. Having good artists in a city increases the value of a city, just like having a good sports team in the city helps the city. When you have something that people can authentically rally around, it’s not to be overlooked.
MW: Tell me about your artwork. The artwork on the walls here.
NB: The foundation of all of my work is painting and printmaking. My brain is always in a cyclone of imagery. Some people might look through my eyes and think that they’re schizophrenic, or in a panic. It’s something that I enjoy… My work came out of a fascination with that enumeration of imagery, and a fascination with color and composition, as well as different artists that came into my vision at different times. I am very influenced by music, jazz specifically, instrumental work. I wanted to figure out ways of creating work that didn’t necessarily have a narrative but that people could swim in. When I see an image in my mind it’s a very complex thing that just one mark, or a couple of marks doesn’t add up to. I wanted the process of painting to get closer and closer to hit all of the notes at once rather than having to slowly build it up. Printmaking then played a bigger role in my process because then I could create an edition, and then I could also create a whole bunch of works that I could take in different directions. When you’re creating, a lot of times you will get to a point where the roads diverge and you don’t know which one to travel, and when you’re doing printmaking you can travel all of those roads, as much as you can create time for it. For me, doing work that didn’t have an instinctively recognizable object, by doing it in the multiple version people started to get it more, when they can see the relationship between the pieces without necessarily needing a reference. A painting of tree still isn’t a tree. At this point in time, I don’t feel I have to fight that need for people to understand art in that way. It’s something that has existed for hundreds of years already. Despite that, it is still a pervasive outlook, that someone needs to see something [objective in a painting]. I’ve tried to figure out different ways to incorporate it- doing live performances. I did a glow in the dark painting with a guitar player for TEDx 2011. It was a glow in the dark canvas and I used the silhouettes in my hand or different stencils, for a hard contrast. That was a way that I could bring people into my way of thinking.
MW: Are you inspired by other artists in Charlotte or elsewhere?
NB: There are endless people in Charlotte, with all different kinds of work… the heavy hitters of modern art that I really like are Arshile Gorky, Paul Klee, and Max Ernst, and Augustin Lesage- a lesser known name. There are a lot of people in Charlotte, and the fact that I work at the McColl, I get to see a lot of artists come through there. People like Isaac Payne, Jason Watson… the list is crazy. Like what Rodney does with and outside of his tattooing… even if the work is very different than mine, just seeing people figure out how to sculpt and mold the world around them. Then there’s people who aren’t an established name at all, and sometimes I find that just as inspiring if not more.
MW: What does Charlotte need more of in the art scene?
NB: It’s an incubator for artists. It’s been a conversation for as long as I’ve been here. What I think Charlotte does a bad job of, is hanging onto its talent. Once people get to a point where they’re doing some good work, there’s not enough of an infrastructure that really maintains them. Some of that has to do with the patrons, and maybe a little bit of conservatism that still exists. But there’s not another spot here in the southeast that I would be willing to put roots down and stick around for a while. In some ways I’m more excited about seeing where Charlotte’s going than critical. There is an advantage to it being an incubator I don’t see myself going to New York, for example, and getting a lot accomplished. Down here I think we’re a bit in between worlds and as an artist you have to see it as what you can benefit from… showing in restaurants and hair salons isn’t always the most advantageous way to go about things once you have your name out there. This place is more elevated than most, and it’s way better than just my house. From there you nurture patrons. The way I see it, they need to feel just as important as the artist, just like the days with the Baroness, and Charlie Parker, and Monk. There was always a beneficiary, as with the Medici family.
MW: It was a way for the artist to be serious, and focus, and a reason to create art. People wanted the art. I feel like that’s a big problem today. The artist has to hustle for himself or herself a lot more now.
NB: There’s a basic outline for it here, but it isn’t something that’s been realized…it’s something that we need to take advantage of…that’s the thing I was saying with Twenty-Two, you have to wear all these hats nowadays. That’s why we have to have the modern luxuries associated with social media to advertise, we have to learn to do things on the fly. That’s just part of the tempo that we are living in. Twenty-Two fits into an analogy there, in the sense that we have something that’s valuable- our gallery space- that isn’t exclusively currency based, while our bartenders do a great job of pouring quality transactions.