Thursday Spotlight: Director Jon Lutz at 106 Green
106 Green, located at 104 Green Street in Greenpoint, is an alternative gallery co-founded by artists Holly Coulis, Ridley Howard, and Mitchell Wright. Established in 2009, and open only on weekends, this space provides exhibition opportunities for artists with exceptional talent but who are undiscovered. The man behind the scenes at 106 Green is director Jon Lutz. Jon has been an integral addition to the gallery since 2016, providing a breadth of curatorial and gallery expertise as a former gallerist at Sardine and independent curator at Daily Operation. Since his arrival, 106 Green has successfully exhibited solo shows of several notable artists including Elise Ferguson, Julie Curtiss, and Ginny Casey. Here, Jon and I discuss his role at 106 Green, alongside their current exhibition, Sunnyside, featuring artist Karin Campbell.
Greenpointers: Can you tell me about your role here at 106 Green?
Jon Lutz: My role in the programming is to consolidate our needs and desires as a gallery. We all work well together curatorially, and there is not a lot of aggressive move making. We take a lot of time with what we’re doing when choosing our shows. Where other galleries may take turns on who is choosing the next exhibition, Mitchell, Ridley, Holly and I have a conversational approach to the curating. Everyone is really behind every show that we do. One thing that I tried to make sure of at Daily Operation and Sardine was showing an equal representation of women artists, which is something 106 Green already shared. We are also showing artists who are very dedicated to what they are doing and right there in front of you, but perhaps need a solo show to be recognized for those talents. Our intention is to get people those first solo shows to really be seen. I hold a good feeling after curating so many group shows that with a solo show, you can see so much about what an artist thinks, and the work becomes this whole other thing. Take this show for instance. Karin Campbell was a performance artist, left that behind, and started painting. Karin has a longer career; she was in the Whitney Biennial in 2002 as a performance artist. This is Karin’s first time showing her paintings, which is really powerful in a solo exhibition. My passion lies with showing other people’s work.
Jon Lutz grew up in Southern Illinois. He studied Art History at the University of Southern Illinois for undergrad, and graduated from Hunter College with an MFA in Art History in 2006. From 2005 through 2013, Jon owned and operated a curatorial program called Daily Operation which averaged three group shows per year. Some of the notable artists throughout this time included Jim Lee, Patrick Brennan, Gianna Commito, Gina Beavers, JD Walsh, and Ned Colclough. From 2013 through December 2015, Jon worked as the director of Sardine gallery in Bushwick, and in January 2016, he became the director of 106 Green.
GP: How did you choose Karin Campbell and her work for this show?
JL: We’ve been in conversation with Karin for a few years, visited her studio awhile back, and revisited about six months ago. I really like Karin’s approach to painting. She would make paintings whether anyone was going to see them or not. She also really enjoys painting and the challenges it brings. The body of work in Sunnyside has paintings from 2016 through 2018. The 2016 paintings are the larger works we have displayed here. These paintings are very expansive, expressive with lots of scraping and different speeds of mark making. Karin is making these larger, very animated works alongside the smaller, more singular, pieces you see in the show. I love the idea that she’s making the smaller paintings that are slightly different. There is a confidence to it where she doesn’t feel the need to make a smaller painting that is just a scaled down version of her larger works. These smaller paintings become the segue way into her most recent work.
GP: What were some of the challenges while curating this exhibition?
JL: One of the challenges in curating her show was that we could have done five different shows with all the different bodies of work she has in her studio. I felt that it would be a good balance for the show to have a slight historical jump back, while still including her most recent paintings. Showing the 2018 paintings alongside the larger paintings from 2016 bookends the contrast and draws the work together. Perhaps an impulse at a traditional gallery would be to only show the newest work. I am totally adverse to that thought where the show needs to be completely uniform. Maybe that doesn’t work all the time, but it works in Karin’s case. It is important to see how much fun she is having and how much reckless abandon she can put into a work. She isn’t concerned with what others are thinking about them, and rather making them for herself.
GP: You are an artist, a gallerist, and a curator. How do these different roles influence one another and how do you find balance?
JL: It’s only been the last couple years that I’ve been making art again. It’s helped remind me that the process doesn’t come easy. I feel like I’ve always had a sensitivity to that, but making work again has given me have a more tactile reminder of how the materials, formatting, framing, or titling can have unique challenges. It makes me more sensitive to those things as a gallerist. As an artist, it is hard to put your own voice onto paper or canvas and not be worried about if it offers something new or different than anyone else. However, finding the balance to me is more about finding time to do studio visits. My curatorial needs are being satiated through the gallery. If I had more time, however, I would love to do additional curatorial projects.
GP: What are two of your favorite shows you’ve curated?
- Leah Tacha solo exhibition, here 106 Green in November 2016
- Gold Records, Art Blog Art Blog, May 2011, featuring artists Ron Amstutz, Erik den Breejen, Patrick Brennan, Ned Colclough, Stacy Fisher, Jaime Gecker, Sara Greenberger Rafferty, Max Schumann, J.D. Walsh, and Wendy White as part of Daily Operation
GP: What is it like running a gallery in Greenpoint?
JL: We have foot traffic from artists, and some young professionals checking out the shows. Our location here in Northern Greenpoint is nice because we feel like kind of a destination. There are a lot of great restaurants and bars in the area, and a lot of artists in the neighborhood, but people make a point to come out for the openings. We have a solid group of people who come to every opening, but also new people who come in all the time. Greenpoint is very hospitable to creative work and creatives. People acknowledge that in the changing art landscape that we are an alternative space. There is something valuable to that where people really appreciate what we are doing. The way Mitchell, Holly, and Ridley started things is still embodied in what we are doing now.
GP: What are three things you’re loving right now?
JL: Stand-up comedy, making paintings, and recently I’ve been learning how to garden!
Upcoming shows at 106 Green: