As New York reawakens, so do its galleries. Tenacious and necessary, these spaces highlight artwork that reflect our identities and offer communion. As Yoko Suetsugu, managing director of HACO (31 Grand Street), asks, “How do humans survive without art?” Yoko’s question — and our shared, spiritual reliance on art — in part influenced HACO’s current show, “in the meanwhile.” That group show, featuring 12 artists, interrogates how we stay present minded in a time vacuum like COVID. Here, Suetsugu shares the excitement of having HACO’s first in-person show since COVID, and, even as the show focuses on the present, what the future holds for this Williamsburg gallery.
Greenpointers: Yoko, so excited to be back in conversation! Let’s get this big question out of the way first: how did you, and HACO, handle COVID? Any major organizational/artistic/programmatic shifts?
Yoko Suetsugu: I would say both HACO and I were on the verge of too many things. Our planned schedules for a whole year were wiped out. I don’t think we were capable of handling things, but dealt with it. In the end, I had to laugh because I had no clue of where I was heading, and it felt like a terrible B-version of the never ending story (except in real life). Only the thing we could commit was to let the time go, accept the reality, and stay optimistic.
Are you curating this current group show? If so, how did you come to gather these twelve artists?
Every artist in this show came through with a connection to the theme “in the meanwhile” rather than we made a selection. All the artists meet at the same place where “in the meanwhile” of their individual, and artistic present within their continuous journey as artists is aligned with where HACO is literary, and philosophically.
Are there any themes you feel are echoed amongst the pieces?
Same as the title of this show, “In the meanwhile.” In this exhibition, the group of artists express their relation to the continuous present which, oftentimes, everyone wonders — “the time” — in the meanwhile of their own journey, perhaps more than ever before with the condition we all had to go through with. But life is always onward, never reversible. We are in the constant midst of our own journey with or without the external uncertainty.
The featured 12 artists’ works share their own poetries, stories, and experiences through multi medium — drawings, paintings, prints and sculpture to invite the viewers to rekindle the connection to the present moment which significantly had swept away from all of us.
And again, based on the circumstances we had to go through on so many levels, the artworks in this show tend to bring inevitable confrontation through their personal and dense dialogue. However, the invitation to the viewers is genuine so perhaps they could reflect upon themselves on the uncertain time which we all have gone through on our own meanwhile.
Anything else on the horizons at HACO you’d want us to know about?
Yes. We are planning on another in-person group show, “in the meantime” to provide the showcasing space for more artworks and more groups of artists. In addition, HACO will not only be striving as a gallery, but also start introducing the well crafted traditional artisan products from Japan to share the history behind them and make them accessible and purchasable to New Yorkers soon. So please stay tuned!
Is this the first big in-person show since COVID began? How does it feel?
Yes, it is the first in-person show, and It feels great. I hope to see as many people soaked with art in person. The impact of pandemic effects is on so many layers in our society.
Economics and politics might always have been the hot topics, but as importantly as they have discussed, I would like to talk about art. Do we have enough awareness of the fact that the art and cultural events in person were non-existent for the whole year? That to me is a big deal, and I actually have no hesitation calling it catastrophic. How do humans survive without art? I also couldn’t help but wonder how artists could survive in a pandemic emotionally and financially. I am sure that there must be a lot of artists out there who keep creating art which I haven’t yet encountered. But I at least know that those featured 12 artists in this show never stop making art. HACO is a gallery, and we happily present and represent their artworks with respect.
“in the meanwhile” is at HACO through July 25. The in-person opening reception will take place on Saturday, June 26 from 3 to 6 PM.