Greenpointers are going places this autumn—all of the gallery places, and we’re taking you with us. Who are the people behind the lively GP art scene? How do they like their coffee? Where do they hang out? We’ve got the scoop right here. This week, we went on another journey through the historic Greenpoint Terminal Building at 67 West Street to Brian Willmont’s gallery space on the 3rd floor, called Greenpoint Terminal Gallery.
Brian Willmont is a Boston native who majored in printmaking at the Massachusetts College of Art. He first opened Greenpoint Terminal Gallery a little over a year ago, and just recently put it through a second renovation to expand the space. I arrived early for our Saturday afternoon interview, which was outside of the gallery’s usual hours, but Brian had left the door open for me. I could hear voices coming from behind a curtain to my left so I pulled it back, expecting to find a small room. Instead, there was a long hallway stacked with odds and ends on shelves. Cables, crates, brushes. Hello? I yelled. Be right there, Brian yelled back.
A few minutes later, Brian emerged from behind the curtain as I was crouching on the floor to photograph his motorbike. He picked up a wooden pole, stood under a light switch that was mounted on the ceiling, and flicked it on with the pole. What’s with the light switch on the ceiling? I asked, turning on my recorder.
We dove right into the interview:
BW: The [pre-renovation] gallery was just in front of this beam, so I built this wall over a brick wall, and the brick wall has conduit running around for all the different kinds of electricity in this space. I wanted to be able to turn these lights off independently of the rest of the lights, but the best I could do with not knowing anything about wiring and having my friend just do the wiring, who had only done it for sculptures, was…
So just being artists we did it the way we could figure out how to do it, and not necessarily the proper way.
GPers: What brought you to Greenpoint?
BW: I went to school in Boston, and it seemed like everybody I knew had moved here [to New York]. Boston is a little bit of an underdog town to New York, or at least they think they are. I kind of knew it was inevitable, so instead of moving here like it seemed I was supposed to, I moved to Santa Fe and then chilled out in the desert for a little while and got weird.
And then came to the inevitable—New York. The first job I got was out of Greenpoint doing art handling. I would go to a warehouse, get tools and a truck, and then go to big Chelsea galleries or like billionaires’ houses in the Hamptons or Greenwich, Connecticut.
GPers: What year was that?
BW: That was 2009. Later, when I was looking for a studio space, there wasn’t anywhere specific where I was looking. I was just looking for the right price, basically. I found this building when it was pretty much an abandoned building.
GPers: When was that?
BW: That was 2011. The street wasn’t paved. A lot of the boutiques and new businesses on Franklin weren’t here yet. There were squatters, and rats, and raccoons. There was no front door at first. If you saw another human, you kind of like mean-mugged them…well, maybe not mean, but you said something like, “Hey, who are you?”
GPers: You mentioned that you reworked the space yourself.
BW: Yeah, I like to create problems for myself.
GPers: And then find the solution.
BW: Sometimes, as an artist, when you’re in your studio and you’re working on these heady pursuits—and there really is no right or wrong answer and you have to bushwhack your own trail—sometimes I’ll take on these much more direct pursuits like fixing up a motorcycle or building the gallery. There is still a creative process and still something I get to feel out because I don’t know how to build galleries or fix motorcycles, but there’s a much more direct A to B path.
GPers: Do you collect anything?
BW: Bicycles. I have like five bicycles. I collect rocks.
BW: Yeah, I have special rocks. It’s not intentional, but I’ll just end up going somewhere and come back with a bag full of rocks.
GPers: Where do you keep them?
BW: The ones that are out are on a shelf mixed in with some other little tchotchkes.
GPers: So what’s this bike then? [pointing at motorcycle]
BW: That’s a motorcyle I got about the same time that I started the gallery. The gallery took a lot of my attention away, so it’s been really slow progress in getting that going. I got myself in a little over my head.
GPers: What else are you working on?
BW: I’m making some photographs in my studio. Well, they’re heavily photoshopped, but I’m just going to call them photographs, I think.
GPers: How do you decided which artist to show?
BW: I have a big list of artists. I just clump them together as I see fit and think how they relate. Then I start recruiting artists, and once I have a group that I like and I can make a show, I start trying to put it together.
GPers: How many shows do you do a year, typically?
BW: Well, I just changed my schedule from one show a month to one every six weeks. I wanted to do one a month to get up to speed and get the word out a little bit, and now that that’s happened, I want to chill out a little bit and work on my own projects.
GPers: Is there a type of art that catches your eye or that you prefer to show?
BW: I think of visual art as being a visual pursuit so things related to painting, definitely. That’s been a heavy focus. Not necessarily painting at all, but things that come out of painting.
GPers: Like what’s an example?
BW: In our last show, Graham Collins was one of our artists, and he had a piece that was collaged: found oil paintings that he reassembled and sewed together into a composition. But he didn’t paint anything on it.
GPers: Do you have a dream artist that you want to show at this gallery?
BW: All the people I’ve been really excited about, I’ve just asked and they have said “Yes.” I hope that continues, and I’ll keep the dreams a secret for now.†
Greenpoint Terminal Gallery is located on 67 West Street in space #320. Gallery hours are Fridays & Saturdays, 1-6pm and by appointment. After work, Brian likes to hang out at Broken Land on 105 Franklin Street. Follow the gallery & Brian Willmont on IG @greenpointterminalgallery @brianwillmont